22 January 1552 – Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset
Jealous adversaries deposed the Duke of Somerset on this day in 1552.
Despite being popular for a time in the eyes of the public, Edward, Duke of Somerset was beheaded in London for supposed treason.
A family affair
He was the brother of Jane Seymour, who died giving her husband Henry VIII his only son and heir to the English throne – Edward VI.
In fact, as his uncle, the duke took it upon himself to help his young nephew to rule the country following the death of Henry VIII. And, in doing so, he became Lord Protector.
But his meteoric ascendency to power came with a catch, natch. He amassed the prerequesite jealous adversaries along the way, who were only too happy to plot against him, as was the order of the day.
His protestant reforms narked the Catholics, while his land laws aggrieved the land owners and the Duke of Northumberland. Even his own brother hatched a plot to depose him and failed, leaving Somerset with no choice but to execute him.
But it was the Earl of Warwick who successfully overthrew Somerset in 1549, following a peasant uprising. Somerset was jailed leaving Warwick free to take up the mantle.
They eventually had Somerset up on some flimsy charge of treason in 1551. Though the case could not be proven, Somerset was still found guilty of some lesser charge and unceremoniously stripped of his peerage. And despite the tenuous nature of his offence, the penalty was still death.
Somerset was executed at Tower Hill just after 8am. According to an account written by Henry Machyn, a London undertaker, just before Somerset lost his head ‘there was a sudden rumbling a little before he died, as if it had been guns shooting and great horses coming, so that a thousand fell to the ground for fear, for they who were at one side thought no other but that one was killing another, so that they fell down to the ground, one upon another with their halberds, some fell into the ditch of the Tower and other places, and a hundred into the Tower ditch, and some ran away for fear.’
Despite all that, Somerset’s head was cut off, and he was buried in the Tower’s Chapel Royal of St. Peter.