Education of the Lord Protector 1506-1547
Henry VIII, King of England died in January of 1547. He had inherited a medieval country and left it a modern nation. His son and heir, Edward, was only nine years old, far too young to rule. Someone would have to rule the kingdom during the young boy’s long minority. Into this void, stepped the young prince’s uncle, Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford, a man of great experience and accomplishment, and who had prepared for this role for years.
Seymour came from an old English family in 1506. With his father, he had served in the campaign against the French in 1523, where he received a knighthood. He then accompanied Cardinal Wolsey on and embassy to France in 1527. Finally, he was named a gentleman of the privy chamber in 1529 and in this position the king came to greatly favor him.
He rose even further in prominence when his sister, Jane, married the king. Almost a week after his sister’s marriage, Seymour was named Viscount Beauchamp as well as Governor of Jersey and Chancellor of North Wales. After his sister, Queen Jane, who died in childbirth, gave birth to the son (the future Edward VI) King Henry so desperately sought, he rose even higher. Three days after the birth of Prince Edward, Seymour was created Earl of Hertford as well as Warden of the Scottish Marches.
Though the death of Queen Jane was a blow to his ambitions, Lord Hertford continued to rise in prominence. During the King’s progress of northern England in 1541, he along Lord Chancellor Thomas Audley and Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury managed the affairs of state. From 1542-1543 he served as Lord High Admiral and in 1544 he was Lieutenant-General of the North. In the latter capacity he viciously punished the Scots and attempted to force them to accept a treaty were-by Prince Edward would marry the infant Scottish queen, Mary. Lord Hertford, was with King Henry when he captured the French town of Boulogne in 1544 and was part of an embassy to Charles V of Spain. The following year, once again found him in the North, were he again waged a violent campaign on the Scots. T hen once more, Hertford came to Boulogne where he succeeded the incompetent Earl of Surry in command and was part of the negotiating party that returned the recent English conquests to the French in exchange for peace.
The two factions at court during this time were the Reformers, led by the Seymour; his brother Thomas; and Archbishop Cranmer, and the conservative Catholic group, led by the Howard family and Bishop Stephen Gardiner. By this time it was clear that Henry VIII would not live to see his son come of age. Both factions were angling to dominate the minority of, soon to be, Edward VI. However, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, and his son Henry, the Earl of Surry, were found guilty of treason. Surry was executed and Norfolk was imprisoned. This paved the way for Hertford and his supporters to rule king and country.
As Henry VIII lay dying he dictated his last will and testament. Knowing the dangers of leaving a child monarch behind, he attempted to avoid giving to much power to any one man or group, least they try to usurp his son. Henry provided in his will for a council of sixteen executors to jointly rule during his son Edward’s minority. Also, he added an unfulfilled gifts clause that allowed the executors to bestow titles and grants of land on themselves. Seymour, as the young king’s uncle, now welded considerable influence. He created himself Duke of Somerset and by making deals with the other executors made himself Lord Protector of England. Seymour would proceed to rule England in nephew’s name for the next two years.