40 Facts About the Tudor Era's Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour

Khalid Elhassan - March 22, 2019

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
Thomas Seymour. Flickr

19. Seymour Took Chutzpah to New Levels in Defending His Molestation of Elizabeth

When Katherine Parr questioned her husband about what he was up to with Elizabeth, he put on an indignant routine, and claimed to be aghast at the kinds of dirty minds that could have possibly misinterpreted or misunderstood what he was doing. Indeed, in a piece of mental jujitsu, he basically argued that backing off would be an affront to his honor, and would let the bad guys win. Thus, the only right thing to do in the circumstances would be keep doing what he was doing. As he exclaimed: “By God’s precious soul, I mean no evil, and I will not leave it!

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
TV princess Elizabeth. Fanpop

18. Seymour’s Wife Enabled His Molestation of Her Stepdaughter

Katherine Parr accepted her husband’s protestations that he was just having innocent fun with princess Elizabeth, and dismissed the complaints of scandalized servants and household staff as unwarranted. Indeed, in a bid to demonstrate just how little credence she gave to the wagging tongues, Katherine took to joining in the “romps” between her husband and stepdaughter. She even reportedly held the teenaged girl down on a few occasions, while Seymour went about tickling the girl and slapping her butt. On another occasion, Seymour wrestled with Elizabeth in a garden, and Katherine Parr stepped in to hold the girl down while he cut the princess’ gown “into a hundred pieces“.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
Iain Batchelor as Thomas Seymour. BBC

17. Living With Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour Was Awkward For Princess Elizabeth

Understandably, it got confusing and uncomfortable for the teenaged Elizabeth, living under the same roof with a stepfather who had wanted to marry her not that long ago, and who was in the habit of feeling her up under the guise of play whenever he could. On the one hand, Elizabeth reportedly bore Thomas Seymour a certain degree of affection. On the other hand, the girl exhibited signs of discomfiture around her stepfather that modern child sex abuse investigators could readily identify.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
Katherine Parr in wax. Flickr

16. Katherine Parr Eventually Grew Suspicious

Katherine Parr eventually asked Elizabeth’s governess to keep an eye on the young girl, claiming that her husband had told her that he had seen the princess “cast her arms about a man’s neck“. However, nobody else in the household had ever seen any such behavior from Elizabeth, and the governess concluded that Parr must have made the story up. As the governess figured, Parr’s real goal was to get her to spy for her on Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
CGI recreation of Tudor London. Pintrest

15. Respite From and Resumption of the Molestation

During the winter of 1547 – 1548, Thomas Seymour and Katherine Parr moved to London. At her stepmother’s suggestion, Elizabeth was left behind with the household staff. It was a welcome break from Seymour’s advances, but it only lasted for a few months. When Elizabeth joined her stepmother and her husuband in the spring of 1548, Seymour promptly resumed his routine of early morning visits and creepy conduct. The princess’ governess once again complained to him of the unseemliness of dropping into “a maiden’s chamber” in his nightgown, but to no avail.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
Cate Blanchett, as Elizabeth Tudor. Fanpop

14. “Thou, Touch Me Not”

In the summer of 1548, when Seymour was away, Katherine Parr asked Elizabeth to arrange the delivery of a letter to him. Before handing the letter to a messenger, Elizabeth took the opportunity to write on the outside, in Latin, “thou, touch me not“. She then scratched it out, and replaced it with “Let him not touch me“. It spoke volumes of the princess’ desperation at finding herself in a helpless situation, in the clutches of a predator whom she wanted to warn off, yet was too frightened to challenge or confront directly.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
Chelsea Manor in the 19th century. Magnolia Box

