SEYMOUR, William (1587-1660)

SEYMOUR, William (1587–1660)

styled 1618-21 Ld. Beauchamp; accel. 29 Jan. 1621 Bar. BEAUCHAMP; suc. grandfa. 6 Apr. 1621 as 2nd earl of HERTFORD; cr. 5 June 1641 mq. of HERTFORD; rest. 13 Sept. 1660 2nd duke of SOMERSET

First sat 17 Apr. 1621; first sat after 1660, 18 May 1660; last sat 24 Aug. 1660

MP Marlborough 1621

b. 1 Sept. 1587, 2nd s. of Edward Seymour (d.v.p. 1618), later styled Ld. Beauchamp, and Honora, da. of Sir Richard Rogers of Bryanston, Dorset; bro. of Francis Seymour, later Bar. Seymour of Trowbridge. educ. Trowbridge g.s. c.1598-1604; Magdalen Oxf. 1605, BA 1607, MA 1636, MD 1645; M. Temple 1618. m. (1) 22 June 1610, Arbella (d. 25 Sept. 1615), da. of Charles Stuart, earl of Lennox [S] s.p.; (2) 3 Mar. 1617 (with £3,614), Frances (d.1674), da. of Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex, 5s. (4 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.); KB 4 Nov. 1616; KG 27 May 1660. d. 24 Oct. 1660; will 15 Aug. 1657- 4 Oct. 1660, pr. 20 Nov. 1660.1

PC Feb. 1641-?48, May 1660-d.; commr. treaty of Ripon 1640, treaty of Uxbridge 1645, treaty of Newport 1648; gov. to Prince Charles 1641-4; prince’s council 1645; gent. of the bedchamber 1644-?8; groom of the stole 1644-?8, June 1660-d.

Commr. oyer and terminer, W. Circ. 1626-42, 1660, Som., 1624, Mdx. 1641, 1660, London 1641, Wilts., Hants 1643-4; commr. array, Bristol, Som., Wilts. 1642; mbr. council of war 1643-6.

Warden, Savernake Forest, Wilts. 1621-d.; custos rot. Wilts. 1626-?36, July 1660-d., Som. 1641, July 1660-d.; ld. lt. (jt.) Som. 1639-42, ld. lt. Wilts., Som. July 1660-d.

Lt. gen. (roy.) W. Counties 1642-4.

Recorder Lichfield Jan.-1648-d.2; chan. Oxf. Univ. 1643-7, May 1660-d.

Associated with: Amesbury House, Wilts.; Tottenham Court, Great Bedwyn, Wilts.; Essex House, London.

Hertford was a leading supporter of Charles I in the west of England and suffered financially for his support for the royal cause in the Civil Wars and afterwards, accumulating debts of around £22,750.3 His commitment to the Church was such that he maintained an Anglican chaplain in his household and regularly took the sacrament in private during the Interregnum.4 The death of his son, Henry Seymour, styled Lord Beauchamp, in 1654 was followed in August 1657 by the remarriage of Beauchamp’s widow, Mary, to Henry Somerset, then styled Lord Herbert, later duke of Beaufort. The significance of this marriage was not lost on Edward Hyde, the future earl of Clarendon, who noted, ‘sure my Lord Hertford cannot like it’.5 That same month Hertford made a new will in which he attempted to ensure that both his grandson, and the administration of the Seymour estates were kept out of the clutches of Lady Herbert and her new husband.6 Poignancy was added to Hertford’s fears by the rival claimant to the Somerset dukedom, who was none other than Herbert’s father, Edward Somerset, 2nd marquess of Worcester.

Hertford’s name cropped up regularly in royalist correspondence in the months before the Restoration. On Philip Wharton, 4th Baron Wharton’s list of the spring of 1660, Hertford was noted as one of the lords with the king. On 27 Apr. 1660 John Mordaunt, Viscount Mordaunt wrote to Ormond that he had communicated the king’s commands to Hertford and his son-in-law, Thomas Wriothesley, 4th earl of Southampton, and that that day ‘above 40 lords sat’, which had led some of the Presbyterian lords to consider calling Hertford and Southampton to sit as a way of tempering the enthusiasm of the younger royalist peers.7 On 4 May Edward Hyde reported that Hertford and Southampton had arrived in London, where he thought General George Monck, the future duke of Albemarle would ‘be exceedingly kind to them’. On 13 May Charles II wrote to Hertford that ‘I have a very just sense of your many services and kindness to me; and there are very few persons in the world I more desire to see. Commend me to my Lord Southampton’.8

On 14 May 1660 the Lords wrote to Hertford asking him to attend the House and he duly took his seat on 18 May. On 26 May the Lords voted to restore the chancellorship of Oxford to him. Hertford attended the Lords on 17 days during the Convention, a total of 15 per cent of possible sittings, his attendance being confined to the months of May and August 1660. On 31 July he was excused attendance on the grounds of ill-health. On 13 Aug. he was named to a conference on the bill of indemnity and borrowing £100,000 from the City, but on the following day was excused from going into the City ‘in regard of his ill health’. On 18 Aug. he was named to the committee on the bill for disposing of several lands of his son-in-law, Heneage Finch, 3rd earl of Winchilsea, for the payment of debts.

