Saturday, 9 February 2013

Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset

Anne Stanhope was born in around 1510 at Sudeley Castle. Not much is known of her childhood other than she was the daughter of Sir Edward Stanhope and Elizabeth Bouchier; she also had two half-brothers from her father's previous marriage.

In the time between 1534 and 1535 Anne married Edward Seymour, the brother of the King's future wife Jane Seymour. After Anne's sister-in-law's marriage to the King, Edward was elevated and thus Anne became Viscountess Beauchamp. But Anne was not done rising. Her husband was elevated again in October 1537 to an earl and since then to the Duke of Somerset - and with him Anne became the Duchess of Somerset.
Together the couple had ten children:
Edward Seymour (died shortly after birth), another Edward (Earl of Hertford), Henry Seymour, Margaret Seymour, Jane Seymour, Anne Seymour, Catherine Seymour, Thomas Seymour, Mary Seymour and Elizabeth Seymour.

Anne was present when Henry VIII married Catherine Parr. After Henry VIII's death her nephew, Edward VI, was King of England but still a minor which meant that Edward Seymour became Lord Protector of the Realm. Anne considered herself the first lady at court after Catherine Parr had married Thomas Seymour who was the younger brother of Anne's husband - and therefore less important.
This led to a legendary quarrel between the two women. Anne refused to carry Catherine's train and went so far as to physically push the former Queen out of her place of the entrances at court. Anne is quoted for having said: "If master admiral (Thomas Seymour) teach his wife no better manners, I am she that will". But in the end Catherine won by referring to the Third Succession Act that meant that Catherine had precedence over every lady in the realm. Technically this meant that Anne did not just come after Catherine but also after Lady Mary, Lady Elizabeth and Anne of Cleves.

But for a time Anne had considerable power at court. However things soon went wrong after her husband challenged the Privy Council and lost. They were both imprisoned in the Tower but were soon afterwards released. Anne used her new-gained freedom to arrange a marriage between her eldest daughter and the Countess of Warwick's eldest son. But it seems that her husband's ambitions had not been lessened by his stay in the Tower because in 1551 the couple was imprisoned again. This time Edward Seymour had tried to conspire against the Earl of Warwick who was the new Lord Protector of the Realm.
Edward Seymour could not escape this time and was beheaded in February 1552. Anne herself was not released until 1553 and when Mary 1st ascended to the throne, Anne was even allowed to choose between the Dudley family's (now in disgrace) household stuff.

Anne married again and this time to a Francis Newdigate who had been a steward to her first husband. She lived the rest of her life at Shelfort and died on April 16th 1587.

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