13. Seymour’s Wife Caught Him in a Compromising Position With Princess Elizabeth

It is unclear whether Katherine Parr had truly believed that her husband’s behavior around Elizabeth was innocent, whether she was deluding herself, or whether she knew, but was so desperate to please her husband and too afraid to challenge him, that she ignored his antics. Whatever she truly thought, things came to a head, and to an end, on June 11th, 1548, when Parr chanced upon her husband and stepdaughter alone in a room, embracing. She hit the roof. As a household servant put it: “they were all alone, he having her in his arms, wherefore the queen fell out” with Thomas Seymour and her stepdaughter.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
Coat of arms of the Champernownes, the family of Kat Ashley, princess Elizabeth’s governess. Wikimedia

12. Seymour’s Wife Finally Sent Elizabeth Away

Catching her husband and stepdaughter in a compromising position sufficiently alarmed Katherine Parr, and finally convinced her that the time had come, at last, for her to take action and do something. Thus, a year into the marriage, a pregnant Katherine grew fed up with her husband’s ceasless flirtations with her stepdaughter – especially after catching the duo embracing and kissing. So she packed off the by-then 14 year old Elizabeth, and sent her away to go and live with the family of Kat Ashley, the princess’ governess.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
Katherine Parr. Wikimedia

11. Seymour Became Fabulously Wealthy

A few months after sending Elizabeth away, Katherine Parr bore Seymour a daughter, then took ill and died shortly thereafter as a result of birth complications. The dowager queen had been England’s richest woman, and she left it all as an inheritance to Thomas Seymour, who suddenly became one the realm’s wealthiest magnates. That only served to further enhance his ambitions, and no sooner had Parr’s corpse grown cold, than Seymour’s covetous gaze returned to princess Elizabeth, now all of 15 years old.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
Hatfield House, princess Elizabeth’s residence after moving out on her own. Wikimedia

10. Back to Creeping on Elizabeth

Soon as his wife died, Thomas Seymour went back to creeping on Elizabeth. When the princess moved into and set up her own household at Hatfield House, Seymour sent his nephew, John, to help her move and settle into the new place. However, Seymour being Seymour, lending out his nephew was bound to have not been mere altruism on his part, and there was bound to be a creepy element to it. Sure enough, Seymour wanted to know whether Elizabeth’s butt had filled out, and instructed his nephew to ask: “whether her buttocks were grown any less or no“.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
Princess Elizabeth, as depicted in ‘The Tudors’. Pintrest

9. Elizabeth Finds Her Voice

While living under the same roof as Katherine Parr and her creepy husband, princess Elizabeth had been constrained in her ability to openly defy Thomas Seymour. Moving into and setting up her own household made her more independent. When rumors circulated that she was to marry Seymour, and she was asked whether she would accept his proposal if he asked, she replied: “when that comes to pass, I will do as God shall put in my mind“. It was an ambiguous response that contemporaries interpreted as a de facto rejection.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
Edward VI at age 9. Wikimedia

8. The Cool Uncle

Elizabeth’s growing coolness towards Seymour spurred him into putting more effort into his other strategy to secure power: gain personal influence over his nephew, the child king Edward VI. He sought to pull that off by being the cool uncle. Soon as the 9 year old Edward was made king, Seymour began to visit him frequently, and to give him a generous allowance of coins so he could splurge them on his friends, teachers, and household servants, and thus feel more grownup.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
Edward VI. All Things Robert Dudley

7. Attempts to Bend the King to His Will

Edward VI became so accustomed to his uncle Thomas’ gifts of coins, that he began to freely ask him for his allowance. In addition to currying favor with the child king by showering him with pocket money, Seymour bribed one of the king’s men, John Fowler, to say nice things about him. He also started reading law books, with an eye towards making himself co-Protector, alongside his older brother. To that end, Thomas tried pushing a bill through Parliament that would have made him the king’s personal Governor, and sought to get his nephew’s royal signature on it.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
Tudor era Parliament. History of Parliament

