SEYMOUR, Sir John (1473/74-1536), of Wolf Hall, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. 1473/74, 1st s. of John Seymour of Wolf Hall by Elizabeth, da. of Sir George Darrell of Littlecote; bro. of Robert. m. Margery, da. of Sir Henry Wentworth of Nettlestead, Suff., 6s. inc. Sir Henry and Sir Thomas II 4da. suc. fa. 26 Oct. 1491. Kntd. 17 June 1497, banneret 1513.1
Warden, Savernake forest, Wilts. Oct. 1491; sheriff, Wilts. 1498-9, 1507-8, 1518-19, 1524-Jan. 1526, Som. and Dorset 1515-16, 1526-7; j.p. Wilts. 1499-d.; steward, 3rd Duke of Buckingham’s lands, Wilts. by 1503; knight of the body by 1509; constable and door-ward, Bristol castle, Glos. Aug. 1509, jt. (with s. Edward) July 1517; under captain, Dragon of Greenwich 1512; commr. subsidy, Wilts. 1512, 1514, 1515, Wilts. and Salisbury 1523, musters, Wilts. 1513, loan 1524; other commissions 1502-d.; steward, manor of Kingston Lisle, Berks. bef. 1513; forester, Grovely, Wilts. Feb. 1526; groom of the bedchamber 1532.2
Although the Seymours were already of some substance in Wiltshire, it was a combination of timely demise, good fortune and royal favour which established them early in the 16th century as one of the leading families in the shire. Sir John Seymour’s great-grandfather and namesake had inherited both the Seymour-Beauchamp fortunes and a great part of the lands of Sir William Sturmy; it was also he who secured Wolf Hall.3
By its size and provenance the Seymour inheritance was bound to provoke rivalry and litigation. Even Wolf Hall was not free from dispute: at some time between 1518 and 1529 one Thomas Bruyn petitioned in Chancery for half of the manor as ‘cousin and heir’ of Sturmy’s elder daughter Agnes. The impression of Seymour as lawless and overbearing given by one plaintiff in 1502 is confirmed by litigation over Easton priory and Grafton manor. In 1514 Seymour himself complained that the bishop of Salisbury’s servants had killed deer in Savernake forest, which the bishop denied.4
Seymour’s behaviour does not seem to have impaired his relations with the crown. He was regularly employed as a royal official in Wiltshire, was a knight of the body and groom of the chamber to Henry VIII, and in 1535 and 1536 entertained that monarch at his houses in Hampshire and Wiltshire. He attended the funeral of Henry VII in 1509 and that of Prince Henry two years later, and took part in Henry VIII’s meetings with Francis I and Charles V and other state occasions. According to one pedigree he was knighted ‘on account of his gallant and conspicuous conduct at the Battle of Blackheath’, and after the battle of the Spurs in 1513 he was made knight banneret. Nine years later he was again in the field, this time with Suffolk’s army of invasion in France.5
As a leading figure in Wiltshire Seymour may well have sat in one or more of Henry VIII’s early Parliaments, for which the names of the Members are lost. He was certainly an obvious choice in 1529 and he could perhaps think himself unlucky to yield to Sir Edward Darrell (his brother-in-law) and Sir Edward Baynton for the knighthood of the shire. As it was, he and his brother Robert were returned for Heytesbury. This was not a borough which lay within the family’s sphere of influence and the appropriation of both seats was something of an achievement: perhaps Seymour’s role as a feoffee in the conveyance by Walter Hungerford of the manor of Heytesbury to Thomas Westley on 2 Oct. 1529, shortly after the election, reflects his standing there. Of his part in the proceedings of the Commons nothing is known. It is likely, however, that he was re-elected in 1536, in accordance with the King’s request for the return of the previous Members.6
By then it was clear that the King intended to marry Seymour’s daughter Jane, with whom he had been dallying for nearly two years. The marriage took place on 30 May, nine days before the opening of the Parliament which attainted the dead Anne Boleyn and revised the succession to the throne. That Seymour himself, unlike his elder sons, appears to have received no mark of royal favour may or may not be indicative of his feelings in the matter. He was not to live to see the marriage vindicated, and his daughter sacrificed, by the birth of his royal grandson, for he died on 21 Dec. 1536. Buried in Easton priory, he was to be reinterred by his grandson, when half-a-century later that church lay derelict, in his own parish church of Great Bedwyn. In the absence of a will or an inquisition post mortem, the disposition of his property cannot be established, but it is known that his heir, the future Protector, inherited lands to the annual value of £275.7
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: R. L. Davids
- 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., CIPM Hen. VII, i. 767-72. A. A. Locke, Seymour Fam. 5-6; Earl of Cardigan, Wardens of Savernake Forest, 131-4; Wilts. Arch. Mag. li. 329-39, 500-20; H. St. Maur, Annals of the Seymours, 18.
- 2. LP Hen. VIII, i-v, viii; CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 287, 665; Statutes, iii. 80, 113, 169; C. Rawcliffe, The Staffords, Earls of Stafford and Dukes of Buckingham, 1394-1521, p. 211.
- 3. Wilts. Arch. Mag. li. 329-39, 500-20.
- 4. C1/464/48, 472/59, 631/6; Req.2/5/73; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxix. 58-99, 156-84; St.Ch.2/14/153-7, 17/331; LP Hen. VIII, i.
- 5. C1/506/1; SP1/68/145; Rutland Pprs. (Cam. Soc. xxi), 32, 46; Wilts. Arch. Mag. li. 514; Wilts. N. and Q. iii. 258; HMC Bath, iv. 2; VCH Hants, iv. 75; LP Hen. VIII, i-iii, ix.
- 6. LP Hen. VIII, iv.
- 7. Coll. Top. et Gen. v. 21-23; J. Smyth, Lives of the Berkeleys, ii. 235-8; HMC Bath, iv. 324, 377; Wilts. Arch. Mag. li. 515; Harl. 1529, f. 38.