The family was settled in Monmouthshire in the 13th century. The original form of the name, which has been resumed by the dukes of Somerset since 1863, seems to have been St. Maur, of which William Camden says that Seymour was a later corruption. It appears that about the year 1240 Gilbert Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, assisted William St. Maur to wrest a place called Woundy (now Undy), near Caldicot in Monmouthshire, from the Welsh. Woundy and Penhow, at the latter of which he made his residence, were the property of Sir Richard St. Maur at the end of the 13th century, but they died from the family through the marriage of Sir Richard's great-great-granddaughter, the only child of John St. Maur, who died in 1359. John St. Maur's younger brother Roger married Cecily, one of the daughters and co-heiresses of John Beauchamp of Hache, Baron Beauchamp de Somerset (d. 1361), who brought to her husband the greater part of her father's extensive estates in Somersetshire, Devonshire, Buckinghamshire, and Suffolk. The eldest son of this marriage was Sir William St. Maur, or Seymour (for the later form of the name appears to have come into use about this date), who was an attendant on the Black Prince, and who died in his mother's lifetime, leaving a son Roger, who inherited the estates and added to them by his marriage with Maud, daughter of Sir William Esturmi of Wolf Hall, Wiltshire.
According to Agnes Strickland: Sir John Seymour, of Wolf-hall, Wiltshire, and Margaret Wentworth, daughter of Sir John Wentworth, of Nettlestead, in Suffolk. The Seymours were a family of country gentry who, like most holders of manorial rights, traced their ancestry to a Norman origin. One or two had been knighted in the wars of France, but their names had never emerged from the herald's visitation-rolls into historical celebrity. They increased their boundaries by fortunate alliances with heiresses, and the head of the family married into a collateral branch of the lordly line of Beauchamp. After that event, two instances are quoted of Seymours serving as high sheriff of Wilts. Through Margaret Wentworth, the mother of Jane Seymour, a descent from the blood-royal of England was claimed from an intermarriage with a Wentworth and a supposed daughter of Hotspur and lady Elizabeth Mortimer, grand-daughter to Lionel duke of Clarence. Few persons dared dispute a pedigree with Henry VIII., and Cranmer granted a dispensation for nearness of kin between Henry VIII. and Jane Seymour -- rather a work of supererogation, since the parties could not be related within the forbidden degree. Although the royal kindred appears somewhat doubtful, yet it is undeniable that the sovereign of England gained by this alliance one brother in-law who bore the name of Smith, and another whose grandfather was a blacksmith at Putney.
Sir John Seymour
During the next three or four generations the wealth and importance of the Seymours in the western counties increased, until in the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII Sir John Seymour of Wolf Hall became a personage of note in public affairs. He took an active part in suppressing the Cornish Rebellion of 1497; and afterwards attended Henry at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and on the occasion of the emperor Charles V's visit to England in 1522. The eldest of his ten children was Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, the famous Protector in the reign of Edward VI; his third son was Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley; and his eldest daughter Jane was third wife of King Henry VIII, and mother of Edward VI. The Protector was married twice; and, probably owing to the adultery of his first wife whom he repudiated about 1535, his titles and estates were entailed first on the issue of his second marriage with Anne, daughter of Sir Edward Stanhope.
The Protector's eldest surviving son by his first marriage, Sir Edward Seymour (d. 1593), knight, of Berry Pomeroy, Devon, was father of Sir Edward Seymour (d. 1613) who was created a baronet in 1611; and the baronetcy then descended for six generations from father to son, all of whom were named Edward, until, in 1750, on the failure of heirs of the Protector by his second marriage, Sir Edward Seymour, 6th baronet of Berry Pomeroy, succeeded to the dukedom of Somerset. The 3rd baronet, in whose time the family seat at Berry Pomeroy was plundered and burnt by the Roundheads, had a younger brother Henry (1612-1686), who was a close personal attendant of Prince Charles during the Civil War, and bore the prince's last message to his father, Charles I, before the latter's execution. Henry Seymour continued his service to Charles II in exile, and at the Restoration he received several valuable offices from the king. In 1669 he bought the estate of Langley in Buckinghamshire, where he lived till his death in 1686. In 1681, his son Henry, at the age of seven years, was created a baronet.
Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Baronet
Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Baronet (1633-1708), speaker of the House of Commons, was elected member of parliament for Gloucester in 1661, and his influence at Court together with his natural abilities procured for him a position of weight in the House of Commons. He was appointed to the lucrative post of treasurer of the navy; and in 1667 he moved the impeachment of Lord Clarendon, which he carried to the House of Lords. In 1672 he was elected speaker, an office which he filled with distinction until 1679, when, having been unanimously re-elected to the Chair, the king refused to confirm the choice of the Commons. On the accession of James II, Seymour courageously opposed the arbitrary measures of the Crown; and at the revolution he adhered to the Prince of Orange. In 1691 he became a lord of the treasury, but losing his place three years Later he took an active part in the Tory opposition to William's Whig ministers; and in later years he was not less hostile to those of Queen Anne, but owing to the ascendancy of Marlborough he lost all influence for some time before his death, which took place in 1708. Seymour was not less arrogant than his relative the proud Duke of Somerset; but he was described by Burnet as the ablest man of his party, the first speaker of the House of Commons that was not bred to the law; a graceful man, bold and quick, and of high birth. Sir Edward Seymour was twice married. By his first wife he had two sons, Edward, 5th baronet, whose son Edward became the 8th duke of Somerset, and William, who became a lieutenant-general; by his second wife, a daughter of Alexander Popham of Littlecote House, he had six sons, the eldest of whom, Popham, on succeeding to the estates of his mother's cousin, Edward, Earl of Conway, assumed the name of Conway in addition to that of Seymour. Popham was killed in a duel with Colonel Kirk in 1669, and his estates devolved on his next brother, Francis, who likewise assumed the name of Conway, and having been created Baron Conway in 1703 was the father of Francis Seymour Conway (1719-1794), created Marquess of Hertford in 1793, and of field-marshal Henry Seymour Conway.
Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford
The eldest son of the Protector's second marriage, Edward Seymour (1537-1621), was relieved by act of parliament in the reign of Queen Mary from the attainder passed on his father in 1551, and was created Baron Beauchamp and earl of Hertford in 1559. In 1560 he secretly married Lady Catherine Grey, second daughter of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and sister of Lady Jane Grey, claimant of the crown as great-granddaughter of Henry VII, on whose death Catherine stood next in succession to the throne after Queen Elizabeth under the will of Henry VIII. On this account both parties to the marriage incurred the displeasure of Queen Elizabeth; they were imprisoned in the Tower of London, and the fact of their marriage, together with the legitimacy of their two sons, was denied. The eldest of these sons was Edward Seymour (1561-1612), styled Lord Beauchamp notwithstanding the question as to his legitimacy, who in 1608 obtained a patent declaring that, after his father's death he should become earl of Hertford. He, however, died before his father, leaving three sons, one of whom, William, became 2nd duke of Somerset; and another, Francis, was created Baron Seymour of Trowbridge in 1641. The latter had at first taken an active part in the opposition in the House of Commons to the government of Charles I, having been elected member for Wiltshire in 1620. He represented the same constituency in both the Short and the Long Parliaments; and he refused to pay ship money in 1639. When, however, the popular party proceeded to more extreme measures, Francis Seymour refused his support, and was rewarded by being raised to the peerage; he voted in the House of Lords against the attainder of Strafford, and in 1642 he joined Charles at York and fought on the royalist side throughout the Great Rebellion. He died in 1664. His grandson Francis, 3rd baron, succeeded to the dukedom of Somerset in 1675; and on the death of his nephew Algernon, 7th duke of Somerset, in 1750, the male line of the Protector by his second marriage became extinct, and the dukedom reverted to the elder line, the 6th baronet of Berry Pomeroy becoming 8th duke of Somerset.
Henry Seymour (1729-1805), a son of the 8th duke of Somerset's brother Francis, was elected to the House of Commons in 1763; in 1778 he went to France, and fixing his residence at Prunay, near Versailles, he became the lover of Madame du Barry, many of whose letters to him are preserved in Paris. He was twice married, and in addition to children by both wives he left an illegitimate daughter, Henriette Felicity, who married Sir James Doughty-Tichborne, by whom she was the mother of Roger Tichborne, impersonated in 1871 by the famous impostor Arthur Orton.
Lord Hugh Seymour
Lord Hugh Seymour (1759-1801), a younger son of Francis Seymour-Conway, marquess of Hertford, was a distinguished naval officer who saw much active service especially under Lord Howe, in whose famous action on 1 June 1794 he took a conspicuous part. His son Sir George Francis Seymour (1787-1870), admiral of the fleet, began his naval career by serving under Nelson; in 1818 he became Sergeant-at-arms in the House of Lords, a post which he retained till 1841, when he was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral and appointed a lord of the admiralty; his eldest son, Francis George Hugh Seymour (1812-1884), succeeded his cousin Richard Seymour-Conway as 5th marquess of Hertford in 1870. Lord Hugh Seymour's younger son, Sir Horace Beauchamp Seymour, was the father of Frederick Beauchamp Paget Seymour, Baron Alcester.
Sir Michael Seymour
A younger branch of the great house of Seymour is said to have settled in Ireland in the reign of Elizabeth, from which Sir Michael Seymour, 1st Baronet (1768-1834) claimed descent. Sir Michael, like so many of his name, was an officer in the navy, in which he rendered much distinguished service in the last decade of the 18th century. He lost an arm in Howe's action on 1 June 1794; and between 1796 and 1810 as commander of the Spitfire, and afterwards of the Amethyst, he captured a great number of prizes from the French in the English Channel. In 1809 he was created a Baronet (see Culme-Seymour Baronets). Seymour became a rear-admiral in 1832, and died two years later while in chief command on the South American station. His son, Sir Michael Seymour (1802-1887), entered the navy in 1813, and attained the rank of rear-admiral in 1854, in which year he served under Sir Charles Napier in the Baltic Sea during the war with Russia. In 1856 he was in command of the China station, and conducted the operations arising out of the affair of the lorcha Arrow; he destroyed the Qing Chinese fleet in June 1857, took Canton in December, and in 1858 he captured the forts on the Pei Ho (Hai River), compelling the Chinese government to consent to the Treaty of Tientsin. In 1864 he was promoted to the rank of admiral. Admiral Sir Edward Hobart Seymour was the nephew of Sir Michael Seymour (1802-1887).
- Agnes Strickland, Lives of the Queens of ENgland, Jane Seymour
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Ordeal by Ambition:An English family in the shadow of the Tudors by William Seymour