So, this whole saga starts back in 1547, with Henry VIII’s death, and the possible tampering of his will. Henry had an inkling that he was on his way out, which made him shit himself because his whole life had been about producing male heirs to succeed him to the throne, and despite shagging anything and everything that had a minge, his rancid, syphilis-filled, dick-hole had only manged to spaff out one legitimate boy, Prince Edward, and even he was only nine at the time of the King’s death.
Now, Henry was a lot of things, but stupid he was not. He knew that upon his death, the nobles would all seek to make power plays for the boy King, trying to monopolise him for their own advancement, and not actually giving a fuck about the crown or realm, so he decided to take action and get it jotted down in his Will before it was too late.
Henry decided that he would name, in his Will, 16 members of a privy council that would govern and advise his son, until he came of age to rule alone. He selected a mixture of conservative Catholics and new reformists, people he had trusted all his life, and people who would guide the new King in the ways of the new reformist faith. Each man would have equal say, and that way nobody would be in full control. That was the idea anyway, but it didn’t go anything like that.
Now here is where it gets a little weird. Edward Seymour, Henry’s old brother-in-law and Prince Edwards uncle, wasn’t named in Henry’s Will as a member of the Privy Council; he was originally appointed as an assistant to one of the councillors, but some historians believe that Henry’s Will was tampered with after it was written – it appeared that amendments had been made which seemingly favoured the reformers, primarily the removal of Stephen Gardiner, and the Duke of Norfolk, the two most militant Catholics at court, (though to be fair to Henry, the pair were both utter fucktwats who had not long since tried to have Catherine Parr arrested as a heretic, so it’s also quite feasible that Henry did just bin them off).
There were other slightly odd things about the Will; the main thing being that Henry never actually signed it himself. Henry was far too important to waste his time actually signing any old crap, like his own Will for instance, so created a ‘dry stamp’ of his signature so his minions could just sign shit off. He did this with most of his documents in his last few years, and just trusted that the job would be done. The thing with his Will was that the dry stamp was dated weeks after it was made, giving any would be fraudsters a good window of opportunity for things to be added or changed, and let’s be honest if the King is on his way out, and you could stand to profit, why would you not get your heads together and change the future of history to suit you? Especially if you’re a high ranking Tudor noble and naturally predisposed to a being a selfish shitehawk.
Anyway, whether the Will was altered or not, the members of the council all benefited from Henry’s death, making successful grabs for land and wealth until it got stupidly out of control. When they realised they needed to stop fucking about, and actually do their jobs, they decided that they should override the Will and appoint somebody to lead the motley crew of jebends in assisting the boy king in ruling the country. That job then remarkably fell to Edward Seymour.
The theory is that Seymour made deals with the council members, promising wealth and powerful positions that they would not have otherwise had, in order to get their vote, and get their vote he did. The whole council present that day voted to make Edward the Lord Protector of England, ruling for the King until he reached age.
Seymour, who had by now also given himself the title of ‘Duke of Somerset’, had his work cut out for him. Henry had left the country near bankruptcy, with food shortages, increased poverty and crime, a distinct lack of jobs and a constant threat of peasant uprisings…(so not totally unlike Conservative governed England in present day). There was also a constant threat of invasion from France and Scotland, just for a change, and Edward needed to make some cash and quick.
He decided to start by using his new power to scrap the Heresy Act, and throw in some protestant favoured changes such as allowing Latin scriptures to be published in English, incorporating some protty god stuff into the prayer books.
Seymour then decided that there was no real need for chantries, as they were expensive and a bit wank and pointless. The chantries were priests hired to sing for the souls of deceased people, usually their founders. How fucking ridiculous is that?! They were given estates and gold so it made sense to Seymour to get rid, seize their gold and melt it down to make money. Also, so as to make things a bit sweeter for the church, he gave permission for priests to marry, obviously thinking that if their dicks were kept wet they might not whinge about the whole reformation stuff, and therefore keep him in business.
Ok, so far so good; these changes may have had ‘reformist’ written all over them, but surprisingly they didn’t cause too much friction which was good. Seymour hadn’t wanted to rock the boat too much between the two faiths, but had wanted to let the people know that the reformation was still in full swing and going nowhere. The only people who kicked off about it were Gardiner and another staunch influential Catholic called Bonner, but they were both told to cock off and Bonner was soon shipped to the tower.
It was a balancing act alright, but up to now Seymour had been winning. However, whist bridging the gap between the old religion and the new, (even though they were all but the exact same fucking thing), he had taken his eyes off the bigger problem – the divide between the rich and the poor.
Seymour realised that it was pointless to raises funds by raising taxes – you can’t get blood out of a stone after all – so decided the next best option would be to sell more of the church property to nobles and get everyone possible into work in a bid to boost the economy. With that in mind he created ‘The Vagrancy Act’. This was to be about the most stupid thing he did. The Vagrancy Act was yet another one of Seymour’s new proclamations which stated that any able-bodied man who had been out of work for three days or more, would be sold into slavery for 2 years, and branded with a ‘V’. Not a popular proclamation as you can imagine. It caused mayhem and the authorities and peasants began to lose faith in their new boss, which in turn made the Privy Council start to think twice about Seymour’s competency.
Seymour made 77 proclamations in his short time as Lord Protector, on average this worked out as more per year than Henry had made. Some of them were so inflammatory that he had to write new ones to compensate for his previous ones. He did rash stuff like tax people on sheep ownership, causing landowners to build fences and hedges on their common ground to keep their sheep in, in turn causing villagers to burn the fences because IT WAS FUCKING COMMON GROUND. The wedge between rich and poor was widening and widening, and the government seemed to be pissing petrol onto an already rampant fire.
Tensions were starting to bubble, and some authorities refused to enforce the act. To counter any possible uprisings from subject, Seymour then decided to ban football and mass public gatherings, (Tudor football to be fair was a mass public gathering, with whole villages playing and more people dying football-related deaths than sword related ones, so I imagine in Seymour’s defence, that there was always scope for it to all kick off… forgive the pun). Anybody found guilty of ‘unlawful assembly’ would be shipped off to the Navy to clean shit up on deck. Again, not a popular decision, and now tensions were going through the roof.
Unsurprisingly, the poor were going batshit mental about the new Lord Protectors proclamations, because let’s face it, they were a fucking car crash of ideas all shitting out of one man’s brain who wasn’t even supposed to be in charge in the first place. It really didn’t take long before rebellion broke out in Devon, Cornwall and East Anglia, and there was fuck all Seymour could do. He had spent what bit of gold he had managed to collect on defending the county from Scotland and France, well, more saving face and trying to show that now the mighty ‘Henry’ was dead, that he was no pushover.
In Norfolk, the rebellion was running a real risk of becoming something serious. A man called Robert Kett had gathered forces 16000 strong, and was about to lay some serious smack down on Seymour’s plans. Kett had a list of demands that the people wanted enforced in order to establish a fairer society, and eventually Seymour had to put his hands in his pockets, dig deep and fork out for reinforcements to go to Norfolk to quash the rebellion. This cost the treasury dearly as they had to hire German mercenaries to accompany what little of an army they had. After three days of fighting, 3000 deaths and 50 hangings, (which was actually a very low figure because Seymour didn’t want to look like a complete cuntsack), Kett was arrested and the rebellion fell apart. Seymour also had to send out gold to local councils to supress the smaller uprisings.
The Privy Council decided that enough was enough and The Lord Protector had to go, and with that a unanimous vote was cast and Seymour was out. But like a complete tit, in a last ditch attempt to protect himself, Seymour seized the King himself, and fled to the fortified Windsor Castle, asking the people of London to protect him from the mean men who were chasing him. That shit didn’t fly, and on 14th October, 1549, Edward Seymour was taken to the tower, where he confessed to all charges and was stripped by act of parliament of his position of Lord Protector, a post which then conveniently fell to a complete cockweasle called John Dudley who had coincidentally been instrumental in Seymour’s downfall.
On 10th April, 1550, Edward Seymour was allowed back to parliament, though not as Lord Protector, that was now John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland’s post, and Dudley was beginning to think that Seymour wanted his old job back – which to be fair, he did. There are two things to know about John Dudley: 1) he was a complete bastard who sought after power and influence and didn’t give a shit who he hurt to get it, and 2) he was really good at it. So the long and short of it was that an incompetent bloke like Edward Seymour stood no chance.
On 16th October 1551, Dudley had Seymour arrested on partly fabricated charges, claiming that Seymour had been overheard plotting to invite Dudley and his cronies to a banquet and having them killed either there or on their way there. Prior to this, Dudley had been doing some ground work too; brown nosing the 14 year old egocentric King by pretending to be full of the faith of reformation, (as Edward VI was), and treating him like an equal rather than a King in waiting. Edward VI’s was totally won over by Dudley’s manipulation of him.
Seymour was executed at the hand of his nephew, the King, on 22nd January 1552, but to what extent Edward VI was maneuvered into signing his Uncles execution warrant is unclear. The execution document had additions made to it after the time of signing, but this time by the young King’s own hand, and the only other dude who could agree the sentence was the chancellor, and one had been newly appointed by Dudley that day. Maybe Edward VI was encouraged to change the warrant, maybe not, who knows?
At his execution crowds rushed forward to soak up his blood in handkerchiefs and rags, believing that Seymour was innocent of any charge and a victim of foul play. He might have pissed the people off as Lord Protector, but they didn’t want to see him dead.
I’m not sure if Seymour was such a bad bloke, I think he was just more one of those men that tries to do what’s best but cannot help but fuck it up by making rash and stupid decisions, and pretending to know what he’s doing but not actually having a fucking clue. One thing we can say for sure is that he was certainly incompetent and greedy, but then most of the men of the chamber were led by their own selfish desires, so he wasn’t really any different in that respect.
The following year, the King himself was dead too, which was probably for the best because he was a psychotic gobshite too, evenmore so than his Dad. What of Lord Dudley? Well he got his just deserts, but that’s another story which you can read here.
On an interesting side note, Edward Seymour had two siblings: Jane (Henry’s fave wife), and Thomas. The fact that Jane did herself a favour and died before Henry got bored of her was the reason the two brothers were in favour with the crown. Thomas was another fucking mentalist, and Edwards’s main rival to the position of Lord Protector, which is a fucking amazing story in itself. You can get on that here.