Tag Archives: Act of Attainder

On this day in 1549 – An Act of Attainder was passed against Thomas Seymour

Thomas Seymour, brother to the late Queen Jane Seymour, husband of the Dowager Queen Catherine Parr and uncle to King Edward VI saw an Act of Attainder passed against him on 5th March 1549 declaring him guilty of high treason.

Upon the ascension of Edward VI, Thomas was created Baron Seymour of Sudeley and as the King’s uncle a member of the new Privy Council. In 1547 he married King Henry VIII’s widow, Catherine Parr, controversially only months after Henry had died. Due to the Dowager Queen’s position of step-mother and guardian of Princess Elizabeth they lived at Chelsea Manor in London. Upon Catherine and Thomas’ marriage he also moved into the property, which raised some concerns as during the final months of Henry’s life Thomas had put forward the notion of marrying one of the Princesses, preferably Elizabeth, although this did come to nothing at the time.

With Elizabeth now under the same roof as Thomas their relationship became too familiar with reports that Thomas would enter her chambers dressed in just his nightclothes and would tickle and slap the Princesses behind whilst she was in bed. These incidents were reported to Catherine who tried to put them down to innocent fun and she even partook in a few of them herself to try and ease the situation.

Catherine became pregnant in 1548 and the couple moved to Sudeley Castle. Elizabeth was sent to Hertfordshire to live as a precaution to ensure that Thomas didn’t do anything towards her whilst Catherine was in confinement. Catherine gave birth in September 1548 to a daughter but only a few days later Catherine died from complications of childbirth. Upon her death Thomas inherited all of Catherine’s wealth and once again his attentions turned towards Elizabeth and the idea of marriage.

Sudeley Castle      Sudeley Castle home of Thomas Seymour and Catherine Parr

Throughout King Edward VI’s reign Thomas was jealous that his brother, Edward, was appointed Protector and not him. The jealousy worsened over time and Thomas attempted to do what he could to gain influence over the nine year old King. He began visiting the King in secret and giving him an allowance behind his brothers back. He also tried to convince the King that he could rule in his own right and did not have a need for a Protector, on this occasion Edward did not listen to his uncle for fear of betraying the man appointed to look after him and his interests.

In 1547, with his brother invading Scotland in the Kings name, Thomas began voicing concern over his brothers ability to rule in the Kings name and he even went as far as approaching other nobles for their support in case of a rebellion. Upon his return from Scotland, Edward Seymour called for a council meeting for his brother to explain himself. Thomas failed to show up.

Thomas Seymour’s downfall took a further turn for the worse when on 16th January 1549 Thomas was found outside King Edward’s chambers with a loaded pistol after breaking in to Hampton Court Palace. It is unclear of his intentions but to the council it appeared that he was attempting to abduct the King.

The following morning Thomas was arrested and sent straight to the Tower of London and in the following five weeks was charged with 33 counts of treason and other offenses. Instead of receiving a trial in front of a jury of his peers Thomas Seymour was found guilty via an Act of Attainder. The Act was sent to the Lords on 25th February where it passed through twice before it was sent to the Commons for final approval. It was signed off on 5th March 1549. The Act of Attainder stripped Thomas of his land and titles as well as condemning him to execution.

Thomas Seymour was executed on 20th March 1549.

Thomas Seymour