SEYMOUR, Edward (c.1563-1613), 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.1563, o.s. of Lord Edward Seymour of Berry Pomeroy and Jane, da. and coh. of John Walshe† of Cathanger, Fivehead, Som., j.c.p. 1563-72. m. 19 Sept. 1576, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Arthur Champernowne† of Dartington, Devon, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da. suc. fa. 1593;1 cr. bt. 29 June 1611.2 d. 11 Apr. 1613.3 sig. Edw[ard] Seymour.

Offices Held

J.p. Devon c.1583-6, by 1591-d.,4 v.-adm. by 1584-5,5 col. militia ft. 1595-?d., master of militia ordnance from 1596,6 sheriff 1595-6, Feb.-Nov. 1606,7 dep. lt. 1596-d.,8 commr. oyer and terminer, Western circ. by 1598-d., Exeter, Devon 1612,9 piracy, Devon 1603-12, Exeter 1607, 1612,10 recusants, Devon 1606,11 subsidy 1608,12 collector, aid 1609.13

Member, Council of Virg. 1607.14


Seymour’s father Edward was the eldest surviving son of Protector Somerset by his first marriage. This union ended badly, and in 1540 Somerset disinherited Edward, instead entailing his titles and estates on his children by his second wife. Following Somerset’s execution, however, Edward was granted several of his father’s former properties by the Crown in 1552-3, including Berry Pomeroy.15 Unlike his half-brother, the 1st earl of Hertford, who pursued a high-profile career at Court, Edward apparently preferred to develop his estates and participate in local government, serving in Devon as sheriff and deputy lieutenant. Seymour himself followed his father’s example, becoming a magistrate when barely of age. His family’s local standing was further demonstrated when he was chosen as a knight of the shire in 1593, just months before he succeeded to his patrimony, which consisted of more than 16,000 acres in Devon and Wiltshire.16

During the next decade, Seymour became one of the mainstays of Devon administration, particularly with respect to the county militia. Indeed, at his funeral in 1613, the preacher portrayed him as a model Christian magistrate, driven by ‘a godly desire to do his country good, wherein neither his purse nor his pains were at any time wanting’. Notwithstanding the customary hyperbole of such panegyrics, Seymour most likely deserved this reputation. According to the eulogy, he was well known for his ‘soundness and sincerity in the true religion ... and perfect hatred of popery’, and was a regular sermon-goer. Despite his fairly rudimentary education, he was also a conscientious and efficient local officer, as his surviving papers amply demonstrate.17 Although apparently not a regular presence at Court, he carefully maintained contact with key figures there. In particular, the marriage in 1600 of his eldest son (Sir) Edward* to a daughter of the courtier Sir Henry Killigrew† brought him into the kinship circle of Sir Robert Cecil†, whom he was already cultivating. As he reminded Cecil in March 1603, ‘since it pleased almighty God to call my lord your father, I have ever devoted with a true and honest heart the best of my services to your honour’.18 Doubtless mindful of the dramatic peaks and troughs of the earl of Hertford’s public career, Seymour routinely emphasized his own loyalty and lack of personal ambition, qualities that may partly have stemmed from his characteristic ‘meekness’. He was also anxious to preserve the landed estate assembled by his father, and in 1600 brought a Chancery suit to confirm his ownership of Totnes barony and other Devon lands. A much more serious threat to his patrimony emerged in early 1601, when it was alleged before the commissioners for concealed lands that the royal grant of Berry Pomeroy was flawed. Although Seymour agreed to settle this problem by compounding, this was not the first time that the 1553 grant had been questioned. Accordingly, when he returned to Parliament as knight of the shire for Devon in the following autumn, he promoted a bill to confirm the Berry Pomeroy grant. However, the measure was lost in the Lords.19

In November 1603 Seymour received a small mark of royal favour, the grant of a market and fair on his lands at Bridgetown, just outside Totnes.20 He represented his county for a third time in the 1604 Parliament, but contributed relatively little to its proceedings. During the first session, he was named to consider the grievances moved by Sir Edward Montagu (23 Mar.), and was twice appointed to attend the king in connection with the Buckinghamshire election dispute (28 Mar. and 12 April). He was also nominated to legislative committees concerning the pilchard trade and the preservation of coppices (28 Apr. and 20 June).21 Devon had fallen into arrears with its purveyance composition payments, and during the Easter recess Seymour and his colleague Sir Thomas Ridgeway defended their constituents before the board of Greencloth. Although they merely secured extra time for the county to compound, this action apparently confirmed Seymour’s local reputation as an opponent of arbitrary taxation.22