6. Failure to Control the Child King

Edward VI was more than happy to accept his uncle Thomas’ coins, but although a child, he was shrewd enough to not fall under his scheming uncle’s grasp. So when Thomas asked him to sign a bill that would make him the king’s official Governor, the underage monarch saw through the power play, and refused to go behind the back of his other uncle, the Protector. Thomas Seymour might have been the fun uncle, but he was dangerous. His other uncle, Edward Seymour, might have been a stick in the mud and buzz kill, but he was clearly a responsible and serious grownup.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
Princess Mary Tudor. Biography

5. Failed Attempt to Marry Princess Mary

In addition to his attempts at seducing princess Elizabeth, Thomas Seymour had also made an attempt at marrying her older sister, princess Mary. Luckily for Mary, she never had the misfortune of living under the same roof as Thomas, so she did not have to endure what her younger sister had. Thomas asked the Privy Council for permission to marry Mary Tudor, but his older brother shot that idea down, explaining that neither of the Seymour siblings should be king or marry a king’s daughter. As to Mary, when she was informed of the proposed match, she laughed.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
Hampton Court Palace, the Tudors’ chief royal residence. Pintrest

4. Frustration Sets the Stage for a Fall

By early 1549, Thomas Seymour was growing increasingly frustrated by the failure of his plans to increase his power and supplant his older brother. His efforts to manipulate and control his nephew, the child king, had borne no fruit. Similarly, his attempts at marrying either princess Mary or princess Elizabeth were going nowhere: Mary loathed him on general principal, while Elizabeth was shook by her experiences living with him. So Thomas began contemplating a more direct path to power: open rebellion.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
English spaniel. Select Dog Breed

3. Rebellion

Although Thomas Seymour hated his older brother and sought his ruin, Edward Seymour went out of his way to try and save his kid brother from himself. When the Privy Council grew alarmed at Thomas’ increasing brazenness, including efforts to stir up rebellion, and allying with pirates in a bid to secure their support, the Protector invited his younger brother to come and explain himself. Thomas failed to do so, and instead, tried to kidnap the king. On the night of January 16th, 1549, Thomas Seymour tried to break into the child monarch’s apartments, but his attempt was foiled when one of the king’s spaniels woke the place up with its barking. So Thomas shot it dead.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
A Tudor beheading block. Pintrest

2. Downfall

The day after the failed kidnapping, Thomas Seymour was locked up in the Tower of London. Considering that he had been caught outside the king’s bedroom at night, with a loaded pistol, there was little that his older brother – or anybody else for that matter – could do to help. Thomas was charged with thirty three counts of treason, convicted, and sentenced to death. Parliament passed a Bill of Attainder against him on March 5th, 1549, and he was beheaded fifteen days later.

40 Facts About the Tudor Era’s Awful Courtier, Thomas Seymour
Queen Elizabeth I. ThoughtCo

1. Seymour’s Molestation of Elizabeth Had Long Term and Significant Consequences

It is unclear if Thomas Seymour ever actually had sex with princess Elizabeth, but his conduct made it clear that he had wanted to. Like any child victimized by a predator, Elizabeth’s experience at a tender age was bound to leave some scars. When she wrote about Seymour “Let him not touch me“, it seems to have applied not just to him, but to all men. Whether or not the “Virgin Queen” ever had any lovers or was literally a virgin, she certainly never married. Her decision to stay single was probably associated, at least in part, with the sexual harassment she had been subjected to by Thomas Seymour during her formative years.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Elizabethan Era Org – Teenage Scandal of Queen Elizabeth I

Encyclopedia Britannica – Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour

Factinate – 42 Diabolical Facts About Thomas Seymour, Henry VIII’s Scheming Courtier

Hibbert, Christopher – The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I, Genius of the Golden Age (1992)

History Extra – Did Thomas Seymour Sexually Abuse the Teenage Princess Elizabeth?

History Jar – Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour

History Jar – Scandal at Chelsea: the Courtship and Marriage of Katherine Parr and Sir Thomas Seymour

Jenkins, Elizabeth – Elizabeth the Great (2000)

Spartacus Education – Thomas Seymour

Tudor Place – Thomas Seymour

Wikipedia – Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley