SEYMOUR, Sir Edward (c.1578-1659), of Berry Pomeroy, Devon

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press




Family and Education

b. c.1578,1 1st s. of Edward Seymour* and Elizabeth, da. of Sir Arthur Champernowne† of Dartington, Devon.2 educ. M. Temple 1598.3 m. 15 Dec. 1600,4 Dorothy (bur. 30 June 1643), da. of Sir Henry Killigrew† of Lothbury, London, 6s. (2 d.v.p.) 5da.5 kntd. 22 May 1603;6 suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 11 Apr. 1613.7 d. 5 Oct. 1659.8

Offices Held

Capt. militia horse, Devon by 1613;9 gov., Dartmouth, Devon 1613;10 commr. piracy, Devon 1614-24, 1630, 1637-9, Exeter, Devon 1639,11 dep. lt. Devon 1614-at least 1640,12 commr. oyer and terminer, Western circ. 1614-at least 1615, 1618-at least 1642,13 col. militia ft. Devon by 1618-44,14 j.p. 1618-c.1625, 1626-at least 1640,15 v.-adm. (sole) 1619-22, (jt.) by 1634-at least 1642,16 commr. impressment 1620,17 subsidy 1621-2, 1624,18 Privy Seal loans 1625-6,19 Forced Loan 1627,20 swans, W. Country 1629,21 knighthood fines, Devon c.1630-1,22 sewers 1634,23 inspect Cattewater harbour, Plymouth, Devon 1636, incorporation of maltsters, Devon 1636,24 hard soap, W. Country 1638,25 assessment, Devon 1641-2,26 array 1642.27

Member, Council for New Eng. 1620,28 E.I. Co. by 1625.29

Gent. of Privy Chamber extraordinary 1638-at least 1641.30


Seymour’s marriage into the Killigrew family brought him distant kinship ties to Sir Robert Cecil†, who accorded him ‘honourable respects’ in 1601, and presumably influenced his knighthood two years later. He sat for Penryn in 1601 and Newport in 1604 as a Killigrew nominee, but left no mark on the Commons’ proceedings, although he doubtless followed the progress of the estate bills introduced in these parliaments by his father. Returned for Lyme Regis in 1614, presumably by arrangement with John Drake*, he again failed to secure committee nominations or contribute to debate.31 After succeeding to his patrimony in 1613, he rapidly filled most of the local offices vacated by his late father. He is said to have spent £20,000 remodelling his main seat, Berry Pomeroy Castle, though he also disparked the estate in 1617, offering to sell some of his deer to the earl of Cork at a discounted rate in return for a supply of Irish timber.32 Seymour was appointed vice admiral of Devon in May 1619 on the recommendation of Sir William Courtenay†, whom he had assisted in compiling a list of all the ships and mariners in Devon a few months earlier. In the following year, he incurred the Privy Council’s displeasure by aiding the preparations at Plymouth for Captain Roger North’s unauthorized voyage to the Amazon basin.33

Seymour represented his county in the 1621 Parliament, but he still failed to make much impression on the Commons, and was nominated only to the committee for the bill against usury (7 May). In his first recorded speech, he called for Thomas Sheppard* to be committed to the serjeant in punishment for his diatribe against the Sabbath bill (16 February). Ten days later he briefly spoke up for his constituents, denouncing the local grievance of tithes imposed on fishermen which, he alleged, had caused ‘a great decay of mariners’. He also brought in an apologetic petition from the notorious patentee, Sir Giles Mompesson*, and urged the House to send for Sir George Marshall*, who had blatantly procured a knighthood of the Bath in return for money (24 Feb., 1 May). Seymour spoke only once during the winter sitting. After the king refused to receive the Commons’ petition supporting war with Spain, disagreement arose over how to present him with a replacement declaration. Seymour agreed that the Speaker should deliver it, ‘that it may appear to His Majesty how far we are stricken’.34

In December 1622 Seymour was dismissed as vice admiral by the duke of Buckingham, following complaints to the Privy Council by French merchants, who claimed that he had embezzled stolen property brought into Plymouth by privateers. Despite this public disgrace, he bore no obvious ill will towards his successor, Sir John Eliot*, who presented him with two gifts of confiscated merchandise 18 months later.35

