Between 12 and 14 years old at the time of her marriage, Anne Seymour was a learned young lady, a correspondent of Continental reformers and poet, who was, with her sisters, eulogized by Ronsard. In view of the younger John Dudley’s library she may not have been an unsuitable wife for him, but nothing has survived as to the material settlement for the young couple. It cannot have been overwhelming, as John always seems to have had difficulties to support himself out of his own pocket. He lived in style, as is shown by “a note of all the velvet shoes that my Lord Lisle hath had since [December 1545] which are in number 46 pair, and 2 pair of velvet slippers.”1
When, sometime in 1552, his parents got wind of his financial difficulties he received a remarkably generous letter:
I had thought you had had more discretion than to hurt yourself through fantasies or care, specially for such things as may be remedied and holpen. Well enough you must understand that I know you cannot live under great charges. And therefore you should not hide from me your debts whatsoever it be for I would be loath but you should keep your credit with all men. And therefore send me word in any wise of the whole sum of your debts, for I and your mother will see them forthwith paid and whatsoever you do spend in the honest service of our master and for his honour, so you do not let wild and wanton men consume it, as I have been served in my days, you must think all is spent as it should be, and all that I have must be yours, and that you spend before, you may with God’s grace help it hereafter by good and faithful service wherein I trust you will never be found slack, and then you may be sure you cannot lack serving such a master as you have toward whom the living God preserve, and restore you to perfect health and so with my blessing I commit you to his tuition.
Your loving Father.
Still, John was as yet without a suitable income of his own, although he had been appointed Master of the Buckhounds in April 1551 and even Master of the Horse a year later. In 1552 and 1553 he also joined his father in the lord-lieutenantship of Warwickshire, the family’s home turf. In September 1550 John took his brothers Robert and Guildford on a trip there, and on the way he presented them with “a pair of red boot hose” and “a hat of unshorn velvet”, respectively.
One of his next trips went further afield, to France, where he accompanied William Parr, Marquess of Northampton on a diplomatic voyage in May 1551, the marquess and the elder John Dudley being old friends. The English had hoped to revive the engagement between Edward and Mary Queen of Scots, but since this was totally unrealistic they were happy to secure the little princess Elisabeth de Valois for their king. The Viscount Lisle’s role in all this was entirely ceremonial, and quite generally he seems not to have been interested in politicking of any sort.
As Master of the Horse he would have been “the personal body servant of the monarch once he or she was outside the chamber – whether in the gardens or in the parks; whether on the hunt, playing tennis, in a maze or in festive tents or temporary banqueting halls”.3 John did not treat his office as a sinecure, although he was clearly in tow with his father; the duke simply referred to him as “my son” in his letters, while his next son was “my son Ambrose” or simply “Ambrose”.4 A typical scene of the Dudley circle between home and court appears from this message of June 1552:
I have received your letters for staying myself and my sons until the full moon next Monday, lest there is another infection in my house. As yet there is none among my children and my family. If it so continues I intend to be at court with my son, Huntingdon, Lord Hastings, and my son Sydney.
Despite his privileged access to the king, the young Warwick is never mentioned as one of the persons influential with Edward, nor seems his father to have been able to use him otherwise to promote his policies. This became apparent when he proposed to bring “in by writ some heirs-apparent into the parliament-house, whereby they may the better be able to serve his Majesty and the realm hereafter.”5 Indeed, Warwick was summoned to attend the Lords in March 1553, but he left no mark on proceedings and it is unclear whether he was allowed to participate in debates at all.6
In February 1553 King Edward fell ill with a fever and the Princess Mary made a state visit to London, where the Lords of the Council entertained her “as if she had been Queen of England”. The Master of the Horse had his finest hour receiving her into the city with 100 lords and gentlemen of the king’s household.7 Four months later the Imperial ambassador de Scheyfye reported that King Edward was “wasting away daily” and that Lady Jane Grey had recently married Lord Guildford Dudley; he added the latest speculations, from which the newlyweds were strikingly absent:
The Duke’s and his party’s designs to deprive the Lady Mary of the succession to the crown are only too plain. … It is said that if the Duke of Northumberland felt himself well supported, he would find means to marry his eldest son, the Earl of Warwick, to the Lady Elizabeth, after causing him to divorce his wife, daughter of the late Duke of Somerset; or else that he might find it expedient to get rid of his own wife and marry the said Elizabeth himself, and claim the crown for the house of Warwick as descendants of the House of Lancaster.8
The last story de Scheyfye had already reported three years before, but a divorce of John Dudley from Anne Seymour would certainly have been worth considering: According to one observer the Duke of Somerset had started intriguing against his daughter’s father-in-law even before the wedding, and during the next year he took to “contemplating” the permanent removal of his de facto successor.9 Northumberland struck first, in October 1551, and within little more than three months Anne Seymour was the daughter of an executed felon, politically worthless.