What brought Hertford back to Westminster was probably a bill paving the way for his restoration to the dukedom of Somerset. On 10 Aug. 1660 the Commons read twice and committed a bill repealing a clause in a private act, made under Edward VI touching the limitation of the duke of Somerset’s lands. On the 15th, at the committee on the bill, Lord Herbert produced a patent from Charles I creating his father, Worcester, duke of Somerset, which the committee agreed to report to the House so that it might be referred to the king.9 However, no report seems to have been made and on 18 Aug., ‘upon information’ given by Hertford that a patent had been granted to the marquess of Worcester, ‘which is a prejudice to other peers’, the House ordered a committee to investigate the matter. On 23 Aug. Henry Pierrepont, marquess of Dorchester, reported from the committee that Worcester had told them that a patent had been left in his hands by the king, creating him duke of Somerset, upon certain conditions, which had never been performed and that he had made no use of it. It was now in the hands of his son, Lord Herbert, although Worcester was willing it should be surrendered to the king. The Lords then sent a message to the Commons asking that Lord Herbert give the patent back to his father, who referred the request to the committee on the bill. On 27 Aug. the Commons ordered that Lord Herbert be heard by his counsel before the bill was reported and that he produce the patent before the committee. Winchilsea lobbied Sir Edward Dering to attend the committee scheduled for 28 Aug. ‘where you will find occasions enough to assist my lord’.10 On 3 Sept. the Lords were informed that the patent had been delivered up, and then ordered that a bill be brought in ‘that all patents and grants obtained since the beginning of the late wars shall be brought within a short time to be limited, or else the same to be vacated’, which was lost in the Commons.11 On 4 Sept. William Prynne reported the bill with amendments, and it was duly passed on the 5 September. On the same day it was read twice and committed to the committee which had been named to consider Worcester’s patent to the dukedom. It was amended and passed on 6 Sept., becoming an act for the restoring of the marquess of Hertford to the dukedom of Somerset. On 13 Sept., when the king adjourned the session to November, he specifically referred to Somerset’s bill, remarking that ‘you all know it is for an extraordinary person, who hath merited as much of the king my father and myself as a subject can do’, adding ‘there can be no danger from such a precedent; and I hope no man will envy him because I have done what a good master should do to such a servant’. The act was subsequently confirmed in the first session of the Cavalier Parliament in December 1661.12

Hertford, now restored as second duke of Somerset, never sat in the House of Lords under that title. He died in Essex House on 24 Oct. 1660, ‘of a general decay of nature’, and was buried in the parish church of Great Bedwyn on 1 November.13 Winchilsea, described his sadness at the death of a man who had been ‘a real father to me’; Fuller described him as a ‘wise and religious knight’, and Clarendon recalled him a ‘man of great honour, great interest in fortune and estate, and of universal esteem’, a ‘good scholar’ with ‘good judgment’ to whom the king would have ‘trusted his crown upon his fidelity’.14

The duchess of Somerset survived until 1674, leaving debts of over £20,000.15 Her will also caused controversy, as it contained a codicil added just before her death and of which her main legal adviser, Sir Orlando Bridgeman was unaware. In it she bequeathed around £13,000 to Thomas Thynne, the future Viscount Weymouth, who had married her granddaughter, Lady Frances Finch, and who thereby acquired the manor of Drayton Bassett, Staffordshire, lands in Herefordshire, and around 22,000 acres in County Monaghan, Ireland.16


  • 1 TNA, PROB 11/302.
  • 2 Longleat, Bath mss, Seymour pprs. box 16/65; VCH Staffs. xiv. 81.
  • 3 HMC Bath, iv. 354.
  • 4 Swatland, 160.
  • 5 M. McClain, Beaufort: The Duke and his Duchess, 1657-1715, p. 1.
  • 6 PROB 11/302.
  • 7 Bodl. Carte 30, f. 582; M. Schoenfeld, Restored House of Lords, 82-83.
  • 8 Bodl. Clarendon 72, ff. 172-3, 376.
  • 9 TNA, C115/109/8880.
  • 10 Swatland, 124.
  • 11 HMC 7th Rep. 131.
  • 12 Schoenfeld, 126.
  • 13 CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 324.
  • 14 HMC Finch, i. 110; A.A. Locke, Seymour Fam. 131; Clarendon SP, iv. 294; vii. 155.
  • 15 Seymour pprs. 23, f. 29.
  • 16 Verney ms mic. M636/28, Denton to Sir R. Verney, 27 Apr. 1674; M636/27, W. Fall to same, 30 Apr. 1674; D. Burnett, Longleat: The Story of an English Country House, 72.