Twelve – Dame Anne Gostwick, 12th Great Grandmother

This week, I took some inspiration from the “10” prompt from 2018, which featured my 10th great grandfather, Nicholas Spencer. So here is “12,” a post about my 12th great grandmother, Dame Anne Gostwick.

Connection to Nicholas Spencer

Going back 12 generations is a very difficult task, especially early in the colonial period when records in certain places are now somewhat scarce. I have managed to go back this far for a few family lines, and the Spencer line is undoubtedly one of my favorites, not least because it is full of fascinating characters. This line is special to me because not only did I research stateside, but I also had the opportunity to research it in England. That experience was unforgettable!

I have written several posts about the Spencer/Ariss/Moss/Swift family for this challenge, but the one with the most relevance to Dame Anne is the post about Nicholas Spencer. At the beginning of that post, I gave some information pertaining to Nicholas’s family background. His most distinguished line came through his mother, Lady Mary Armiger, whose parents were Sir Edward Gostwick, baronet, and Dame Anne Gostwick, nee Wentworth. Dame Anne Gostwick, therefore, is Nicholas’s maternal grandmother.

Family Background

Dame Anne Gostwick was born Anne Wentworth to John Wentworth, Esquire and Cecily Unton. [1] Anne’s mother, Cecily Unton, had a quite impressive pedigree. She was the daughter of Sir Edward Unton and Lady Anne Seymour, Countess of Warwick. [2] Last year, I wrote a post about Lady Anne Seymour, which can be found here. She was the daughter of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, and his wife, Anne (Stanhope) Seymour, Duchess of Somerset. Both were descended from Edward III. Queen Jane Seymour was Edward’s sister, and Queen Catherine Parr was his sister-in-law. This made Edward and Anne Seymour’s children, including daughter Anne, first cousins of King Edward VII. Lady Anne’s first husband was John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, turning Lady Anne into a countess. [3] Dudley died young, and her second husband was Sir Edward Unton, a gentleman from a well-established family in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, though the marriage was a lowly connection in comparison to the Seymours and Dudleys. [4] Lady Anne and Sir Edward Unton’s oldest daughter, Cecily, married John Wentworth, Esquire of Gosfield Hall in Essex in 1580. [5]

The Wentworth family was situated in Gosfield, Essex. John Wentworth was his father’s heir, and on his death in 1588, he inherited Gosfield Hall. John was a descendant of the De Spenser family, as well as the Boleyns. His great grandfather was Queen Anne Boleyn’s second cousin. [6]

John Wentworth and his wife, Cecily, were the parents of Dame Anne, the subject of this post.

Early Life and Clandestine Marriage

John and Cecily Wentworth’s oldest daughter, Anne, was born at her father’s estate, Gosfield Hall, Essex, and was baptized on 3 March 1589/90. [7] Anne had two older brothers, John and William, one older sister Mary, and four younger sisters, Diana, Cecily, Elizabeth, and Catherine. [8] Anne and her siblings grew up at Gosfield Hall, a beautiful house built in 1545 which had hosted Elizabeth I on several occasions. The Hall is still standing, has been added onto over the years, and is now a wedding venue.

Where and how Anne met her husband, Sir Edward Gostwick, is a mystery. Sir Edward was the son of Sir John Gostwick and his wife Dame Jane Owen, herself a descendant of Edward III, Owen Tudor, the Woodville family, and the Dukes of Stafford. [9] Sir Edward attended Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1606, though he only remained at the college for a year. Likely, he attended to make connections. He was subsequently knighted at Whitehall Palace in 1607. [10] As Willington, Sir Edward’s home, and Gosfield, where Anne was born, are rather far apart, it is quite likely that the two met in London. In fact, Anne’s sister Diana married in London in May 1608 and Cecily married there in 1609.

