Somerset vs. Northumberland, Nature of Rule

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Somerset vs Northumberland Nature of Rule

Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford possessed the advantage of being Prince Edward’s maternal uncle. However, investigations into the events surrounding Henry VIII’s death suggest that he more or less bribed his way into becoming Lord Protector. Extra clauses were inserted into Henry’s will as he lay dying – one of which allowed the Council to grant awards that the dying King may have intended to do but never legally did. This clause allowed Hertford to make himself Duke of Somerset and shower titles upon members upon his own faction as a method of ensuring their continued support.

Once in power, Somerset acted more like a king than a regent and just before his arrest in October, 1549, he ordered officials to destroy records of his Protectorate. However, some of the surviving papers, including a copy of the Privy Council’s proceedings; this record show that he tried to govern without using the Council, taking advice from members of his own household instead. And just as Wolsey’s palace at York Place had once become the centre of government, it was now Somerset House.

Somerset’s neglect of the Privy Council was not illegal, however it resulted in him becoming politically isolated, so when he needed the support of the councillors in the 1549 crisis, he didn’t get it.

Somerset lacked charm and made enemies easily, his arrogance and pride created resentment and he took his position for granted. Evidence for this are the fact that letters to him spoke of ‘your navy’ and ‘your foreign affairs’. He was also a weak administrator who misplaced his faith in his own judgement, in addition to this, he refused to listen to and acknowledge experts. Even when Somerset performed a necessary action – as when he was forced to have his disreputable brother executed for treason, he managed to do it in such a way that aroused maximum resentment.

The crisis for Somerset cam in the autumn of 1549, when he failed to decisively deal with the rebellions in the West and in Norfolk (which had partly been caused by his own policy). As Dale Hoak points out, his colleagues decided to get rid of him at this point, not because he supported the poor but because he was incompetent.

After his military success in putting down Kett’s rebellion, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick (and later to be Duke…

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