She had probably lived with her husband and in-laws ever since her marriage, for in the wake of her father’s execution she was described by Somerset’s evangelical adherents as having “been married nearly three years to the earl of Warwick, son and heir of the duke of Northumberland, and is happily and honourably settled.”10 Her two brothers were lodged with the Marquess of Winchester, who pocketed still £2,400 p.a. out of Somerset’s former estate on behalf of the elder boy. Finally, on 30 March 1553, the young Earl of Warwick was granted his brother-in-law Edward Seymour’s wardship, which brought him £510 p.a.11 Whether he had consummated his marriage with Anne is impossible to know, but given her young age it would have been entirely plausible if Northumberland and Warwick had pursued an annulment on the grounds of non-consummation.
This idea was obviously never seriously entertained, though. On the contrary, she had been fully accepted into the Dudley family and Northumberland felt genuine remorse at having instigated her father’s death, something nobody had asked of him.12 It is interesting that his heir had apparently lived for some time in Somerset’s household, making gifts of fine clothes to the duke’s cooks and kitchen boys, so he would also have come to know his future bride. One of the very few surviving details of their married life is this entry in John’s wardrobe account for 1551: “a shirt of blackwork that my lady gave my lord for his Lordship’s New Year’s gift”.13
1 HMC Second Report p. 101
2 HMC Pepys pp. 1 – 2
3 Murphy 2012
4 CSP Dom pp. 238, 239, 287
5 Tytler 1839 p. 163
6 Loades 1996 p. 236
7 Ives 2009 p. 94
8 CSP Span 30 May 1553
9 Hoak 1976 pp. 74 – 75
10 Original Letters I p. 340
11 Loades 2008 p. 162; Loades 1996 p. 224
12 Hoak 1980 pp. 48, 203; CSP Span 27 August 1553
13 HMC Second Report pp. 101 – 102; Loades 1996 p. 224
Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Edward VI, 1547–1553. Revised Edition. (ed. C. S. Knighton, 1992). HMSO.
Calendar of State Papers, Spain. Volume 11 – 1553. (ed. Royall Tyler, 1916) http://www.britishhistory.ac.uk/source.aspx?pubid=973
Original Letters Relative to the English Reformation. (ed. Hastings Robinson, 1847). Cambridge University Press.
Report on the Pepys Manuscripts Preserved at Magdalen College, Cambridge. (ed. Historical Manuscript Commission, 1911)
Second Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. (ed. 1874).
Higginbotham, Susan (2012): “It’s A Boy! No, It’s A Girl! Some Seymour Birth Dates”. http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/blog/posts/its-a-boy-no-its-a-girl-some-seymour-birth-dates/
Hoak, Dale (1976): The King’s Council in the Reign of Edward VI. Cambridge University Press.
Hoak, Dale (1980): “Rehabilitating the Duke of Northumberland: Politics and Political Control, 1549–53”. In Jennifer Loach and Robert Tittler (eds.): The Mid-Tudor Polity c. 1540–1560.
Ives, Eric (2009): Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Wiley-Blackwell.
Loades, David (1996): John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland 1504–1553. Clarendon Press.
Loades, David (2004): ‟Dudley, John, duke of Northumberland (1504–1553)“. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
Loades, David (2008): The Life and Career of William Paulet (c.1475 – 1575): Lord Treasurer and First Marquess of Winchester. Ashgate.
Murphy, John (2012): “The Royal Household of Mid Tudor England”. http://john-murphy.co.uk/?page_id=1258
Stevenson, Jane (2004): “Seymour, Lady Jane (1541–1561)”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
Tytler, P. F. (1839): England under the Reigns of Edward VI. and Mary. Volume II. Richard Bentley.