We’ve heard a lot about Jane Seymour and her life as queen consort to Henry VIII. We’ve learned about how she was the only of his consorts to give him a male heir. We’ve also learned about her social-climbing brothers, Edward and Thomas. Were you aware that Jane had a sister by the name of Elizabeth who also well-known at court?
Depending on where you get your information Elizabeth Seymour was either ten years younger than her older sister, Jane or she was the oldest daughter of her parents, John and Margery (neé Wentworth) Seymour, or quite possibly somewhere in between. Regardless, both she and Jane served in the household of Anne Boleyn together.
When Jane Seymour became Queen of England her sister was most likely included in her household as a chief lady-in-waiting, however, the Wikipedia page for her states that she was not included in Jane’s household. While the Wikipedia page has lots of primary sources listed that I can verify, it does not for this statement. I cannot understand why Elizabeth would leave court after serving Anne Boleyn and not serve her own sister. So, with that reasoning, let’s just assume she did serve in her sister’s household.
Elizabeth also served both Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. In total she served four of the six queen consorts of Henry VIII.
Lady Ughtred (c.1530-1534)
In January 1531, Elizabeth married Sir Anthony Ughtred, her first husband. They had a son, Henry (c. 1533) and a daughter born after Sir Anthony died in the fall or winter of 1534. She was named Margery (c.1535).
It is unclear what happened to her children, Henry and Margery after Sir Anthony died. After the death of his father and birth of his sister, Margery, Henry, remained on the island for a time, in the care of Helier de Carteret, Bailiff of Jersey. Later, Henry went on to serve Queen Elizabeth I as a member of Parliament. He was also a shipowner and builder. There is no further information on Margery.
During the Reign of Queen Jane
On 18 March 1537, Elizabeth wrote to Thomas Cromwell to seek his favor in acquiring one of the soon to be dissolved monasteries.
Mine especial good lord,
After most hearty recommendation, please it you to be so good unto me as through your means I might be holpen to obtain of the king’s grace to be farmer of one of these abbeys, if they fortune to go down; the names whereof I do send unto your lordship herein inclosed. And, as for payment for the same, I trust to discharge as well and surely any living personage. My lord insomuch as my husband, whose soul God pardon, did bear ever unto your lordship both his heart and service, next under the king’s grace, I am therefore the more bolder to write and sue unto you for your good help and furtherance herein; besides that, I do put mine only trust in your lordship for the good expedition hereof, and intend not to sue to none other but only to your lordship. Farther, at my last being at the court I desired your lordship that I might be so bold as to be a suitor to you, at which time your lordship gave unto me a very good answer; praying you so to continue my good lord. I was, in master Ughtred’s days, in a poor house of mine own, and ever since have been driven to be a sojourner, because my living is not able to welcome my friends, which for my husband’s sake and mine own would sometime come and see me. Wherefore, if it please your lordship now to help me, so that I might be able to keep some poor port, after my degree, in mine own house, now being a poor woman alone, I were the most bound unto you that any living woman might be; and more with a little help now, than if you advised me to bound to thing of a thousand marks a year. And for the same eftsoons I heartily desire your good lordship; desiring you farther to give credence to master Darcy concerning such causes as he shall move unto you. And thus Almighty Jesu ever preserve your good lordship.
At York, the 18th day of March, by your most bounden,
In this letter from Elizabeth to Thomas Cromwell she mentions her boldness in asking to be his suitor – this shocked me because I was unaware of this until finding this letter. I’d love to find out what advice he gave her that she was grateful for. It’s ironic when we discover who she did eventually marry, that she first wished to marry his father.
Being the sister of the queen consort of England, Elizabeth was well-connected and a great prospect for a wife. Thomas Cromwell was interested in the match for his son Gregory. Sir Arthur Darcy was also interested in marrying Elizabeth, but when it appeared the Cromwell match had been agreed on he sent Elizabeth a note saying, “I would have been glad to have had you likewise, but sure it is, as I said, that some southern lord shall make you forget the North.”
Prior to their marriage, Elizabeth wrote to Thomas Cromwell again:
In most humble wise, as your assured poor bead-woman, I cannot render unto your lordship the manifold thanks that I have cause, not only for your great pain taken to devise for my surety and health, but also for your liberal token to me, sent by your servant master Worsley; and farther, which doth comfort me most in the world, that I find your lordship is contented with me, and that you will be my good lord and father: the wish, I trust, never to deserve other, but rather to give cause for the continuance of the same. Pleaseth it your lordship, because I would make unto you some direct answer, I have been so bold to be thus longere I have written unto you. And where it hath pleased your lordship as well to put me in choice of your own houses as others, I must humbly thank you; and, to eschew all sayings, I am very loth to change the place where I now am, and where my lord my brother’s house shall remove, the which, if such need be, shall be at one Ambrose Wellose, a quarter of a mile from your lordship’s place, as master Worsley can inform your lordship’s place, as master Worsley can inform your lordship more plainly thereof. And where it hath please your lordship to give me leave, and also commandeth me, if I want to send to you , and that I may be bold to open my heart, I ensure your lordship my heart hath been a great time in such trust; and now this letter from you, with that I find in it, doth me more pleasure than earthly good, for my trust is now only in you, and if I have need I shall obey your lordship’s commandment herein. And thus I shall daily pray unto God for the preservation of your lordship most prosperously in health to continue. Amen.
Prayeth your humble daughter in law,
Lady Cromwell (1537-1551)
On 3 August 1537, Elizabeth married Gregory Cromwell, son of Thomas Cromwell at Mortlake. Prior to the wedding Elizabeth resided at Cromwell’s Leeds Castle in Kent where she was supported at the expense of Thomas Cromwell.
Edward Seymour, then Viscount Beauchamp wrote to Thomas Cromwell on the 2nd of September 1537 and it appears they had a close relationship. In the post statement he mentions his sister and Gregory Cromwell:
Writes to know how he has fared since the writer’s departure. Wishes Cromwell were with him, when he should have had the best sport with bow, hounds, and hawks. Master Lister has brought such hounds as are loth to diminish his game and his hawks favour the partridges. Cromwell has one friend here, Mr. Edgar, who seldom forgets him. Mr. Penison also is here, who says the King promised his wife a jointure when he married. I beg you therefore to put him in the book if the King distribute any of the forfeited lands in the North. I also beg your favour for my chaplain. Wulfhaull, 2 Sept.
P.S. in his own hand: Commendations to his brother-in-law and sister, “and I pray God to send me by them shortly a nephew.”
The following spring (1538), Gregory and Elizabeth resided at Lewes in Sussex. Gregory wrote his father to tell him how content his wife was with the place, saying it “is unto her so commodious that she thinketh herself right well settled.”
The couple went on to have five children together. As Edward Seymour had wished, their first child was a son, Henry, born in 1538. Then another son, Edward born in 1539. Their third child was yet another son, Thomas, born in 1540 and then two daughters, Catherine (1541) and Frances (1544). One could assume the first son, Henry was named after the king and that both Edward and Thomas were named for Elizabeth’s brothers. However, Edward could have also been named for her nephew, Prince Edward and Thomas after her father-in-law, Thomas Cromwell. Since their daughter Catherine was born in 1541 during the reign of Catherine Howard I can assume she was named for the queen. Frances, on the other-hand, I cannot find a connection to any person in their families.
When Elizabeth’s sister, Jane died in October 1537, both Elizabeth and her husband Gregory participated in the funeral procession. Gregory along with his cousin Richard Cromwell carried banners.
In January 1539, after Thomas Cromwell was named Constable of Leeds Castle, Gregory, Elizabeth and as far as I know, their children moved into the castle.
While Gregory was absent in Calais (1539/1540), awaiting the arrival of Anne of Cleves, he wrote Elizabeth:
To my right loving bedfellow, at Leeds castle in Kent,
...I am, thanks be to God, in good health, trusting shortly to hear from you like news, as well of yourself as also my little boys, of whose increase and towardness be you assured I am not a little desirous to be advertised. And thus, not having any other news to write, I bid you most heartily well to far.
At Calais, the 9th of December.
Your loving bedfellow,
Not long after Anne of Cleves’ arrival in England, Elizabeth was appointed to her household, and in April 1540, Gregory obtained his father’s title, Lord Cromwell when his father was raised to Earl of Essex.
Elizabeth remained at court in the household of Katherine Howard during her short reign as well.
Sometime after the arrest of Thomas Cromwell in June 1540, Elizabeth wrote a letter to Henry VIII. She thanks him for sparing them (George, herself & their family) during the downfall of her father-in-law.
After the bounden duty of my most humble submission unto your excellent majesty, whereas it hath pleased the same, of your mere mercy and infinite goodness, notwithstanding the heinous trespasses and most grievous offences of my father-in-law, yet so graciously to extend your benign pity towards my poor husband and me, as the extreme indigence and poverty wherewith my said father-in-law’s most detestable offences hath oppressed us, is thereby right much holpen and relieved, like as I have a long time been right desirous presently as well to render most humble thanks, as also to desire continuance of the same your highness’ most benign goodness. So, considering your grace’s most high and weighty affairs at this present, fear of molesting or being troublesome unto your highness hath dissuaded me as yet otherwise to sue unto your grace than alonely by these my most humble letters, until your grace’s said affairs shall be partly overpast. Most humbly beseeching your majesty in the mean season mercifully to accept this my most obedient suit, and to extend your accustomed pity and gracious goodness towards my said poor husband and me, who never hath, nor, God willing, never shall offend your majesty, but continually pray for the prosperous estate of the same long time to remain and continue.
Your most bond woman,
In February 1549, Elizabeth’s brother, Thomas Seymour found himself in a heap of trouble when the council officially accused him of thirty-three charges of treason. He was convicted of treason, and executed on 20 March 1549.
On 4 July 1551, Gregory Cromwell died suddenly of the sweating sickness at his home in Launde Abbey. Elizabeth also fell ill at the same time but survived her illness. In addition, that year also marked the arrest and execution of her brother, Edward Seymour – Elizabeth was given charge of his daughters.
Following the death of her nephew, Edward VI, Elizabeth was generally shunned at Court by those who felt the days of the Seymours as a power were done. She wished to retire to Launde (formerly Launde Abby, which had been appropriated by Thomas Cromwell during his overseeing of the dissolution of the monasteries), but knew that flight would end any hopes of restoring the luster that had belonged to the Seymours not so long ago. So she withstood, and in time her patience was rewarded. (Source: Tudorplace.com)
Lady St. John (1554-1563/8)
In the spring of 1554, Elizabeth married for the third time to John Paulet, Baron St John. They had no children.
Elizabeth Seymour died 19 March 1568 but I have also seen her death listed as 1563. (See sources for more info)
She was buried in St. Mary’s Church in Hampshire.
The Seymour Children:
- Elizabeth Seymour A Biography
- Elizabeth Seymour, Lady Cromwell – Wikipedia
- Elizabeth Seymour, Lady Cromwellat Find a Grave
- Letter from Gregory Cromwell to his wife via Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic – Henry VIII
- Elizabeth, Lady Ughtred’s letters to Thomas Cromwell via Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic – Henry VIII
- Elizabeth, Lady Cromwell’s letter to Henry VIII via Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic – Henry VIII
- Kathy Lynn Emerson, Lists of Women at the Tudor Court
- Meg McGath, https://tudorqueen6.com/2012/10/23/family-of-queen-katherine-elizabeth-seymour/
- Portrait of a Lady, Probably a Member of the Cromwell Family at the Toledo Museum of Art
- Unknown Woman, Formerly Known as Catherine Howard at the National Portrait Gallery, London
- Wedding Date for Sir Anthony Uthgred & Elizabeth
- Date of Death 1568:
- College of Arms (1829) [S. and R. Bentley, London, 1829].Catalogue of the Arundel Manuscripts in the Library of the College of Arms. William Henry Black. With a preface signed C.G.Y., i.e. Sir Charles George Young. Rarebooksclub.com (published 20 May 2012). ISBN 9781236284259.
- Date of Death 1563:
- Douglas Richardson; Kimball G. Everingham (2005). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families. Genealogical Publishing Company. pg 246. ISBN 0-8063-1759-0.
- Death before 9 Jun 1563 / after 13 Mar 1561/62