From everything that has been written about him, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk was a powerful, yet ambitious man. The possibility of bringing his family close to the crown after the execution of his niece, Anne Boleyn, and death of his son-in-law, Henry Fitzroy in 1536, seemed to be the driving force behind arranging a marriage with his now widowed daughter, Mary Howard, dowager Duchess of Richmond and Somerset to Sir Thomas Seymour.
Having his niece as queen consort from 1533-1536 surely helped Norfolk to stay in good favor with the King. Anne Boleyn was also instrumental in helping arrange the marriage between the King’s illegitimate son, Fitzroy to Norfolk’s daughter Mary in 1533. Norfolk may have foreseen a great future for his daughter and himself had the King not produced a son with Jane Seymour — Norfolk may have believed that Fitzroy would have been legitimized before Henry would have recognized either of his daughters as heirs.
The Seymour family while already a noble family had achieved greatness when Jane Seymour married the King in 1536. After Jane passed away in 1537, her brothers Edward and Thomas both continued to thrive at court – they were, after all, uncles to the future king (Prince Edward).
Always looking for a way to advance himself and his family Norfolk, in 1538, suggested that his daughter, Mary Howard, dowager Duchess of Richmond and Somerset, marry Sir Thomas Seymour. At the time Thomas had been acquiring lands from the the plundered property of the Church and making a name for himself at court. Of course the future was bright for Seymour since he was uncle to the future King of England.
We find a letter, written by Sir Ralph Sadler to Lord Cromwell, that documents the proposed marriage. Sadler formerly had the role of Secretary with Cromwell and was now employed by the King in his Privy Chamber. As we look at this letter I will attempt to translate it for you. When reading these old letters we must remember that there was no standard for spelling at the time – words were spelled phonetically.
To the Right Honourable and his singular good Lorde, my Lorde Pryvey Seale, be this yoven,
After myn humble recommendations unto Your Lordship, These shalbe to advertise you that the Kinges Highnes hathe commaunded me to signefie unto you, on His Graces behalf, that my Lordof Norfolk, taking an oportunyte to mete with His Highnes, the same day that His Grace removed from Westminster to Hampton Court, amongst other, thank most humblie His Majestee for his doughter, the Duchesse of Rychmonde, and so not only made sute and mocyon to His Majestee, touching his said doughters joynctour, as your Lordeshiop hathe sythnens had knowlege from His Grace by Mr. Wryothesley, but, also, made a further overture for the marriage of his saide doughter; sayeng that, lyke as he wolde wourke, and do nothing therein, contrary to the Kinges Highnes’ pleasure ne without His Graces advyse, so he knew but 2 persons uppon whom he thought mete, or could resolve in his herte to bestowe his saide doughter; the one he named, of whom he saied your Lordeship had made a mocyon unto him, whose name the Kinges Majestee now remebreth not; thother he sayed, to whom his herte is most inclyned, was Sir Thomas Seymour, on whom, aswell for that he is so honestly advaunced by the Kinges Majesteee, as also for his towardenes, and other his comendable merytes, he could well find in his herte, and wold be glad, stonding so with the Kinges pleasure to bestowe his doughter; sayeng ferther, that, percyvyng there ensueth comenly no grete good by conjuction of grete bloodes togyther, he sought not therefore, nor desyred to mary his doughter, in any high bloode or degreee.
This letter is to inform Cromwell that the King (Henry VIII) had commanded Sadler to inform Cromwell, on behalf of the King, that Norfolk had met with Henry the day that the King moved from Westminster to Hampton Court. Norfolk discussed his daughter (Mary), the King’s former daughter-in-law’s jointure (an estate settled on a wife to be taken by her in lieu of dower). Norfolk then apparently mentioned that there were two men that he felt would be a good match for his daughter, one whose name could not be remembered and the other Sir Thomas Seymour. Seymour was well seated near the King as his former brother-in-law an uncle to the King’s son, Edward. Norfolk believed that the Seymour and Howard families joined would be a good match for his daughter.
Whereunto the Kinges Highnes, answered meryly, that if he were so mynded to bestowe his doughter; sayeng ferther, that, percyvyng there ensueth comenly no grete good by conjunction of grete bloodes togyther, he sought not therefore, nor desyred to marry his doughter, in any high bloode or degree. Whereunto the Kinges Highnes, answered meryly, that if he were so mynded to bestowe his doughter uppon the saide Sir ThomasSeymour, he shoulde be sure to couple her with one of suche lust and youth, as should be able to please her well at all poyntes, shewed himself to be right willing and agreeable that the same shoulde take effecte accordingly.
King Henry VIII answered happily that if Norfolk so wished to give his daughter to Sir Thomas Seymour that she should be given a great match and she would be pleased in all matters with him. He agreed that the match would be perfect.
Whereuppon His HIghnes, after that, brake with the said Sir Thomas Seymer; who percyving not onely the Kinges Majestee to be so moche his good and gracious Lorde, but, also, that my Lorde of Norfolk himself procured and desyred the same, hathe neverthles made sute unto His Highness, that forasmoche as he taketh your Lordeship to be his good Lorde, and for that your son hathe maryed his suster, that, therefore, your Lordshiop might the rather have the mayning of the matier; and for the better perfection thereof, your Lordeship, taking an oportunyte to be eyther at dyner or soupper, with my said Lorde of Norfolk, might make the overture, and first entree into the same.
Mentioned in the above paragraph is the marriage of Cromwell’s son, Gregory to Seymour’s sister Elizabeth and what a great match that was as well. Sadler goes on to mention that when Cromwell dines with Norfolk that Norfolk might make mention this to ensure that the marriage between his daughter and Seymour might go forth.
Wherein the Kinges Highnes, not onely noting a certen zele, love, and trust to be in the saide Sir Thomas Seymer towardes your Lordship, but also estemyng him for his honestie, sadness, and other good qualitees, as one that is nothing addicte to his brothers affections to be right mete and wourthie of the saide marryage, hath commaunded me to wryte unto your Lorshiop, and, on his Majestees behalf, to requere you to take tyme convenyent for the purpose aforesaid.
Where as, Henry VIII, who was showing much happiness, love and trust to be in the said Sir Thomas Seymour towards Cromwell, but also esteeming him for his honesty, sadness, and other good qualities, as one that is nothing addict to his brother’s affections to be right meet worthy of the said marriage, hath commanded me to write unto you (Cromwell), and, on his Majesty’s behalf, to require you to take time for this matter.
And forasmuche as His Highnes is informed that the saide Duchesse goeth to-morrow, or next day into the countrey, His Grace, therefore, prayeth you to take your tyme the soner; so that whilles she is there, the matier may be entered in suche sorte, as the same may the rather take effecte according to his most gracious pleasure. Thus the Holie Trynyte preserve your Lordeship in long lyf and helth, with increase of honour.
At Chobham, the 14th day of Julie, with the rude hand of “Your Lordeshippes old servaunte and daylie Bedisman,
This prospective marriage was the first that is documented for Thomas Seymour. It makes one wonder if he considered the perks of being married into the powerful Howard family and it motivated him reach higher in the future. How different things would have been for the Howards and the Seymours had the marriage actually taken place.
Locke, A. Audrey; The Seymour Family – History and Romance
Maclean, John; The Life of Sir Thomas Seymour, Knight – Baron Seymour Sudeley, Lord High Admiral of England and Master of Ordnance
St. Maur, Richard Harold; Annals of the Seymours