SEYMOUR, Lord John (c.1633-75).
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c.1633, 5th but o. surv. s. of William Seymour†, 2nd Duke of Somerset by his 2nd w. Lady Frances Devereux, da. of Robert, 2nd Earl of Essex and coh. to her bro. Robert, 3rd Earl. educ. travelled abroad 1653-5; G. Inn 1666-71. m. 5 Dec. 1661 (with £10,000), Sarah, da. and coh. of Sir Edward Alston, FRCP, of Great St. Helens, London, wid. of George Grimston of Gorhambury, Herts., s.p. suc. nephew as 4th Duke of Somerset 12 Dec. 1671.1
Commr. for assessment, Wilts. 1661-9, ld. lt. Som. and Wilts. 1672-d.; bencher, G. Inn 1667; j.p. and custos rot. Som. 1672-d., Wilts. by 1674-d., recorder, Lichfield 1672-d.2
Seymour’s ancestors first represented Wiltshire in 1353, though it was not until the end of the century that they acquired by marriage the Esturmy estate in and around Savernake. Jane Seymour’s brother was raised to the peerage by Henry VIII on the birth of an heir to the throne, but his dukedom was declared forfeit by Act of Parliament after his execution in 1552. Seymour’s father, created Marquess of Hertford by Charles I, led the King’s forces in the West in the earlier campaigns of the Civil War. A fine of £8,345 for delinquency, together with heavy commitments in annuities, seems to have thrown the estate into confusion for a generation. Seymour’s elder brother, Lord Beauchamp, was till his death in 1654 the leader of the best-organized royalist group in England, but Seymour himself appears to have taken no part in conspiracy. He was given an allowance of £600 p.a. on attaining his majority, but his health and conduct both gave his father concern. At the Restoration the dukedom was revived, but the second duke lived to enjoy the honour only for a month.3
Seymour was returned to the Cavalier Parliament for the family borough in a closely contested election. An inactive Member, he was appointed to the committee of elections and privileges in five sessions and to only four others, none of which was of political consequence. Among them was the committee for the bill restoring the dukedom of Somerset in 1661. In the next month he married a wealthy widow, whose father, an eminent physician, had probably correctly assessed the life-expectancy of his nephew, the third duke. But the marriage was inharmonious and dogged by financial difficulties. He quarrelled with Lord Herbert of Raglan (Henry Somerset), the duke’s guardian, and with his own mother, who refused to pay him either his allowance or the legacy bequeathed to him by his father, and turned him out of the house. To avoid arrest by his creditors, he took lodgings in Gray’s Inn, where for five years he remained a virtual prisoner during parliamentary recesses. He was listed as a court dependant in 1664. By 1671 he was clear of debt, except for £1,000 lost at play; but on inheriting the title he plunged into fresh extravagance, and his marriage broke up. ‘He discovers very much his own weakness’, wrote Lady Mary Hastings, ‘by making public to the world all the quarrels that have passed between them and many weak complaints’ against his wife, such as governing his affairs too much, purloining the family plate, and putting water into his wine. He died on 29 Apr. 1675, and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral. His heir was his cousin, the son of Charles Seymour, but the estate was charged with annuities of £3,000 p.a., besides charitable and other bequests to the value of £5,000. His widow, who was not mentioned in his will, married as her third husband Lord Coleraine (Henry Hare).4
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. Wilts. N. and Q. ii. 588; HMC Bath, iv. 224, 369; CSP Dom. 1653-4, p. 436; Allhallows on the Wall Par. Reg. 415.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1672, p. 460; 1672-3, pp. 101, 232.
- 3. Cal. Clar. SP, ii. 331, 350; HMC Bath, iv. 225, 227.
- 4. HMC 15th Rep. VII, 162, 172, 174; HMC Bath, iv. 232; Pens. Bk. G. Inn, i. 453; CSP Dom. 1672-3, pp. 193-5; HMC Hastings, ii. 159; PCC 71 Bence.