The marriage of Anne Wentworth and Sir Edward Gostwick was laballed a “clandestine” marriage, according to the entry in the Gosfield Parish records. Here it is in Latin:

D[omi]nus Edwardus Gosticke, Miles, duxit [in] uxorem Annam Wentworth, filiam Joh[ann]is Wentworth, arm[ige]ri, 11 die Aprilis, clandestine in aedibus dicti Joh[ann]is Wentworth, Thomas Banbridge, p[res]bitero, dictum matrimon[ium] celebranti, 1608. [11]


Master Edward Gosticke, Knight, took to wife Anna Wentworth, daughter of John Wentworth, armsbearer, 11 of April, surreptitiously in the said house of John Wentworth, Thomas Bandridge, priest celebrating the marriage.

At first, this sounds quite scandalous, but what did “clandestine” mean in the 17th century? A clandestine marriage was one that was missing several elements of a typical marriage: banns were not read, a marriage license was not obtained, the marriage did not take place in one of the parishes from which the bride or groom was from, and/or the marriage did not take place in a church. The only requirement that could not be neglected was that the couple was married by an Anglican priest.

In Edward and Anne’s case, it seems it was deemed “clandestine” because they were married at Gosfield Hall rather than at the parish church. I wonder why they chose to do this? Gosfield Hall was of course Anne’s home and it is absolutely beautiful, but why would they choose a clandestine marriage over a traditional one in the local church?

One of the main reasons for clandestine marriages was to avoid parental consent issues. As Edward and Anne were married at Gosfield Hall, does that mean that it was possible Edward’s parents, Sir William Gostwick, Baronet, and Dame Jane Gostwick, did not approve of his marriage to Anne, whose father was not titled though he bore his family’s arms? I suppose this is quite possible. Even though his parents were titled, Anne’s family was impressive.

Another reason for clandestine marriages was to hide a pregnancy. Again, this is another possibility for Edward and Anne. However, I have not seen any evidence that this was an issue.

I may never know why they chose a clandestine marriage, but it adds something very unique to their story!

Baronetcy and Children

Sir Edward had been knighted by James I before his marriage to Anne, but he did not succeed to the Baronetcy until 19 September 1615 when his father died. By then, his three oldest children had been born. [12]

Anne gave birth to at least 8 children who grew to adulthood: Elizabeth, Mary, Edward, William, Thomas, Anne, Jane, and Frances. The children were named in her will, and her monument in Willington Church recorded that she had 3 sons and 5 daughters.

Elizabeth: Baptized 17 March 1611 in Willington, Bedfordshire [13]

Mary: Baptized 26 December 1612 in Norton, Hertfordshire (son of Edward Ghostwicke and wife Anne) [14]

Frances: Baptized 19 February 1615 in Bisham, Berkshire [15]

William: Baptized 12 September 1616 in Norton, Hertfordshire (son of Edward Ghostwicke and wife Anne) [16]

Jane: Baptized 20 October 1618 in Norton, Hertfordshire (son of Edward Ghostwicke and wife Anne) [17]

Edward: Baptized 30 March 1620 in Gravely, Hertfordshire [18]

Thomas: Baptized 3 July 1621 in Gravely, Hertfordshire [19]

Hannah: Baptized 9 December 1622 in Gravely, Hertfordshire [20]

Anne: Baptized 12 August 1624 in Gravely, Hertfordshire [21]

William: Baptized 17 October 1630 in Willington, Bedfordshire [22]

As a second William was born in 1630, the older William must have died young. Hannah was not mentioned in her mother’s will, which means she is not one of the 5 daughters referenced on her mother’s monument. All of the above children’s baptismal records listed Edward Gostwick as the father, but only the baptisms that took place in Norton also listed Anne.

Sir Edward and Dame Anne’s Deaths

Much of Dame Anne’s adult life was probably spent moving around the Gostwicks’ property, giving birth to her children, raising them, and then helping with their marriages. Sadly, Sir Edward died on 20 September 1630 at the age of 42, 15 years to the day of his father’s burial. [23] He was buried in Willington Church in the Gostwick Chapel. A beautiful monument affixed to the wall exhibits statues of him, his wife Anne, their 5 adult daughters, and 2 of their sons.

The burial monument in Gostwick Chapel

One of the saddest parts of this story is that Sir Edward died a month before his youngest child, William, was baptized. It is possible that he met his son before his death, but it is equally as possible that he missed his birth and baptism. This would have been such a difficult thing for Dame Anne to endure.

