Marginalia 1552 The Duke of Somerset
The Duke of SomersetNOwe to reduce oure story agayn into Englande, (as it were returning into an order) we wyll prosecute suche thinges as here happened at home in oure owne countrey. This yeare was not so terryble abroade, as also troubleous and pernicious at home,
Foxe's first narrative of Somerset's downfall was in Rerum, pp.210-14. This contained the account of the end of Thomas Seymour and the enigmatic record of Somerset's downfall along with the detailed account of his execution, which were all reprinted in 1563. The Rerum account also contained praise of Somerset's virtues which were elaborated on in subsequent editions. But it concluded with passages that would never be reprinted: a scathing assessment of the duke of Northumberland's career and downfall. Foxe not only blamed Northumberland for Somerset's execution, but he also intimated that Northumberland had poisoned Edward VI . These passages were undoubtedly deleted because of the swift rise in power and favour of Northumberland's sons Ambrose and Robert Dudley in the early years of Elizabeth's reign.[Back to Top]
Little was added to the 1563 narrative except for an extended comparison of the duke of Somerset with Humphrey duke of Gloucester, the uncle of Henry VI. Both men were regents for under-age monarchs and both were named Lord Protector. Both men were, at least in Foxe's view, upright men undone by the scheming machinations of their clerical opponents. In the 1570 edition, Foxe added a number of documents. Some of these came from a letter book of John Russell, the first earl of Bedford. A proclamation may have been obtained from the printer Richard Grafton. Other sources are harder to identify. Someone supplied Foxe with copies of two letters to the Lord Mayor and Common Council of London, one from Edward VI, the other from members of the Privy Council. This source also supplied Foxe with an account of deliberations in the Common Council in October 1549. And Foxe also obtained one of the many copies of the articles charged against Somerset in 1549.Foxe's account of Somerset helped lay the foundation for the longstanding historiographical tradition of Somerset as the 'good Duke', a man devoted to the reformation of Church and State. So great was Foxe's admiration of Somerset that he had to add a disclaimer to the 1570 edition, denying that he had intended to compare Somerset with Christ. But if Foxe had a hero, most unusually, this account did not have a villain. Even Foxe could not blame Stephen Gardiner for an execution performed by Edward VI's government. Foxe was not about to blame the godly Edward VI for Somerset's death. And, as noted above, Foxe was prevented by the power of the Dudley brothers from blaming their father, the duke of Northumberland, for Somerset's death. As a result, Foxe's contain focuses on Somerset's good death on the scaffold, but says little about how he came to be there.[Back to Top]
Thomas S. Freeman
King Edwarde, after bothe his father and mother were dead, had thre Vncles lefte hym by his mothers syde, Edwarde, Thomas, and Henry Semer, of the whiche two first, one was made Protectour of the Realme, and the other high Admirall of the same. These two brethrē, so longe as they were knit and ioyned together in amity and concorde, preserued bothe themselues, the king theyr Nephew, and the whole common wealth, from the violence and feare of al daunger. But thold subtil serpent
I.e., Satan. See Genesis 3.
Once again, Foxe's chronology is inaccurate. Somerset was released from the Tower on 6 February 1550; he was rearrested on 16 October 1551.
This account was in Foxe's hands during his exile. The most likely candidate for an aristocrat likely to have been present at Somerset's death and to have sent an account of it to Foxe or his friends is Francis Russell, the second earl of Bedford.
In the yeare of our Lorde, 1552. the. 22. daye of Ianuary, in the sixt yere of the reign of king Edward the sixte, he being yet vnder age, and gouerned with Tutours, the noble Duke of Somerset, vncle to king Edward, was broght out of the Tower of London, and according to the maner, deliuered to the Sheriffes of the citie: and being compassed in round about with a great number of armed men, both of þe garde & others, he was in this maner brought vnto þe Scaffold, where as he shoulde suffer, where as this meke manne, nothing chaunging neyther voyce nor countenaunce, but in a maner with þe same gesture which he partly vsed at home, kneling down vpō both his knees, & lifting vp hys hands, erected himself vnto God. After that he had ended a few short prayers, standing vp again, turning himself toward the East syde of the Scaffold, nothing at al abashed, (as it seamed vnto me, stāding ouer against the middest of the Scaffold & diligētly marking al things) nether wt the sight of þe axe, neither yet of þe hāgman, or of presēt death, but wt the like alacrity, & cherefulnesse of minde & countenance, as before times he had accustomed to here þe causes & supplications of the poore, towards whome, as it wer with a certain fatherly loue toward his children, he alwaies shewed himselfe moste attentiue, he vttered these wordes to the people.[Back to Top]
Derely beloued maisters and frendes, I am brought hither to suffer, albeit that I neuer offended against the kyng, neither by worde nor dede, & haue bene alwaies as faithfull and true vnto this Realme, as any man hath bene. But for somuch as I am by a law condemned to die, I doe acknowledge my selfe as well as others to be subiect thereunto. Wherefore to expresse and testify my obedience whiche I owe vnto þe lawes, I am come hither to suffer death. Whervnto I willingly offer my selfe, geuyng moste hearty thankes vnto the diuine goodnes, as yf I hadde receiued a moste ample and greate reward. But thus it is thought good in the sight of the most mercifull father, now to graunt me this tyme and space of repentaunce, and to acknowledge my selfe, who mighte through soddayne death haue stopped my breathe, that I should neyther acknowledge hym, nor my self: in whiche behalfe, I worthely with my whole hart, render thankes vnto hym.[Back to Top]