On the eve of the anniversary of the execution of Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, Teri Fitzgerald visits QAB to teach us about his remarkable daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Seymour, Lady Cromwell… along with some of her lesser known family and descendants.
Following his arrest and imprisonment, Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, had appealed to Henry VIII to be merciful to his son and his family. “Sir, upon [my kne]es I most humbly beseech your most gracious Majesty [to be goo]d and gracious lord to my poor son, the good and virtu[ous lady his] wife, and their poor children.” In July 1540, as Thomas Cromwell languished in the Tower of London, his daughter-in-law, Elizabeth penned an eloquent letter to the king:
“After the bounden duty of my most humble submission unto your excellent majesty, whereas it hath pleased the same, of your mere mercy and infinite goodness, notwithstanding the heinous trespasses and most grievous offences of my father-in-law, yet so graciously to extend your benign pity towards my poor husband and me, as the extreme indigence and poverty wherewith my said father-in-law’s most detestable offences hath oppressed us, is thereby right much holpen and relieved, like as I have of long time been right desirous presently as well to render most humble thanks, as also to desire continuance of the same your highness’ most benign goodness. So, considering your grace’s most high and weighty affairs at this present, fear of molesting or being troublesome unto your highness hath disuaded me as yet otherwise to sue unto your grace than alonely by these my most humble letters, until your grace’s said affairs shall be partly overpast. Most humbly beseeching your majesty in the mean season mercifully to accept this my most obedient suit, and to extend your accustomed pity and gracious goodness towards my said poor husband and me, who never hath, nor, God willing, never shall offend your majesty, but continually pray for the prosperous estate of the same long time to remain and continue.”
Born around 1518, Elizabeth Seymour was a younger daughter of Sir John Seymour and his wife, Margery (née Wentworth) of Wolf Hall, Wiltshire, sister to Edward and Thomas Seymour, as well as Queen Jane. In 1531, she had married, as his second wife, Sir Anthony Ughtred (c.1478-1534), governor of Jersey. The couple had two children: Henry, born in Jersey in 1533, and Margery, in 1534 or early 1535. After her husband’s death in October 1534, her son was placed in the care of Helier de Carteret, Bailiff of Jersey — and she returned to England.
Although Elizabeth had served Queen Anne Boleyn, she had not been included in her sister’s household. In March 1537, following the announcement of a royal pregnancy, Lady Ughtred had written to the Lord Privy Seal from York to “be holpen to obtain of the king’s grace to be farmer of one of these abbeys if they fortune to go down …” The young widow’s connections were not lost on the minister: he proposed instead that she marry his son and heir, Gregory, an offer to which she readily agreed:
“which doth comfort me most in the world, that I find your lordship is contented with me, and that you will be my good lord and father the which, I trust, never to deserve other, but rather to give cause for the continuance of the same.”
An entry in Cromwell’s accounts indicates that the marriage took place on 3 August, 1537 at the minister’s newly acquired manor of Mortlake. This had been a brilliant move for Thomas Cromwell and his family, for they were now related to Henry VIII by marriage, and news of the wedding was swiftly conveyed to Lord Lisle in Calais by his agent in London, John Husee. One observer noted wryly, since Lady Ughtred’s younger sister, Dorothy had earlier married Clement Smith, the king now had one brother-in-law named ‘Smith’, and another who was the grandson of a blacksmith.
The couple would have three sons: Henry, no doubt named in honour of the king, was born in May 1538, followed by Edward in 1539, and Thomas in 1540. There were also two daughters: Katherine, probably named after Elizabeth’s young mistress, Queen Katherine Howard, arrived in 1541, and Frances, perhaps in memory of the late wife of their cousin, Richard Cromwell (c.1510-1544), in around 1544.
In January 1540 Elizabeth was appointed as a gentlewoman attendant in the household of Queen Anne of Cleves, and following her father-in-law’s execution in July, went on to serve the king’s fifth wife, Queen Katherine Howard.
The king came to regret the execution of “the most faithful servant he ever had”, and the late Earl of Essex’s son was raised to the peerage as Baron Cromwell in December of the same year. He was made a Knight of the Bath at the coronation of his nephew Edward VI in 1547.
Gregory Cromwell would only outlive his father by eleven years, dying of sweating sickness on 4 July 1551 at the family home Launde Abbey in Leicestershire. He was buried three days later in a grand tomb in the chapel there. He was survived by his wife and four of their children. His widow married in 1554, as his second wife, John Paulet, Lord St. John (c.1510 – 1576), eldest son of Sir William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester (c.1488-1572). Elizabeth died 19 March 1568, and was buried 5 April in St. Mary’s Church, Basing, Hampshire.
Henry Cromwell married Mary Paulet (c.1540-1592) in around 1559, succeeding his father as 2nd Baron Cromwell in 1563. Henry’s grandson, Thomas, 4th Baron Cromwell, later 1st Viscount Lecale, was created Earl of Ardglass in the Irish peerage on 15 April 1645. The Barony of Cromwell was held by the 1st Viscount Lecale from 22 November 1624 and by the Earls of Ardglass from 15 April 1645 until 26 November 1687, when, on the death of Vere Essex Cromwell, 4th Earl of Ardglass and 7th Baron Cromwell, both titles became extinct.
Elizabeth Southwell (née Cromwell), Lady Cromwell (1674-1709), daughter, and heiress of Vere Essex Cromwell (1625-1687), 7th Baron Cromwell and 4th Earl of Ardglass; she married Edward Southwell (1667-1730).