The latter stages of the 1604 session brought a fresh bid to resolve the Berry Pomeroy question. The text of Seymour’s bill ‘for the establishment of certain manors, lands and tenements, belonging to the late duke of Somerset’ does not survive, but the measure was hotly contested by Hertford, who pleaded the 1540 disinheritance of Seymour’s father in order to assert his own title to these properties. The legal issues were argued at length at the bar of the Commons on 15 and 18 May, with Hertford in attendance. On the latter occasion both Seymour and the earl were allowed to speak, ‘and sundry bitter terms of spleen and imputation, to themselves, and their ancestors, passed between them’. Members approved Sir Edward Stafford’s motion on 12 June ‘that friends might treat, and Mr Seymour seek my lord’, but a sympathetic House also committed the bill later that day. In the event, it failed to progress any further, and was not subsequently reintroduced.23

During the second session Seymour was named to help scrutinize two estate bills, one of which concerned Sir Jonathan Trelawny*, his son Edward’s brother-in-law (23 and 25 Jan. 1606). A few weeks later Seymour was pricked as sheriff of Devon again, and although no leave of absence is recorded, he presumably returned home to take up his new duties.24 Back in the Commons for the third session, he was nominated to the committee for the bill about Cutton school, Devon (25 Feb. 1607). As a Devon knight he was also entitled to join the select committee to consider relief measures following freak floods in the Bristol Channel area (3 March). Seymour received no personal appointments during the fourth session, but may have served on legislative committees concerning John Arundell* of Trerice’s estates and the use of Devon timber for shipping (27 Apr. and 25 June 1610). He left no trace on the proceedings of the final session of 1610.25

In 1611 Seymour applied to Cecil, now lord treasurer Salisbury, for the wardship of his young son-in-law, Edmund Parker. This request was favourably received, but in return Seymour was sounded out about purchasing a baronetcy. While there was no question of him rejecting this honour, which financially he could well afford, he nevertheless negotiated the further concession that he should have ‘precedency of many worthy gentlemen of the same creation’.26 Seymour died intestate in April 1613, after a short illness. Ostensibly still as vigorous as a much younger man, and possessing ‘neither grey hair nor unsound tooth’, he had nevertheless begun to reduce his administrative burden, and his post mortem revealed that his ‘vital parts’ were ‘strangely corrupted’. He was buried with great solemnity at Berry Pomeroy six weeks later, his funeral sermon preached by his friend Barnaby Potter, the puritan town preacher of Totnes. Seymour’s funeral monument, which also commemorates his wife and father, is a surprisingly crude and provincial composition for a man of his rank and background. Administration of his estate was granted on 6 Sept. 1613 to his son and heir, Sir Edward.27

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 163, 702-3; HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 571; H. St. Maur, Annals of the Seymours, 268.
  • 2. C66/1942/64.
  • 3. St. Maur, 268.
  • 4. Lansd. 737, f. 134v; E163/14/8, f. 6; C66/1898; Hatfield House, ms 278.
  • 5. HCA 14/22 no. 124; 14/23 no. 218.
  • 6. HMC 15th Rep. vii. 11, 27.
  • 7. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 36.
  • 8. HMC 15th Rep. vii. 16; APC, 1613-14, p. 428.
  • 9. C66/1482; C181/2, ff. 164v, 170v.
  • 10. C181/1, ff. 61v, 93; 181/2, ff. 25v, 52, 139v, 175; HCA 14/39 no. 218.
  • 11. L.F. Jewitt, Hist. Plymouth, i. 143.
  • 12. SP14/31/1.
  • 13. E179/283/12.
  • 14. A. Brown, Genesis of US, 94.
  • 15. St. Maur, 66, 258; CPR, 1550-3, p. 441; 1553, pp. 76-7.
  • 16. Oxford DNB, xlix. 868-70; St. Maur, 259, 261, 435.
  • 17. B. Potter, Baronets Buriall (Oxford, 1613), pp. 23-5, 27-8; HMC 15th Rep. vii. 11-56.
  • 18. Potter, 23; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 113; HMC Hatfield, viii. 304, 416; x. 79; xi. 175; xv. 9.
  • 19. Potter, 26; C2/Eliz./S3/60; HMC Hatfield, xi. 206-7; HMC House of Lords, n.s. xi. 62-3.
  • 20. St. Maur, 266.
  • 21. CJ, i. 151b, 157a, 169b, 243a, 960a.
  • 22. A.H.A. Hamilton, Q. Sess. from Queen Eliz. to Queen Anne, 36-7; Potter, 23.
  • 23. CJ, i. 185a, 187b, 210a-b, 214a, 237a, 975a, 990b-1a, 994a, 1002b.
  • 24. Ibid. 258b, 260a; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 268.
  • 25. CJ, i. 258b, 260a, 340b, 346b, 421b, 443a.
  • 26. SP14/64/29; 14/65/48; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 587.
  • 27. Potter, 23-4, 26, 31-2; B. Cherry and N. Pevsner, Devon, 166; PROB 6/8, f. 118v.