Elizabeth Seymour (c. 1511 – between 13 April 1562 and 9 June 1563) was the daughter of Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth. She is best known as the sister of Queen Jane Seymour, third wife to King Henry VIII and aunt to Edward VI. She was also wife to Gregory Cromwell, son of Sir Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex. Upon the Dowager Queen Katherine Parr’s fourth marriage to Lord Seymour, Elizabeth became the Dowager Queen’s sister-in-law.
One of ten children, born at Wulfhall, Wiltshire, she was the sister of Jane Seymour, third queen consort of King Henry VIII, and aunt of King Edward VI. Two of Elizabeth’s brothers, Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley and Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, were executed for treason during the reign of Edward VI. Like Katherine Parr, the Seymours’ descended from King Edward III. Wives 1, 3, and 6 were the only descendants of King Edward. The Seymours’ descended through their mother, Margery; through King Edward’s second surviving son, Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence. Katherine Parr and Katherine of Aragon were descendants of Lionel’s younger brother and the third surviving son of Edward III, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster.
Jane and Elizabeth served as maids of honour to Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. Apparently Elizabeth was found of Queen Anne and was an attendant at the birth of Princess Elizabeth. Coincidentally, Queen Anne was their second cousin by their great-grandmother Elizabeth Cheney. By Cheney’s first marriage to Sir Frederick Tilney she was the mother of Elizabeth, Lady Surrey who was grandmother to both Queen Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. By her second marriage she was mother to Anne, Lady Wentworth, grandmother of Elizabeth and her siblings.
When King Henry began to tire of Queen Anne, Elizabeth was some what disappointed but delighted that the King had taken interest in her sister Jane.
The Seymour’s gained wealth and power as Henry’s attentions turned to Jane.
On 30 May 1536, eleven days after Anne’s execution, Henry and Jane were married. Elizabeth Seymour was chief lady-in-waiting to Jane, who died twelve days after giving birth to Edward VI in 1537.
Elizabeth was part of the official welcoming party for Anne of Cleves, when she arrived from Germany. After Henry and Anne’s marriage was annulled, Elizabeth became lady-in-waiting to his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. With Thomas Cromwell’s execution in 1540 for treason and heresy, there was a brief decline in his family’s fortunes. Elizabeth served as lady-in-waiting to Henry’s sixth wife, Katherine Parr. After Henry VIII’s death in 1547, Elizabeth’s brother Thomas secretly married Katherine Parr, who died a few days after giving birth to her only child Mary Seymour, in September 1548.
In 1551, when her brother Lord Somerset and his wife were arrested, Elizabeth was given charge of their daughters. After the death of Edward, the Seymour’s were somewhat shunned at court.
Marriage and issue
Elizabeth’s first husband was Sir Anthony Ughtred (or Oughtred), Governor of Jersey who died on 20 December 1534. They were married circa 1530 at of Wolf Hall, Savernake, Wiltshire, England. The marriage was childless.
In August 1537, Elizabeth had married Gregory Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell, son of Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, at Wulfhall, Savernake, Wiltshire. They had five children.
- Henry Cromwell, 2nd Baron Cromwell, succeeded his father. Before 1560, he married to Lady Mary Paulet, daughter of Sir John Paulet, 2nd Marquess of Winchester and Elizabeth Willoughby, daughter of Sir Robert Willoughby, 2nd Lord Willoughby de Broke and Lady Dorothy Grey [granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth Woodville and Lady Katherine Neville. Lady Bonville]. They had two sons and one daughter.
- Katherine Cromwell, married Sir John Strode of Parnham.
- Frances Cromwell, who married Richard Strode, Esq.
- Thomas Cromwell, Esq.
- Edward Cromwell
She became a widow again upon the death of Gregory Cromwell in 1551. Around 1 April 1554, she married as his second wife John Paulet, Lord St. John [later 2nd Marquess of Winchester]. Paulet was the father of Elizabeth’s daughter-in-law, Lady Mary. Elizabeth Seymour died at Launde, Leicestershire between 13 April 1562 and 9 June 1563 at Launde, Leicestershire, England. She was buried before 9 June 1563 in Basing, Hampshire. According to the Complete Peerage, the inscription on the wall at her vault at Basing read, “Hic jacet Dna Cromwell, quondam conjux Johis, Marchionis Winton.” As Paulet did not attain the title of Marquess of Winchester until after Elizabeth’s death, Elizabeth was known as “Lady Cromwell”; thus her vault reads “Lady Cromwell.”
Victorian scholars had identified a portrait (shown above) by Hans Holbein the Younger as a likeness of Katherine Howard. Historian Antonia Fraser has argued that this image is far more likely to be Elizabeth Seymour. The sitter wears widow’s apparel. Katherine Howard would have had no reason to be dressed as a widow; but Elizabeth Seymour would, as her first husband had died in 1534. The portrait has long been associated with King Henry’s tragic young Queen and various people and places contest it to be a picture of Katherine Howard. The gift shop at the Tower of London and many other places still depict the picture as being Katherine Howard on souvenirs. The National Portrait Gallery, which exhibits the painting at Montacute House in Somerset, remains undecided about the sitter’s identity. The National Portrait Gallery who has professional curators is still examining the portrait.
According to their site:
Unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard
after Hans Holbein the Younger
late 17th century
This portrait of an unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard (NPG 1119), highlights one of the many problems found when dating versions and copies. The original version, now in The Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, was identified as Catherine Howard but this has since proved to be incorrect.
The painting style of the copy is more consistent with late seventeenth or early eighteenth-century workmanship. There is a variation in the quality of paint handling throughout the image. For example, the hands, face and fabric appear fairly simply painted, while the jewellery is very finely painted.
It is possible that the sitter was a member of the Cromwell family who once owned the picture. Previously it had been in the collection of a descendant of Oliver Cromwell. It is possible that this was a copy made for a descendant eager to trace or prove ancestry.
For more details see:
- Elizabeth Seymour (c.1513-c.1530)
- Lady Oughtred (c.1530-1534)
- Lady Cromwell (1537-1551
- Lady St. John (1554-1563)
- Douglas Richardson. Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. III, p. 111-112, 311.
- Douglas Richardson; Kimball G. Everingham (2005). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families. Genealogical Publishing Company. pg 246. ISBN 0-8063-1759-0.
- “Portrait NPG 1119; Unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard“, npg.org.uk
- Douglas Richardson. Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. III, p. 311.
- Douglas Richardson. Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 247.
- Douglas Richardson. Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 572-573.
- Douglas Richardson. Plantagenet Ancestry, 2nd Edition, 2011. pg 82.
- G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910–1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume III, pages 555, 557 and 558.
- Cecil Aspinall-Oglander, Nunwell Symphony (London, U.K.: The Hogarth Press, 1946), appendix