Dame Anne only lived another three years. She died on 6 July 1633 and was buried with her husband. The most remarkable part of their deaths and burial is their burial monument. The inscriptions give such a sweet glimpse into their personal lives. Here is the first inscription:

To the memories of Sir Edward Gostwyke Knt. and Baronet, and Dame Anna his wife, eldest daughter of John Wentworth of Gosfield in Essex, Esqr., by whom he had issue 3 sonnes and 5 daughters. (They lived vertuously and died religiously). Shee in her widowhood like a true Turtle never joying after his departure till her dyinge Day.

Top half of the monument showing Sir Edward and Dame Anne

The bottom half showing seven of their children

Here is the second inscription:

On the death of Sir Edward Gostwyk Knight and Baronet. Chronogram. – Edward Gostwyk died 20th September, 1630, aged 42.

On the death of the most select Lady. Chronogram. – And the wife hastens to join her husband 6th July, 1633, Aged 42.

As a bright example of fidelity and social love, this marble is inscribed with the name of Gostwyk. They lived equal in piety and second to none. The one was quite wrapt up in the love of the other. He first yielded to fate, that she might not yield. She, however, was not a whit behind her husband in love. He, when he had numbered both thrice and four times six years (42), said, ‘O Anna, I have lived out my days,’ and fell asleep. She, when she had completed the years of her beloved husband, said, ‘O Edward, I have lived out mine,” and fell asleep. Thus they lived alike in mind, husband and wife; thus in life and mind alike they fell asleep. [24]

Isn’t that just beautiful and heartbreaking and wonderful? They must have been truly in love with one another, and it was quite apparent to whoever commissioned the inscriptions.

A Few Observations

– The “turtle” mentioned in the inscription is actually a reference to a turtle dove, known for “the constancy of its affection.” Another sweet testament to their love.

– Thinking back on their clandestine marriage, the inscriptions shed a new light on the circumstances. I would be willing to assume that Sir Edward and Dame Anne were quite in love with one another, and perhaps the his parents in fact did not approve of their marriage. Whatever the reason, they were definitely in love and were ready to get married.

Dame Anne’s Will

Sir Edward did not leave a will, but Dame Anne did. I am always thrilled when I find a will for any family member, but for me, it is incredibly special when I find one for an ancestress. For many women, it is one of the few places where their voices can truly be heard. Even better, Dame Anne left a will in 1633. 1633! That is 386 year ago!

Below are a few of the most important or genealogically interesting sections of her will:

In the name of God Amen, The fifteenth day of May in the year of our lord God according to the computacion of the Church of England one Thousand five hundred therty three I Ann Gostwicke widdowe late wyfe of Sr Edward Gostwicke of Willington in the County of Bedford beinge att the the time in reasonable helth and perfect Remembrance for which I doe blesse and praise Allmighty God…

I bequeath my soule to Allmighty God…

My body I committ to the earth from where ytt came to be privately buryed in the Parish of Willington in that Church so neare my dear husband as…will permitt and appoint my beloved Cosen Mr William Ashwell Gentleman and Merchant of London to bee my sole Executour…

I doe bequeath to Mr Hoyvill Preacher of Gods word in Willington the summe of fforty shillinges to Mr Cookson Minister twenty five shillinges to Mr Rydings Minister twenty two shillinges to my Cosen Panmer minister twenty two shillinges to buy them gold Ringes wth deathes hands

I doe bequeath to my sister…my ringe sett wth greene stones and three other ringes I have allready given wth my owne hands

the rest of my Jewells I doe give my Daughter Elizabeth and Ffrancis Gostwicke to bee equally devided

I doe bequeath my sister Katheryn Wentworth a silver porrindge of forty shillinges

I doe bequeath my dahter Mary Spencer my two silver candlesticks

I doe bequeath to my sister [Diana] Bowles fowre children twenty two shillinges a peece

I doe bequeath to my Gentlewoman Mary Payne my gowne and petticote of black satten and the summe of Tenn poundes of lawfull English money

all my other apparell I doe bequeath to my fowre daughters Bes Ffrank Joane and Anne to be distributed Bes to choose first then Frank

