Edward, duke of Somerset, an English statesman, known as the protector Somerset, born about 1500, beheaded on Tower hill, London, Jan. 22, 1552. He was the eldest son of Sir John Seymour, and was educated at Oxford. After the marriage of his sister, Jane Seymour, with Henry VIII., he was created Viscount Beauchamp and earl of Hertford, and gradually became one of the most powerful noblemen about the person of the king, his prestige being strengthened by military successes in Scotland and France in 1544. He was one of the 16 persons appointed by Henry VIII. in his will to be his executors and the governors of the young king, Edward VI.; and in February, 1547, he was created duke of Somerset and earl marshal of England. On March 12 he was appointed by patent protector and governor of the king and his realms. His brilliant victory over the Scots at Pinkie, Sept. 10, greatly strengthened his influence, and for upward of two years after the accession of his nephew his authority was invested with all the attributes of royalty.
His leaning toward the commons and his attempts to reform various social evils aroused against him a powerful party, headed by the earl of Warwick, who had been one of his most confidential counsellors; while the zeal with which he had promoted the unjust condemnation and execution for high treason of his brother, Lord Thomas Seymour, disgusted the people. On Oct. 14, 1549, he was deprived of the protectorship and committed to the tower, whence he was released, with a full pardon, Feb. 16, 1550. He resumed his place in the council, but in October, 1551, was again arrested through the influence of Warwick; and being convicted of felony committed in an attempt to imprison the latter, he was executed. Somerset was sincere and consistent in his attempts to establish the doctrines of the reformation in England, and his government afforded protection to refugees, both political and religious. (See Edward VI.)
Lady Jane, sister of the preceding, and third queen of Henry VIII., born about 1510, died Oct. 24, 1537. She was a maid of honor to Queen Anne Boleyn when the king first fell in love with her, was married to Henry on the day succeeding Anne's execution, and died 12 days after giving birth to Edward VI.