In about 1527 Edward Seymour (future Earl of Hertford/Duke of Somerset) and brother of Jane Seymour, married his first wife, Katherine Fillol. Katherine was the daughter of Sir William Fillol and an heiress to his lands.
In 1527 they had a son…John and in 1529, another son…Edward. It would seem the first child was named after Edward’s father, John Seymour and the second named after Edward himself.
As someone who does a lot of genealogical research I can assure you that naming your first child (especially a son) after a father is not uncommon, and it is normally after the paternal grandfather as is such in this case. However, when the rest of this story is told, you may wonder if that was the true reason for the name.
As the story goes, it was discovered sometime between 1527 and 1530 that Edward’s wife Katherine Fillol had an affair. The scandalous part is that it was a long affair with…yep, Edward’s father, Sir John Seymour. When Edward discovered the affair he was outraged, as any spouse would be after such a discovery, but he was enraged by the fact that the culprit was his own father.
After discovering what happened, Edward immediately sent his wife to a nunnery. While not knowing for certain the paternity of his sons, he disowned both of them — after all, how would he know if the boys were his sons, or brothers? How could he look at them without wondering?
There is no definitive proof that Edward’s father, Sir John Seymour was indeed the man who Katherine Fillol had an affair with, but many historians believe so, including Alison Weir. However, in Weir’s book, The Six Wives of Henry VIII she states that all of Henry’s court was aware of what had happened with the Seymours – would this be true? If that’s the case would Henry have been so interested in Jane Seymour, a woman from a family of scandal?
Only a few things point in the direction of Sir John Seymour being the culprit:
A handwritten note is recorded in the margin of Vincent’s Baronagein the College of Arms: “repudiata quia pater ejus post nuptias eam cognovit.” Roughly translated, it says, “Divorced because she was known by his father after the wedding.” It alleges that the affair Catherine was having was with her own father-in-law, Sir John Seymour.
In the book, The Seymour Family by Amy Audrey Looke, she states:
One story given by Peter Heylyn states that when the Earl, then Sir Edward Seymour, was in France, he ‘did there acquaint himself with a learned man, supposed to have great skill in magick; of whom he obtained by grat reward and importunities, to let him see, by the help of some magical perspective, in what estate all his relation stood at home. In which impertinent curiosity he was so far satisfied as to behold a gentleman of his acquaintance in a more familiar posture with his wife than was agreeable to honor of either party. To which diabolical illusion, he is said to have given so much credit that he did not only estrange himself from her society at his coming home, but furnished his next wife with an excellent opportunity for pressing him to disinheriting of his former children.
It seems from the above statement that Edward Seymour saw a psychic or a seer in France who showed him his wife having an affair – however, it is not clear from the above statement whether or not that was with his father. You’ll have to draw your own conclusions.
Also noted should be the fact that Katherine’s father, Sir William Fillol adjusted his will:
Something happened during her marriage to Edward. In her father’s will, dated 1527, Catherine is excluded from inheriting “for many dyverse causes and considerations … Catherine nor hir heiress of hir boody ne Sir Edward Seymour hir husbonde in any wyse have any part or parcell’ of his manors or estates. Instead, Catherine is left an annual pension from the estate of 40£, provided she go and “virtuously and abide in some house of religion of women.” In other words, a convent.
“The Duke of Somerset, by his first wife Katherine Fillol, had two sons; John, who was sent to the Tower with his father in October 1551, and dying there in December 1552, was buried in Savoy Hospital, and Edward, who was knighted at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547, and was restored to blood by Act of Parliament in 1553. He settled at Berry Pomeroy, in Devonshire, and was the ancestor of the Seymours of Berry Pomeroy, the present Dukes of Somerset.
We’ll never know for certain whether or not Katherine Fillol had an affair with Edward’s father, Sir John Seymour — I think we can agree that she most likely had an affair with someone, otherwise why would Edward have reacted the way he did. The interesting part to me is that Edward Seymour was “shown” his wife having an affair by a “learned man” while in France. Is that part really true, or did he find this out from someone back home?
The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir