SOMERSET, Thomas (by 1529-86).
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Family and Education
Member, household of Stephen Gardiner, bp. of Winchester by 1550-5; bailiff, manor of Highclere, Hants by 1551-5; j.p.q. and custos rot. Mon. by 1558/59-62; jt. (with Thomas Seckford†) porter and keeper of prison, council in the marches of Wales 1563-d.2
Thomas Somerset was probably brought up in the household of Stephen Gardiner, whose servant he then became. In 1551 Gardiner named Somerset as one of the proctors to appear for him at his trial. It was presumably to Gardiner as much as to his family’s ascendancy in south-east Wales that Somerset owed his return to two of Mary’s Parliaments. He may have promoted the unsuccessful bill in 1553 for county days in Monmouthshire to be held at Usk, because that town lay not far from the home of his brother, the 3rd Earl of Worcester, at Raglan and was more amenable to the earl’s influence than either Monmouth or Newport where the county court was required to meet alternately under the Act of Union (27 Hen. VIII, c.26). Somerset was not among the opponents of the initial measures to restore Catholicism in 1553, but he was one of over 100 Members prosecuted in the King’s bench for withdrawing from Parliament prematurely a year later. Worcester did not attend the Lords on this occasion, and the reason behind the earl’s absence may also account for Somerset’s, since no further process was taken against him. Somerset continued in Gardiner’s service until his master’s death in November 1555 when he received a small legacy and bore a banner at the funeral. Although he was not re-elected to Parliament after Gardiner’s death, his two younger brothers were to be returned for the shire in 1558, 1571 and 1572.3
Somerset did not welcome the accession of Elizabeth nor her religious settlement. To signify his disapproval he translated from the French The Oration of the most noble and reverence father in God the Lorde Cardinelles grace of Lorrain made and pronounced in thassemblie at Poyssi ... the sixtene daye of Septembre In the yeare of our Lorde 1561. For publishing this without approval he was committed to the Fleet in 1562 and for refusing to make a submission before the Council he was removed from the Monmouthshire bench. It was perhaps to compensate him for this loss that Worcester obtained for him the gaolership of the council in the marches of Wales. Unchastened by this setback he corresponded with the leading Catholic exiles, helped William Allen to raise funds for the establishment of the college at Douai and sent his illegitimate son and nephew there. In 1580 he was summoned before the ecclesiastical commissioners but released upon bond. During his last six years he was kept under observation by the regime and on suspicion of complicity with Mary Queen of Scots he was imprisoned in the Tower in 1585. It was there that he died on 6 Apr. 1586. On his deathbed he signified that his brother Worcester and nephew Edward Lord Herbert should order his affairs, pay his debts and remember his attendants and warder. His nuncupative will was proved on the following 27 May.4
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: P. S. Edwards
- 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Bradney, Mon. ii(1), 26.
- 2. Letters of Stephen Gardiner, ed. Muller, 518; Eccles. 2/155890, 155894; CPR, 1560-3, p. 444; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 457; R. Flenley, Cal. Reg. Council, Marches of Wales, 230.
- 3. Letters of Stephen Gardiner, 506, 507, 510, 516; Foxe, Acts and Mons. vi. 120, 121, 130, 134, 135; CJ, i. 30; KB29/188, r. 48; M. A. R. Graves, ‘The Tudor House of Lords’ (Otago Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1974), ii. 301; PCC 3 Noodes.
- 4. APC, vii. 108; xiii. 336, 407-8; information from Katharine F. Pantzer of Harvard College Lib.; Cath. Rec. Soc. i. 49; xxi. 126; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 457; 1581-90, pp. 249, 278; 1601-3, add. 1547-65, p. 524; K. E. Kissack, Monmouth, 32; L. Hicks, An Eliz. Problem, 47, 164; Harl. 360, f.49; SP12/186/61; PCC 28 Windsor; Flenley, 230.