Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V25, Page 386 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CHARLES SEYMOUR, 6th duke of Somerset (1662—1748), succeeded his brother Francis, the 5th duke, when the latter was shot in 1678 at the age of twenty, by a Genoese gentleman named Horatio Botti, whose wife Somerset was said to have insulted at Lerici. Charles, who thus inherited the barony of Seymour of Trowbridge along with the dukedom of Somerset, was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge; and in 1682 he married a great heiress, Elizabeth, daughter of Joceline Percy, earl of Northumberland, who brought him immense estates, including Alnwick Castle, Petworth, Syon House and Northumberland House in London. (See NORTHUMBERLAND, EARLS AND DUKES OF.) In 1683 Somerset received an appointment in the king's household, and two years later a colonelcy of dragoons; but at the revolution he bore arms for the prince of Orange. Having befriended Princess Anne in 1692, he became a great favourite with her after her accession to the throne, receiving the post of master of the horse in 1702. Finding him-self neglected by Marlborough, he made friends with the Tories, and succeeded in retaining the queen's confidence, while his wife replaced the duchess of Marlborough as mistress of the robes in 1711. In the memorable crisis when Anne was at the point.of death, Somerset acted with Argyll, Shrewsbury and other Whig nobles who, by insisting on their right to be present in the privy council, secured the Hanoverian succession to the Crown. He retained the office of master of the horse under George I. till 1716, when he was dismissed and retired into private life; he died at Petworth on the 2nd of December 1748. The duke's first wife having died in 1722, he married secondly, in 1726, Charlotte, daughter of the 2nd earl of Nottingham. He was a remarkably handsome man, and inordinately fond of taking a II Richard of York, whom in 1446 he superseded as lieutenant of France. He lacked statesmanship, and as a general could do nothing to stop French successes. The loss of Rouen and Normandy during the next four years was precipitated by his incompetence, and his failure naturally made him a special object of Yorkist censure. The fall of Suffolk left Somerset the chief of the king's ministers, and the Commons in vain petitioned for his removal in January 1451. In spite of York's active hostility he maintained his position till Henry's illness brought his rival the protectorate in March 1454. For a year he was kept a prisoner in the Tower " without any lawful process." On the king's recovery he was honourably discharged, and restored to his office as captain of Calais. Mistrust of Somerset was York's excuse for taking up arms. The rivalry of the two leaders was ended by the defeat of the Lancastrians and death of Somerset at St Albans on the 22nd of May 1455. Though loyal to his family, Somerset was without capacity as a leader. It was a misfortune for Henry VI. that circumstances should have made so weak a man his chief minister. Thomas Basin, the French chronicler, describes Somerset as a handsome, courteous and kindly man. By his wife, Eleanor, daughter and co-heiress of Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, he had two sons, Henry and Edmund, who were executed by Edward IV. after the battles of Hexham and Tewkesbury. For further information see Sir James Ramsay's Lancaster and York (Oxford, 1892), and C. Oman's Political History o England, 1377–2485 (1906), with authorities there cited. (C. L. K.) conspicuous part in court ceremonial; his vanity, which earned him the sobriquet of " the proud duke," was a byword among his contemporaries and was the subject of numerous anecdotes; Macaulay's description of him as " a man in whom the pride of birth and rank amounted almost to a disease," is well known. His son Algernon (1684–1750), by his first wife Elizabeth Percy, was called to the House of Lords as Baron Percy in 1722; and after succeeding his father as 7th duke of Somerset in 1748, was, on account of his maternal descent, created Baron Warkworth and earl of Northumberland in 1749, with remainder to Sir Hugh Smithson, husband of his daughter Elizabeth; and also Baron Cockermouth and earl of Egremont, with remainder to the children of his sister, Lady Catherine Wyndham. At his death without male issue in February 1750 these titles therefore passed to different families in accordance with the remainders in the patents of their creation; the earldom of Hertford, the barony of Beauchamp, and the barony of Seymour of Trowbridge became extinct; and the dukedom of Somerset, together with the barony of Seymour, devolved on a distant cousin, Sir Edward Seymour, 6th baronet of Berry Pomeroy, Devonshire. (See

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