In 1967 Sir Roy Strong identified the sitter of a portrait of a lady by Hans Holbein dated circa 1540 as Elizabeth Cromwell. The portrait, now exhibited at the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio (ref. 1926.57) was for hundreds of years in the possession of descendants of Thomas Cromwell’s nephew, Richard Cromwell. There are two extant copies of the Holbein portrait and all three have links to the Cromwell family.
Elizabeth Seymour’s cousin, Dorothy Wentworth, the daughter of Richard Wentworth and Anne Tyrrell married Lionel Tollemache in 1529.
Katherine Tollemache (née Cromwell), (1565-1620), daughter of Henry Cromwell, 2nd Baron Cromwell and Mary Paulet, was the wife of Lionel Tollemache, 1st Bt. Their descendants were the wealthy Earls of Dysart, who were related by marriage to the Cholmondeley, Carteret, Russell, Manners, Paulet and Egerton families.
Their granddaughter Jane Cholmondeley (née Tollemache), the daughter of Lionel Tollemache, 2nd Bt and Elizabeth Stanhope, married her cousin, Thomas Cholmondeley (1627-1702). The couple had five sons, and seven daughters – Jane died in childbirth in 1666 and all the sons died before their father. Thomas married Anne St John (1650-1742), the daughter of Walter St John in 1684 and their son Charles Cholmondeley (1685-1756) survived. His son Thomas Cholmondeley (1726-1779) married Dorothy Cowper (1746-1786). A copy of the Holbein portrait dating to the 17th century (which corresponds to the marriage of Jane and Thomas c.1650-1666), now held at the National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 1119) was sold by one of their descendants in 1898.
Katherine Tollemache, daughter of Lionel Tollemache, 3rd Bt, and Elizabeth Murray, suo jure Countess of Dysart, married John Gordon, the 16th Earl of Sutherland, an ancestor of the Dukes of Sutherland.
John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville (1690-1763) was the son of George Carteret, 1st Baron Carteret (1667-1695), and Grace Granville (1654-1744), daughter of John Granville, 1st Earl of Bath (1628-1701). His daughter Grace Granville (1713-1755) by his first wife, Frances Worsley, married Lionel Tollemache, 4th Earl of Dysart (1708-1770).
His aunt, Jane Granville (d.1696), married Sir William Leveson-Gower, 4th Baronet. Their son John Leveson-Gower, 1st Baron Gower, married Catherine Manners, daughter of John Manners, 1st Duke of Rutland. Their daughter Gertrude married John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford and their son, Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Marquess of Stafford married Louisa Egerton, daughter of Scroop Egerton, 1st Duke of Bridgewater. Their son George Leveson-Gower was 1st Duke of Sutherland.
The Carteret family are descendants of Marguerite de Carteret and her cousin, Helier de Carteret. Marguerite was the daughter of Helier de Carteret (1477-1561), Bailiff of Jersey. Henry Ughtred, the son of Lady Ughtred, was placed in the care of the Bailiff after the death of her husband in 1534.
Lionel Tollemache, 4th Earl of Dysart (1708-1770) married Grace Granville (1713-1755), the daughter of John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville and his first wife, Frances Worsley. The couple had sixteen children.
Lionel Tollemache, 5th Earl of Dysart (1734-1799), was the son of Lionel Tollemache, 4th Earl of Dysart and Grace Granville, daughter of John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville. In 1760 he married Charlotte Walpole (1738-1789), the illegitimate daughter of Edward Walpole, and his mistress Dorothy Clement, without his father’s permission.
Jane Savage, Marchioness of Winchester (1607-1631), daughter of Thomas Savage, Viscount Savage of Rocksavage and Elizabeth Darcy. She married John Paulet, 5th Marquess of Winchester, a direct descendant of Elizabeth Seymour’s third husband. Jane’s brother, Thomas married Bridget Somerset (née Whitmore), the widow of Edward Somerset, fifth son of the 4th Earl of Worcester; Bridget was the daughter of William Whitmore and Margaret Beeston, and great-granddaughter of Jane Hough (née Cromwell), Thomas Cromwell’s illegitimate daughter.
Jane Paulet, Countess of Bridgewater, daughter of Charles Paulet, 1st Duke of Bolton and Mary Carey (née Scrope); she was the second wife of John Egerton, 3rd Earl of Bridgewater. Their son, Scroop Egerton, 1st Duke of Bridgewater married, as his second wife, Lady Rachel, daughter of Wriothesley Russell, 2nd Duke of Bedford. Their daughter Louisa married as his second wife, Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Marquess of Stafford. Their son was George Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland.
A 16th century copy of the Holbein painting, now exhibited at Hever Castle, was formerly in the possession of the Dukes of Sutherland.
ABOUT TODAY’S GUEST
Born in Sydney, Australia, Teri Fitzgerald is a retired systems analyst with a passion for history. Well acquainted with the Tudor court from an early age, Teri is presently researching the work of Hans Holbein and the Cromwell family. In 2016 her article on Gregory Cromwell, co-written with Diarmaid MacCulloch, was published in The Journal of Ecclesiastical History.
Teri Fitzgerald and DIARMAID MacCulloch (2016). Gregory Cromwell: Two Portrait Miniatures by Hans Holbein the Younger. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 67, pp 587-601