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Who was Anne Seymour?

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Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset

Born Anne Stanhope (c. 1497) to Sir Edward Stanhope of Sudbury and Elizabeth Bourchier, Anne was through her mother a direct descendant of Thomas of Woodstock, the youngest son of King Edward III of England and his wife, Queen Philippa of Hainault. Anne’s father had been married once before, so Anne had two older half-brothers – Richard Stanhope and Sir Michael Stanhope. The latter was selected for the governorship of Hull, was knighted, and made Shelford Priory his residence.


In 1511 Anne came as a maid of honour to Queen Catherine, and in 1529 Edward Seymour (the brother of Queen Jane, yes) noticed her and fell in love with her. They were married in 1535 (Anne being his second wife, his first, Catherine, had led an affair with his father, woah!)As Jane became queen a year after Anne married her brother, Edward was elevated to Viscount Beauchamp, and shortly thereafter elevated again to earl, becoming the first Earl of Hertford. Ten years later, in 1547, he was elevated to Duke of Somerset, thus making Anne Duchess of Somerset.
Anne gave birth to ten children, among them Edward Seymour who married Lady Catherine Grey (younger sister of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen). When Elizabeth I became queen she had the two lovers impersonated, as they had married without her consent, and the fact that they had two sons was a minor threat to Elizabeth’s reign as Catherine had a claim to the throne, through her grandmother, Mary, who was the daughter of Henry VII. Anne supported her daughter-in-law’s claims to the throne as that meant that her grandson could become King of England.


The Duchess of Somerset was described as being a “violent woman”, a “devilish woman & ‘monstrous’ in her pride”. Lady Hertford constantly made scenes in public, and she was spitefully unforgiving, haughty, grasping and bad tempered. She was universally disliked by those in the Royal Court. She has also been held responsible for the fate of her husband Edward, having urged him to adopt the policies which ruined him. When Henry VIII died, Anne’s husband became Lord Protector, and she felt she was the first lady of the realm, ahead of the widowed queen Catherine Parr whom she had never been on good terms with. There was even a quarrel over some jewels, which Anne meant were hers out of right! Anne considered that the Dowager Queen forfeited her rights of precedence when she married so far beneath her station (Thomas Seymour, Edward’s brother, thus making the two women sisters-in-law). Anne refused to bear Catherine’s train, and even physically tried to push her out of her place at the head of their entrances and exits at court. Anne was quoted as having said of Catherine, ”If master admiral teaches his wife no better manners, I am she that will”. Catherine, in her turn, privately referred to Anne as“that Hell”. Catherine Parr won the battle by invoking the Act of Succession which clearly stated that Katherine had precedence over all ladies in the realm; in point of fact, as regards precedence, Anne came after the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth, and Anne of Cleves.


Anne married, as her second husband, a lesser noble Francis Newdigate, who had been Steward to her late husband. Little is known of their life together.Anne Seymour died at the advanced age of 90, the 16th of April, 1587.
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