In the 1624 parliamentary elections, Seymour was presented with a seat at Callington by his wife’s kinsman, John Trelawny. He clearly took an interest in the bill to break the entail on the estates of his cousin, the 2nd earl of Hertford, but left it to his friend Eliot on 10 Mar. to raise objections on his behalf. Seymour had evidently made his peace with Buckingham by now, and several times intervened in the Commons in support of his schemes. On 1 Mar. he objected to the king’s message banning further attacks on lord keeper Williams, the duke’s enemy, ‘saying that it trenched into the liberty of the House to have complaints stopped against any court of justice’. Later that day, ostensibly making the reasonable point that merchant ships should not be sent overseas with a war looming, as the Navy was thinly stretched, he called for five East India Company vessels to be stayed in London. However, Buckingham almost simultaneously made the same demand in the Lords, and it was widely believed that these interventions were really part of the duke’s bid to extort £10,000 from the Company. On 6 Mar. Seymour sought to increase the pressure on the East India merchants, moving that the ships should be searched and their account books examined, as they were said to have 40 chests of silver on board. Nevertheless, he was probably genuinely concerned about the impact on the money supply if bullion was exported, as on 12 Mar. he also reported that a similar danger was posed by Catholics who were stockpiling gold in London. The House accepted his suggestion that a message be sent to the Lords requesting that action be taken, and Seymour himself was the first Member named to the drafting committee. Seymour received only one other nomination, to consider the bill for restitution in blood of Carew Ralegh† (8 Apr.), and did not attend this committee.36

In 1625 Seymour became the first member of his family to sit for Totnes, the borough closest to Berry Pomeroy, but he is not known to have contributed to the Parliament’s proceedings. He appears not to have sought election thereafter, though he featured in the records of the 1626 session, being cited in the impeachment charges against Buckingham as an accomplice in the duke’s manipulation of the East India Company.37 Meanwhile, Seymour manifested his continuing loyalty to the duke by working increasingly closely in Devon with (Sir) James Bagg II*, who was gradually replacing Eliot as Buckingham’s principal local agent. Seymour and Eliot fell out in 1625 after Buckingham presented Seymour with a ship confiscated by Eliot, which the latter refused to release until Seymour paid him £300 in lieu of the vice admiral’s customary profits. Consequently, when Eliot began to shift his allegiance from Buckingham to a rival patron, the 3rd earl of Pembroke, Seymour had no qualms about reporting this development to Bagg, who duly informed the duke.38 After Eliot was suspended as vice admiral in 1626, Seymour was appointed to the commission to investigate his conduct. However, he declined to serve, instead acting as a witness in order to pursue the issue of the confiscated ship.39 During the war years of the later 1620s Seymour enjoyed some success as a privateer, one of his partners being Sir John Drake, son of his former parliamentary colleague. Drake and Bagg acted jointly as Devon’s vice-admirals during Eliot’s sequestration, but by September 1628 they were considering stepping down, and Seymour indicated to the Admiralty secretary Edward Nicholas* that he wished to resume his old duties. He eventually replaced Drake, and during the following decade served alongside Bagg and then John Harris III*.40

The 1630s found Seymour less in sympathy with Crown policies. In 1635 he was summoned before the Privy Council for supporting a Devon petition against Ship Money. Three years later, he joined in protests against government interference in West Country trade. His appointment in 1638 as a gentleman of the Privy Chamber was probably intended to encourage greater co-operation, but in the following year he refused to contribute towards the costs of the First Bishops’ War.41 Nevertheless, he sided with the king at the start of the Civil War, and was captured in December 1642 while helping to raise Devon’s posse comitatus. Taken to London, he was shortly afterwards released in an exchange of prisoners. Thereafter he withdrew from active military service, and in September 1644 formally assigned the command of his foot regiment to his son Edward†.42 Seymour had by now made over much of his property to his son, and although the sequestration of his remaining Devon estates was ordered in 1647, this instruction was apparently never implemented, and the threat of such action was finally lifted in 1652.43

