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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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“.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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