The Tudor Society

16 January 1549 – Thomas Seymour tries to kidnap Edward VI

Thomas Seymour

Thomas Seymour

On this day in history, 16th January 1549, Edward VI's uncle, Thomas Seymour, was alleged to have broken into the King's apartments at Hampton Court Palace to kidnap the young King. As he entered the royal residence, it is said that he disturbed the King's beloved spaniel who started barking at him. In panic, Seymour is said to have shot the dog, a noise which alerted one of the guards who then apprehended Seymour.

One of the primary sources for this eventise François van der Delft, the imperial ambassador, who reported it to the Emperor on 27 January 1549:

Sire, I have heard here that the Admiral of England, with the help of some people about the court, attempted to outrage the person of the young King by night, and has been taken to the Tower. The alarm was given by the gentleman who sleeps in the King's chamber, who, awakened by the barking of the dog that lies before the King's door, cried out “Help! Murder!”

Everybody rushed in; but the only thing they found was the lifeless corpse of the dog. Suspicion points to the Admiral, because he had scattered the watch that night on several errands, and because it has been noticed that he has some secret plot on hand, hoping to marry the second daughter of the late King, the Lady Elizabeth, who is also under grave suspicion. On my arrival in England, however, I will write the truth more fully to your Majesty, having nothing now to go upon beyond the information given by those who repeat common report.

Another is a letter dated 15 February 1549 from John Burcher in Strasbourg to Henry Bullinger in which he wrote that Seymour had "attempted, by an unheard of treachery and cruelty, to destroy with his own impious hands, in the deep silence of the night, our innocent king". Burcher related how Seymour had obtained a key to the royal bedchamber from one of the king's chamberlains, but that things went wrong when he attempted to get to the king because Edward's dog, which was just outside the king's chamber, "betrayed the murderer by his barking". Burcher went on to explain that Seymour killed the dog and was just about to kill the king when he was found by one of the king's guards. Seymour explained that he was simply checking that Edward was properly guarded, but his explanation fell on deaf ears and he was apprehended.

Seymour was taken to the Tower of London. Seymour confessed to saying to John Fowler, a gentleman of the privy chamber, that "if he might have the king in his custodie as Mr. Pag[et] had he wolde be glad, and that he thought a man might bring him through the galery to his chamber, and so to his howse," but that he had said this "meaning no hurte." Seymour had used Fowler as a go-between, sending gifts of money to the king to try and stay close to him.

Thomas Seymour was not only accused of trying to kidnap his nephew, he was also accused of plotting to marry the teenage Elizabeth and put her on the throne. As her husband he would then have been made Lord Protector, just like his brother was for Edward VI. He was interrogated in the Tower and examined before the Privy Council and on the 25th February a bill of attainder was introduced into Parliament and lawyers argued that Seymour's offences ‘were in the compasse of High Treason’. The bill was passed on the 5th March and Thomas Seymour was executed on Tower Hill on the 20th March 1549.

Had Seymour been trying to kidnap the king so that he could arrange a marriage between Edward and Lady Jane Grey? He had said to Dorset, Jane's father, that Edward would marry Jane "if he might ones get the king at libertye" and it was alleged that the other part of this plan was for Seymour to marry Elizabeth. He could then make himself Protector, removing his older brother from power.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. What was Seymour trying to do that night? Is there a possibility that he was framed to stop him having influence over his nephew? Was he a foolish man who'd let ambition go to his head?

Notes and Sources

  • Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 9, 1547-1549, p332
  • Burcher is quoted in The Tudor Nobility, G W Bernard, p228, and in The Seymour family, history and romance, A. Audrey Locke, p63

There are 9 comments Go To Comment

  1. J

    Yes very interesting.
    I used to work at Hampton Court Palace and that statement about Thomas Seymour and Edward VI is common place there.
    I’m sure there is a lot of truth within the statement but there may be exaggerations somewhere.
    Anyway, I think you are doing a great job, I can’t wait until the next installment arrives.
    Thank you.
    Joseph Waterfall

  2. J

    Know the story, But Lady Jane would have been very young to marry Edward, she was only around 15 when she got the chop.
    Elizabeth was it was said taken with one of the Seymour’s the one married to Kathrine Parr.

    1. C - Post Author

      Edward and Jane were the same age, they were both born in 1537.

  3. E

    i lvoe this story thank you

    1. f

      your welcum

  4. G

    Hello to you all,
    John Burcher was my 7th Great grandfather and I am trying to find out more about him, as he was apparently, Henry VIII’s brother in law through Henry’s marriage to his daughter, Anne Boleyn. His surname change, from Bourchier to Burcher my Father’s Mother, my Grandmother’s maiden name was Edith Florence Burcher, her tree goes back directly to him) and she married into The Walker family (huspand my grandad was Captain Leonard Vincent Walker) Who died in 1925 his last child, my father Kenneth Walker, born 8 months after his father’s death. Youngest of 11 children. I am Georgina Walker, the youngest child of his. He didn’t die in Calais, John Burcher/Bourchier (his name change due to his ostracism to Zürich due to King Henry’s disgusting behaviour and murders of monks, burning of Bibles, and claiming himself as the spiritually divine leader upholder of the faith, when his perverse atrocities committed were against the nation.
    John Bourchier or Burcher, was smuggling in the gospels, as Henry was burning them.
    If there is anyone else who actually can help me with finding out more about this important information, then I would be very very grateful,
    Many Thanks,
    Georgina Walker

  5. G

    Hello all again. I hope you are all well. It seems that Henry VIII was on very friendly terms with Thomas Cromwell as well as my G Grandfather John Burcher. This seems correct. Until later on. They both had Henry’s trust but later…not. They attended the same schools such as Corpus Christie College Cambridge, and My G grandfather John Burcher (Bourchier Baron Berners, was of Royal blood from his so called pedigree of his third or second Grandpa Edward 111. He also has his loyalty and was the main host and organiser of the Events of The Field of the Cloth of Gold which was to try to gain allies of other nobilities to cement peaceful relations. That sadly didn’t work very well and lost the King and my G grandfather John Burcher lots of money and land.
    So why would he, and others whom Harry seemingly was such brethren bossom friends and owed much to, decide to use up and spit out? That confuses me and upsets me!

  6. M

    I am a Brit and I would have cut off his head for shooting the dog. Immediately!!!! He was vile!!!

  7. m

    he shot the Kings dog he goes to the block. Nothing controversial there.

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16 January 1549 – Thomas Seymour tries to kidnap Edward VI