Seymour died in October 1659, having passed his final years in retirement, and was buried at Berry Pomeroy. No will or grant of administration has been found. His son Edward sat for Totnes during most of Charles II’s reign, and his grandson, another Edward, served with distinction as Speaker of the Commons from 1673 to 1678.44

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. H. Hulme, Sir John Eliot and the V.-Admiralty of Devon (Cam. Misc. xvii), 46.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 703.
  • 3. M. Temple Admiss.
  • 4. GL, ms 4346/1 unfol.
  • 5. Vivian, 703; H. St. Maur, Annals of the Seymours, 274-5.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 110.
  • 7. CB, i. 34.
  • 8. Vivian, 703.
  • 9. HMC 15th Rep. vii. 63.
  • 10. St. Maur, 270.
  • 11. C181/2, ff. 200v, 242, 348; 181/3, ff. 1v, 130; 181/4, 52; 181/5, ff. 84, 132v.
  • 12. APC, 1613-14, p. 428; SP16/462, ff. 35-6. CSP Dom. 1633-4, p. 413 incorrectly describes Seymour as a Wilts. dep. lt. and j.p.
  • 13. C181/2, ff. 213v, 232v; 181/2, f. 313v; 181/5, f. 221.
  • 14. HMC 15th Rep. vii. 63, 80.
  • 15. C231/4, ff. 64v, 208; C66/2310, 2859.
  • 16. HCA 14/49, no. 307; 30/620, no. 45; 30/820, no. 11; 49/106, packet A, no. 69 and unnumb. (1634); CSP Dom. 1637-8, pp. 501-2.
  • 17. APC, 1619-21, p. 248.
  • 18. C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 19. E401/2586, p. 222.
  • 20. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144; C193/12/2, f. 10.
  • 21. C181/4, f. 2.
  • 22. E101/668/12; SP16/187/18.
  • 23. C181/4, f. 163.
  • 24. PC2/45, p. 419; 2/46, p. 374.
  • 25. C181/5, ff. 92, 102v.
  • 26. SR, v. 61, 83, 150.
  • 27. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 28. A. Brown, Genesis of US, 998.
  • 29. CSP Col. E.I. 1625-9, p. 136.
  • 30. LC3/1; LC5/134, p. 294.
  • 31. HMC Hatfield, xi. 175.
  • 32. St. Maur, 273; Lismore Pprs. ed. A.B. Grosart (ser. 2), ii. 117-18, 134.
  • 33. CCSP, i. 15; APC, 1619-21, pp. 185, 193; Early-Stuart Mariners and Shipping ed. T. Gray (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. n.s. xxxiii), 1.
  • 34. CJ, i. 524a, 527a, 611a, 660b; CD 1621, iii. 115; iv. 99.
  • 35. Hulme, pp. vi, xiii, 6; CSP Dom. 1619-23, pp. 399-400.
  • 36. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 268; ‘Spring 1624’, pp. 97, 111; Holles 1624, pp. 13-14, 24, 34; CJ, i. 684a, 734b, 758a; S.R. Gardiner, Hist. Eng. 1603-42, v. 238-9; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 225.
  • 37. Procs. 1626, i. 422.
  • 38. HMC Cowper, i. 190; Hulme, 19, 46; N and Q (ser. 4), x. 326.
  • 39. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 445; Hulme, 46, 50.
  • 40. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 487; 1628-9, pp. 305, 318, 331, 441.
  • 41. Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 372-3; PC2/44, p. 440; 2/50, p. 300; 2/51, p. 79; CSP Dom. 1637-8, p. 218.
  • 42. A Letter from Exceter sent to the Deputy Lieutenants of Sommersetshire (1642), pp. 3-4; A True and Perfect Relation of a Great and Happy Victory (1642), pp. 3-4; HMC 15th Rep. vii. 66, 80, 90-1.
  • 43. HMC 15th Rep. vii. 86-7, 89-91; CCC, 1126-7.
  • 44. St. Maur, 274; HP Commons, 1660-90, iii. 414-16, 420.