I doe bequeath all my child bedd linen…to my house of Willington and all damaske and diaper and all sets of table linnen whatsoever all holland sheetes and pillow…to be safely kept to remain to the house as long as they will endure wth carefull usage

and for all the ordinary howshowld sheets I doe bequeath to my two daughters Bes and Ffranke to bee equally devided but not to bee given them till they bee maryed

I doe bequeath to my servant Ffrancis Reade the summe of forty shillings and to my servant Masson twenty shillinges and to my two Chambermaydes each of them twenty shillinges and to the rest of my yearly servants tenn shillinges a peece and to the poore of Willington yf I bee buryed there fforty shillinges yf I die in London forty shillinges to the uphowldinge of that Parish Church in which God called mee all the rest of my estate whatsoever I doe bequeath to my Executor performinge my will as for the goods I tooke to my owne use I can owne — money uppon them consideringe I have kept all my Children in meate and apparell even since the diparture of their deare ffather…

Signed Anne Gostwick [25]

Dame Anne’s Will – Observations

What an amazing will! There are so many points to discuss!

  • “Dear Husband”

After reading through the will again after writing about the burial monument, the sincerity of her use of “dear husband” or “deare ffather” really struck me. It seems that she was very much in love with him, and her request to be buried as close to him as possible was very sweet.

  • Missing Children

There were several people missing from her will: her sons! Not one of her sons was mentioned in her will. I suppose this is because the 13 year old heir, her son Sir Edward, would automatically inherit the majority of his father’s property. Her other two sons, Thomas and William, were both under 10 years old. I am wondering if some other provisions were made for the sons elsewhere. This will go on the list of “things to research!”

  • Daughters and Bequests

She was sure to include all of her daughters: Elizabeth, Mary, Frances, Jane, and Anne. I love that she used some her daughters’ nicknames rather than their full names: Bes for Elizabeth, Franke for Francis, and Joan for Jane. That brings a bit of personality and private life to a very formal document.

Both Mary and Bess were married. Mary (my 11th great grandmother) married Nicholas Spencer, Esquire on 20 January 1629 in Ravensden, Bedfordshire. Mary’s wedding was the only one attended by both of her parents. [26] Bess married Miles Matthews on 13 March 1632. Their license, issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is quite informative:

1632-Mch. 13 – Miles Matthews, of Bishop’s Hatfield, co. Herts, Esq., Bachr, 33, & Elizabeth Gostwicke, Spr, 23, dau. of Sir Edward Gostwick, late of Willington Herts, Kt & Bart, decd., with consent of her mother Dame Ann Gostwicke, of Willington afsd, Widow, at St. Faith’s London, or Wormleigh, co. Herts. [27]

This is definitely my Bess, as the parents listed in her license leave no room for doubt there. In Dame Anne’s will, she states that if she dies in London, etc., so she must have been traveling between Willington and St. Faith’s Parish in London. St. Faith’s Church is longer standing, but it was attached to the old St. Paul’s Cathedral. This is likely the Parish church to which Dame Anne was referring in her will. Notably, Dame Anne gave her consent for their marriage, different from her own clandestine marriage.

Mary only received silver candlesticks, but she had likely been given other items upon her marriage. Her sisters received clothing, jewels, and ordinary house linen. As the main house in Willington would go to her son, Dame Anne wanted all the best linen to stay with the house.

  • Bequests to Servants

Dame Anne also left items and money to her servants. This gives me just a little insight into Anne’s daily life. As the wife of a Baronet, she was constantly surrounded by servants who helped her care for her children, run her house, and run her estate.

She names first her gentlewoman, Mary Payne, to whom she bequeaths a gown and petticoat of black satin and some money. A gentlewoman, used in this context, refers to a lady’s companion. A lady’s companion was a woman of genteel birth whose social status was slightly lower than the lady whom she was serving. Mary Payne, therefore, was probably from a respectable family, and though she wasn’t a serving girl, she was not the social equal of Dame Anne. Her main duties would include spending time with Dame Anne, reading to her or with her, providing conversation, and general companionship. She would be paid an allowance, would sleep in nice rooms in the home, help entertain, and accompany her mistress to social events. It seems that Dame Anne was a bit sad and lonely after the death of Sir Edward, so Mary Payne probably helped cheer her.

Dame Anne needed other female servants to perform other tasks within the household. Francis Reade was also given money, and was simply called a servant. She was likely the woman who supervised the other servants within the house, purchased items for the house, and kept accounts. Frances could possibly be a lady’s maid, who would have been in charge or dressing Dame Anne, caring for her clothes, running errands, and taking care of any personal issues her mistress might have.

Dame Anne also mentions two chambermaids, but does not give their names. The chambermaids would have been in charge of taking care of the rooms within the house, tending the fires, changing linen, and other small tasks the mistress needed completed.

The only male servant named was Masson, and he could have been tasked with any number of things, from accounts to horses.

Dame Anne also employed an unspecified number of other servants who she engaged on a yearly basis. These servants were probably house maids, kitchen maids, grooms, and page boys. These servants could also refer to any person who worked on the estate in any capacity.

I think it is fair to say that Dame Anne lived a life that was materially comfortable. She born into some luxury, married a baronet, and had a gaggle of servants to see to her and her family’s every need. Dame Anne is a good example of a 17th-century, noble woman who lived a fairly typical upper class life.


This was such a long post, so thanks for staying with me until the end! The more research I conducted on Dame Anne, the more I came to really connect with her. I think her love story is so sweet, especially for a the 17th century, though incredibly sad at the same time. Her will is definitely a treasure, and it provided such a fantastic window into the life of a noble woman. I am certainly fortunate to have found so much information about an ancestress who lived so long ago.

1. Gosfield Parish (Essex, England), Parish Registers, vol. 1, unnumbered 30th p., Anne Wentworth baptism (1590); Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.

2. John Gough Nichols, The Unton Inventories, Relating to Wadley and Faringdon, Co. Berks. In the Years 1596 and 1620, From the Originals in the Possession of Earl Ferrers, With a Memoir of the Family of Unton (London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son, 1841), 46.

3. Westminster Abbey, (Westminster, London, England), Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset monumental inscription, read by R. Vaughn, 23 April 2018.

4. John Gough Nichols, The Unton Inventories, Relating to Wadley and Faringdon, Co. Berks. In the Years 1596 and 1620, From the Originals in the Possession of Earl Ferrers, With a Memoir of the Family of Unton (London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son, 1841), 48.

4. John Gough Nichols, The Unton Inventories, Relating to Wadley and Faringdon, Co. Berks. In the Years 1596 and 1620, From the Originals in the Possession of Earl Ferrers, With a Memoir of the Family of Unton (London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son, 1841), 42-48.

5. “England Marriages, 1538-1973,” database, ( : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for John Wentworth-Cicely Unton, 9 Mar 1580.

6. William Loftie Rutton, Three Branches of the Family of Wentworth (London: 1891), 166.

7. Gosfield Parish (Essex, England), Parish Registers, vol. 1, unnumbered 30th p., Anne Wentworth baptism (1590); Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.

8. William Loftie Rutton, Three Branches of the Family of Wentworth (London: 1891), 167-168.

8. Gosfield Parish (Essex, England), Parish Registers, vol. 1, unnumbered 29th-32nd pgs., baptisms of John Wentworth’s children (1590); Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.

9. Frederic Augustus Blaydes, ed., The Visitations of Bedfordshire, Annis Domini 1566, 1582, and 1634 (London: 1884), 34.

10. G. E. Cockayne, ed., Complete Baronetage Volume 1, 1611-1625 (Exeter: William Pollard & Co., 1900), 100.

11. Gosfield Parish (Essex, England), Parish Registers, vol. 1, unnumbered 7th p., Gostwick-Wentworth marriage (1608); Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.

12. G. E. Cockayne, ed., Complete Baronetage Volume 1, 1611-1625 (Exeter: William Pollard & Co., 1900), 100.

13. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, ( : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Elizabeth Gostwick, 17 Mar 1611.

14. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, ( : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Mary Ghostwicke, 26 Dec 1612.

15. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, ( : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Fraunces Gostwick, 19 Feb 1615.

16. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, ( : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Willia Ghostwick, 12 Sep 1616.

17. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, ( : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Jane Ghostwicke, 20 Oct 1618.

18. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, ( : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Edward Gostwyke, 30 Mar 1620.

19. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, ( : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Thomas Gostwicke, 3 Jul 1621.

20. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, ( : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Hannah Gostwyke, 9 Dec 1622.

21. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, ( : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Anne Gostoyke, 12 Aug 1624.

22. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, ( : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for William Gostwyke, 17 Oct 1630.

23. G. E. Cockayne, ed., Complete Baronetage Volume 1, 1611-1625 (Exeter: William Pollard & Co., 1900), 100.

24. The Home Counties Magazine, Devoted to the Topography of London, Middlesex, Essex, Herts, Bucks, Berks, Surrey, and Kent, vol. 9 (London: Reynell & Son, 1907), 154.

25. Dame Ann Gostwicke will, Willington, Bedfordshire, 1633; PROB 11/163/736, Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Wills and Letters of Administration, The National Archives, Kew, England; imaged at “Discovery,” database, The National Archives ( : accessed 11 May 2019).

26. “England Marriages, 1538-1973,” database, ( : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Nicholas Spencer-Mary Gostwicke marriage, 20 Jan 1629.

27. Frederick Augustus Blaydes, ed., Bedfordshire Notes and Queries, vol. 2 (Bedford: F. Hockliffe, 1889), 74.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Misfortune

Image of Anne Unton holding her son Henry found in the Unton Portrait.

Some of my ancestors had easier lives than others, but when I think of the word “misfortune,” my mind immediately travels to my 14th great grandmother, Lady Anne Unton, former Countess of Warwick. Although she grew up the daughter of a duke, the first cousin of the king, and the wife of an earl, and there was hardly a young woman in England more privileged than she, her life was full of trials and one misfortune followed another.


Early Life

Anne was born the oldest daughter of Edward Seymour, at the time Viscount Beauchamp, and Lady Anne, the only daughter of Sir Edward Stanhope and Elizabeth Bourchier. Some new scholarship has come out concerning Anne’s birth date. In short, it seems that Anne was born about 1536, as she was certainly alive by 30 November 1537 when two daughters of Lady Anne Seymour, now Lady Hertford, were brought to visit Lady Mary, Henry VIII’s oldest daughter. Where she was born is another issue. If she was born in 1536, she was likely born wherever the court was being held as her father’s position required him to be there and available to attend upon the king.

Anne’ father, Edward Seymour, was the son of Sir John Seymour and Lady Margery Wentworth. Margery Wentworth was a descendant of King Edward III. It was this royal connection that helped enable Henry VIII to marry Edward’s sister, Jane.





Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset

Anne’s mother, Anne Stanhope, was also a descendant of Edward III on her mother’s side. She was her husband’s confidant and was good friends with Lady Mary Tudor.

If Anne was born in 1536, is was quite an auspicious year. Queen Anne Boleyn was arrested and beheaded in that year, Henry VIII began courting Jane Seymour with the help of her brother Edward, and the king married Jane. Anne’s father Edward was raised to the peerage upon his creation of Viscount Beauchamp on 5 June 1536. The Seymours were now the most powerful family in England and had the most influence with the king. A year later, Queen Jane gave birth to her only child, the future King Edward VI. Edward Seymour was rewarded with an elevation to the Earl of Hertford, and little Anne was now the first cousin of the heir to the throne.

Growing up in the Royal Court gave Anne advantages that were available to few girls at that time. Anne’s mother was literate, and quite a few of her letters survive, so it is not too surprising that Anne and her sisters Margaret and Jane were well educated. Anne began to learn to read as early as three years old when a prayer book was purchased for her in the second half of 1539. Anne and her sisters learned among other things Latin, Greek, French, and Italian. The three sisters also composed a poem in Latin about Queen Margaret of Navarre. Remarkably, Anne corresponded with John Calvin; he wrote her at least one letter on 17 June 1549. He addressed her as “the Most Noble, Most Gifted, and Most Honourable Lady Ann, Eldest Daughter of of the very Illustrious Protector of England.” He seems to have initiated the correspondence, stating that Anne was “cultivated in liberal knowledge (a singular thing in a young person of rank in this place) but that you were also so well informed in the doctrines of Christ.” It is not clear if Anne sent a response, but she was clearly known as being well-educated.

Misfortune: Her Parents’ First Arrest

When Henry VIII died in 1547, and his son Edward became king, Anne’s father became Lord Protector and created himself Duke of Somerset. He essentially became king in all but name, appointing privy councilors, taking complete charge of his nephew Edward, and enriching himself and his friends. He did govern efficiently, but some domestic disasters caused problems for him. In 1549, fearful of being relieved of power, he took Edward VI to Windsor to hide. He was subsequently arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London with his wife Anne. Anne was released earlier than Edward, who was released in 1550.

This political unrest must have been very traumatic for Anne and her siblings. When her parents were imprisoned, Anne was only thirteen years old. She was undoubtedly aware that when Tudors imprisoned people in the Tower, they rarely left with their bodies in tact. At this time, she was without her father for about a year and her mother for a few months.

John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, the Duke of Somerset’s political enemy, was now the head of the privy council and had essentially replaced Edward as the regent. Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset, knew that for her husband’s survival, she must make nice with the Earl. She visited his home every day, apparently working to have Edward restored to the council. Her efforts paid off, and Edward was released, to the relief of his family.

Anne’s First Marriage

Edward saw the advantages of allying himself with the Earl of Warwick, and to achieve this, he suggested a marriage between his oldest daughter, Anne, and the Earl’s oldest son, John Dudley, Viscount Lisle. This was not unusual for the time, and Anne probably expected that a marriage would be arranged for her. However, she probably did not expect the offer to come from her father’s enemy. On 3 June 1550, at the Palace of Sheen, 14 year old Lady Anne Seymour married the 23 year old John, Viscount Lisle. The marriage was a grand affair; Edward VI attended and wrote about it in his journal. He also presented Anne with a ring worth 40 pounds.

Anne’s father-in-law, John Dudley, became the Duke of Northumberland in October 1551, at which time Anne’s husband became the Earl of Warwick. Anne herself was styled Lady Anne, Countess of Warwick. She was one of the most important Peeresses in England, and undoubtedly, this was a burden for a young girl. Her family was always proud of her rank, and she was memorialized several times as the Countess of Warwick even after her second marriage.

Tower of London

Misfortune: Second Arrest of the Duke and Duchess of Somerset

Even Anne’s marriage couldn’t keep her father and father-in-law from struggling for power. Edward again began plotting to overthrow John Dudley, now the Duke of Northumberland, and his efforts were rewarded with his arrest. Both the Duke and Duchess of Somerset were sent to the Tower of London in October 1551. Edward was convicted of treason and conspiracy on 1 December and was beheaded at Tower Hill on 22 January 1552. Edward VI stated very blandly that the Duke was beheaded in his journal, with very little emotion and with no indication that the Duke was a very close family member.

I am not sure if Anne was present for her father’s execution, but whether or not she was, this must have been a heart-wrenching day for her. Not only was her father beheaded with the approval of her first cousin the king, but her father-in-law orchestrated the event. I can’t imagine that this created a very happy atmosphere within her marriage. Anne also probably felt torn between the two factions, as she was by birth a Seymour but by marriage a Dudley.

Anne’s mother, the Duchess of Somerset, still remained imprisoned in the Tower. The Tudors were not above executing women who in their minds committed treason, so Anne was probably constantly worried that her mother might be charged and beheaded. The Duchess was to languish in the Tower until her release on 30 May 1553.

