Judith is the author of twelve historical novels: The Heretic Wind: the life of Mary Tudor. Sisters of Arden, The Beaufort Chronicle (three book series), The Winchester Goose, The Kiss of the Concubine, Intractable Heart and A Song of Sixpence. Medieval novels are Peaceweaver, The Song of Heledd, and The Forest Dwellers. All In paperback and on Kindle and some are on audible. Judith also writes historical blogs and articles. Find out more on www.judithmarnopp.com
As part of the Historical Writer's Forum Interview my Character Blog Hop I have the honour of interviewing Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, brother of Queen Jane and uncle to Edward VI. and Protector of the Realm. Edward is the main character in Janet Wertman's book - The Path to Somerset. Welcome my lord, please take a seat ...
Tell us about your
sister Jane, what was she like? Did she set out to snare Henry? Do you think the king really loved her best?
Sigh. Jane did not set out to
snare Henry. She was a quiet, pale, plain young lady and she was as shocked as
we all were that the King fell in love with her. But once his interest was
piqued, she had only one choice.
And yes, of course Henry loved
her best: she brought out the best in him, she gave him the son he needed – and
she died before he could tire of her. The perfect woman.
I suppose you would say that about your sister, you were a close-knit family. There are rumours
that your first wife, Catherine Filliol, had a relationship with your father.
Do you believe that to be the case, are your two eldest sons actually your
The world has never stopped
snickering at me over that one, or defining my life by that shame. Yes, it
happened. Yes, I had to disinherit the boys I had thought of as sons.
Yet while this was the cross I
had to bear in life (until my Calvary on Tower Hill), the Lord in His mercy
softened the blow: those living symbols of betrayal atoned for the sin of their
origin with total loyalty. They accompanied me to the Tower and almost perished
with me. They were better brothers to me than Tom ever was and I loved them for
It must have been dreadful in the Tower yet many ambitious men end up there. What were the
problems between you and the Duke of Norfolk?
What weren’t the problems
between me and Norfolk? He was Catholic while I was Protestant. He was old
while I was young. He was old blood while I was a new man. And yet, as you say
nowadays, all that was “just business.” We actually got along well enough and could
easily have persisted forever as advisors to Henry – but we both knew that after
Henry died, there would be room for only one of us.
King Henry’s death
coincided with a huge shift in power. Was this a carefully planned manoeuvre or
spur of the moment? What was your part in it?
Each of Henry’s wives after Jane represented
a giant political opportunity - or liability. Anne of Cleves was to have turned
Henry Protestant for one and for all, but then Catherine Howard came along and
pulled the King back to Catholicism. That young girl’s disgrace and bad
judgment were our great good luck as they allowed us to swing the pendulum back
to another Protestant, Katherine Parr. Of course, that move came close to
backfiring when Gardiner attacked her. If Gardiner had succeeded, the King
would surely have taken a Catholic bride (they were proposing his own son’s
widow, Mary Howard, for goodness sakes).
But as much as I was part of the
fight, it was the Lord’s intervention that won it for us. Only that could
explain the stupidity of the conservatives who dealt themselves two death blows
on the very same day. First, Surrey actually quartered the arms of Edward the
Confessor on his shield, clearly asserting his claim to the throne. Then
Gardiner refused to exchange lands with Henry (the same sin that had sent
Nicholas Carew to the block). From that day forward, Surrey and Norfolk were
imprisoned and Gardiner was banished, leaving no one to restrain me and the
I see. The imprisonment of Surrey and Norfolk gave you a clear run at taking control of the boy king. Did you and your
cohorts manipulate King Henry to change his will in your favour?
Why do you call it manipulation?
Henry had originally drawn up his will when Norfolk and Gardiner were in high
favour; the document needed to be changed once they had shown their true colors.
Admittedly, there were rich gifts in the final version, but that was to assure
the personal power and loyalty of myself and the other men who would be guiding
the young Edward VI and keeping him safe.
So you were motivated by family loyalty rather than riches. The king’s will did
not appoint a Protector but within a very short time you were ‘elected’ as
such. Do you have anything to say regarding this?
Don’t be naïve: look at society. You
cannot keep power dispersed power among twelve men: one of them will come to
dominate. That one ruler needed to be me in order to ensure that Edward VI
would inherit his throne when he came of age.
The Council knew that when they
elected me – and were reminded of it after they kicked me out in that first
coup. After trying for three months to rule as a group, they realized they did
need a leader after all and elected Warwick – he was not yet Northumberland
then – President of the Council. Bah.
Thomas’ marriage to
the Dowager Queen, Katheryn Parr, must have angered you. Was this the beginning
of ill feeling between you or had you always been at odds with him?
My younger brother Tom always
overrated his own abilities; he was rash instead of calculating, vain instead
of humble. But we never failed to get along – until he married Katherine Parr.
The marriage made him look bad. It
made her look bad. It made me look bad. It made all of England look bad. Yes I
was angry he’d done it. Especially since he seemed to think it should warrant
him more power than he deserved – and worked against me to seize it.
Some say that Thomas was simply attempting to speak to his nephew, the incident with the dog a regrettable accident - an accident that took him to the Tower. How did it feel to
condemn your brother to death?
It was torture. Signing his death
warrant was the hardest thing I’d ever done. But a signature was needed –
either mine or my nine-year old nephew’s. I shouldered the burden rather than saddling
the boy with it.
That was noble of you. When you were waiting
execution in the tower did you think of the men who’d died by your order? Did
you think of your brother?
How could I not think of my
brother? How could I not remember his claims that he was unjustly accused? How
could I not wonder what he went through?
But your question is not entirely
fair. Tom was guilty: he broke into the
palace to kidnap the King - and actually killed his dog in a desperate attempt
to hide his treason. I was innocent, the victim of Northumberland’s jealousy
and lies. It was that innocence that sustained me, that confidence in Heaven’s
Thank goodness for your faith. Is that what drove
you? Religion? Or was it power?
It feels like you believe I
was driven by power. I can’t fault you for that: most people did believe I was
overly proud. And yet, I only ever sought to do God’s work...and that was my
I tried to adopt policies that
would benefit the common man – but my peers were angry at the threat to their
excessive wealth. I also tried to be tolerant of Mary and the others who
believed differently than I did, but this allowed Warwick to call me faithless
and discredit me to the King. In the end, I accepted my martyrdom and calmed
the people who would have risen up to save me. As a result, I met my Maker
cloaked in righteousness, and confident that He would judge me far less harshly
I am sure posterity will be kind to you, my lord. Time has a way of tempering a man's actions. Thank you for gracing us with your presence this day. It has been an honour.
If you'd like to learn more about Edward Seymour and his sister, Jane, the third wife of Henry VIII Janet Wertman's books Jane the Quene and The Path to Somerset are available on Kindle and Paperback. Click on the links below for more information.
And there’s a
giveaway! Janet has kindly offered a paperback copy or a kindle copy of The
Path to Somerset to a winner in the US
of A, or an ebook to a winner elsewhere in the world. To enter, simply leave a
comment below. The draw will be made on 23rd June.