Misfortune: Imprisonment and Execution of the Earl of Warwick

By early 1553, Edward VI was sick, and by the summer, those closest to him knew that he was dying. Under the influence of the Duke of Northumberland, Edward chose Lady Jane Grey as his heir, who had recently married the Duke’s son, Guildford Dudley. Edward VI died in July, and Lady Jane was proclaimed queen on 10 July 1553. Anne’s brother-in-law Guildford was now married to the Queen, but he was not made king as he wished. It quickly became a dangerous time to be a member of the Dudley family when Princess Mary also proclaimed herself Queen. As Mary had the support of the people, the Privy Council switched their allegiance to Mary and proclaimed her queen on 19 July. Queen Jane and Guildford Dudley were both arrested and imprisoned in the Tower.

Carving in Beauchamp Tower by John Dudley

Anne’s husband John, father-in-law the Duke of Northumberland, and the other of her Dudley brothers-in-law were arrested, convicted, and imprisoned in the Beauchamp Tower of the Tower of London. The Duke of Northumberland was executed on the Tower Green on 22 August 1553. This must have been a terrifying time for Anne, and I suspect it reminded her of her parents’ arrests and her father’s execution. Fortunately for her, she was never arrested or connected in any way to the treasonous activities of the others. Anne was allowed to visit John during his imprisonment as often as she wished, which she continued to do until his release on 18 October 1554. John had become very ill towards the end of his stay in the Tower, and Anne was understandably worried about him. Anne and John traveled to Penshurst Place in Kent to help him recover, but sadly, he died on 28 October 1554. Anne was only 18 years old, and John 27.

Penshurst Place

Within the space of 5 years, Ann had been in the center of one of the most dangerous periods of Tudor history for people who were close to the monarchs. Not only had she watched both of her parents be imprisoned in the Tower of London twice, but her father, father-in-law, brother-in-law (Guildford), and sister-in-law (Queen Jane) were executed for treason. Her own husband, who it seems like she cared for, succumbed to the illness he contracted during his imprisonment. Anne watched as her family was literally torn apart.

Misfortune: “A Lunatic Enjoying Lucid Intervals”

Only six months after John’s death, Anne remarried. Her new husband was Edward Unton, the heir of Sir Alexander Unton of Berkshire. The marriage took place on 29 April 1555 at St. George’s Church in Hatford, Berkshire. It was a bit of a step down socially for Anne, but Edward’s step-father had some connections with the Seymours, which may have brought about the marriage. It could have also been arranged to remove Anne from any position of power that she might be able to claim as the widow of the Earl of Warwick.

Edward was knighted at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, and he was to become very involved in political life. The remainder of Anne’s life was to be a quiet one. She an Edward had a total of 7 children, although only 4 of their children grew to adulthood: Edward, Henry, Anne, and Cecily.

By 1566, when she was about 30 years old, her brother-in-law and Queen Elizabeth’s favorite, Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester, wrote in a letter that Anne was suffering from “lunacy.” When her husband died in 1582, she was declared “a lunatic enjoying lucid intervals.” Other scholarship on Anne has blamed the traumatic experiences of her teenage years as the cause of her problems. Perhaps three children dying contributed to her illness, or maybe it was genetic. Whatever the cause, Anne needed supervision and care. Edward did not even mention her in his will when he died even though she was still living. This probably indicated that one of his children, likely one of the sons, was caring for his or her mother.

Tomb of Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset in Westminster Abbey

Anne’s illness possibly explains why she was not mentioned in the will of her mother, Duchess of Somerset, written 14 July 1586. However, when the Duchess died in 1587, all of her children were listed on her enormous tomb Westminster Abbey. Anne and her younger brother, Edward Seymour Earl of Hertford, were the only children whose titles were noted in the epitaph. Even though Anne’s brother-in-law, Ambrose, was the new Earl or Warwick and his wife was the Countess, Anne was still referred to as the Countess of Warwick.

Anne died in February 1588 when she was about 52 years old and was buried in Faringdon Church, Berkshire. A large monument to her and Sir Edward Unton is attached to the wall. She lived quite a sad life, full of misfortune interspersed with periods of happiness. The Tudor era is absolutely fascinating, and it is especially exciting that some of my ancestors were so involved in the schemes of the time. However, after learning about the devastating, real-life implications those events had on my ancestress, I now have gained a completely new perspective on this time period.