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Duke of Somerset

The Duke of Somerset is a title in the peerage of England that has been created several times. It is particularly associated with two families; the Beauforts who held the title from the creation of 1448 and the Seymours, from the creation of 1547 and in whose name the title is still held..

The only subsidiary title of the Duke of Somerset is Baron Seymour, which is used as a courtesy title for the eldest son and heir of the Duke. Thus, the Duke of Somerset's heir has the lowest courtesy title; aside from the Duke of Manchester, who holds only a subsidiary Viscounty, all other Dukes have a subsidiary Earldom or Marquessate that is used as a courtesy title.

Several other titles have been held by the Duke of Somerset, but have become extinct. These include: Earl of Kendal (created 1443; extinct 1444), Viscount Rochester (created 1611; extinct 1645), Viscount Beauchamp of Hache (created 1536; extinct 1750), Earl of Hertford (created 1537, 1559; extinct 1750), Marquess of Hertford (created 1640; extinct 1675), Baron Seymour of Trowbridge (created 1641; extinct 1750), Baron Percy (created 1722; extinct 1750), Baron Cockermouth (created 1749; extinct 1750), Earl of Egremont (created 1749; extinct 1750), and Earl St. Maur (created 1863; extinct 1885).

Table of contents
1 Creation of Empress Maud
2 Beaufort Creation
3 Later Creations
4 Seymour Creation
5 Earl St. Maur
6 Earls of Somerset, first Creation (1141)
7 Earls of Somerset, second Creation (1397)
8 Dukes of Somerset, first Creation (1443)
9 Dukes of Somerset, second Creation (1448)
10 Dukes of Somerset, third Creation (1499)
11 Dukes of Richmond and Somerset, fourth Creation (1525)
12 Earls of Hertford 1559
13 Duke of Somerset, fifth Creation (1547)

Creation of Empress Maud

William de Mohun of Dunster (?-c.1155) a favourite of Empress Maud and a loyal supporter of her in the war against Stephen (during which he earned the epithet of the "Scourge of the West") was conferred with the title Earl of Somerset, in 1141. In the foundation charter of the priory at Bruton he describes himself as "Willielmus de Moyne, comes Somersetensis". The title was not recognised by Stephen or Henry II, and his descendants did not use the title.

Beaufort Creation

John Beaufort (1371/1373-1410) was the eldest son from John of Gaunt's marriage to Katherine Swynford. He was created Earl of Somerset on 10 February 1397 and on 9 September 1397 he was created Marquess of Somerset following his marriage to Margaret de Holand, daughter of Thomas de Holand, 2nd Earl of Kent was created Marquess of Dorset on 29 September 1397. In 1399 upon the accession of Henry IV his marquessates were revoked.

The Commons petitioned the King for his restoration but he himself objected stating "the name of marquess is a strange name in this realm". He was succeeded as Earl of Somerset by his son Henry Beaufort (1401-1418), but his early death left the title to his brother John Beaufort (1404-1444). He was created Duke of Somerset and Earl of Kendal on 28 August 1443. He died on 27 May 1444, possibly through suicide. The dukedom and the Earldom of Kendal became extinct.

The Earldom of Somerset passed to his brother Edmund Beaufort, Count of Mortain (c.1406-1455). Edmund had been created Earl of Dorset on 18 August 1442 and Marquess of Dorset on 24 June 1443. He was created Duke of Somerset under a new creation on 31 March 1448. However he is usually referred to as the 2nd Duke of Somerset.

The 2nd duke was killed at the 1st Battle of St Albans on 22 May 1455 and his titles passed to his son Henry Beaufort (1436-1464) who had been known as the Earl of Dorset since his father's creation as Duke of Somerset.

After the defeat at the battle of Towton on 29 March 1461 he fled to Scotland and was attained on 4 November 1461. All his honours and estates were declared forfeit. His titles were restored to him on 10 March 1463 but he deserted the King and was captured and beheaded after the battle of Hexham on 15 May 1464.

He was unmarried but his illegitimate son Charles Somerset became the 1st Earl of Worcester. Henry's titles were forfeited by act of parliament; but his brother Edmund Beaufort (c.1439-1471) was styled Duke of Somerset by the Lancastrians.

After the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4 May 1471 he fled and took refuge in Tewkesbury Abbey. He was beheaded by the Yorkists, and buried in the abbey church. Upon his death the house of Beaufort became extinct.

Later Creations

In 1499 Henry VII nominated his infant son Edmund to the dukedom of Somerset at his baptism, but the child, just over a year old when he died, was probably never formally created a peer.

The illegitimate son of Henry VIII, Henry Fitzroy (1519-1536) was created Earl of Nottingham, and Duke of Richmond and Somerset on 18 June 1525. He died without heirs on July 22 1536 and his titles became extinct.

Robert Carr (c.1590-1645) son of Sir Thomas Ker of Ferniehurst, became a favourite of King James I. On 25 March 1611 he was created Viscount Rochester, and subsequently a privy councillor. On the death of Lord Salisbury in 1612 he began to act as the king’s secretary. On the 3 November 1613 he was created Earl of Somerset. He died in July 1645, leaving a daughter, Anne. His titles became extinct.

Seymour Creation

Edward Seymour, 1st
Duke of Somerset

Edward Seymour (c.1500-1552), brother of Henry VIII's wife Jane Seymour, became Lord Protector of England during Minority between 1547 and 1549. Edward married twice; he divorced his first wife Catherine Fillol (disowning her and her children) in around 1535 and married Anne Stanhope who bore him nine children. He was created Viscount Beauchamp of Hache, in 1536 and Earl of Hertford in 1537. In 1547 he made himself Duke of Somerset. His position as Lord Protector was usurped by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick (later Duke of Northumberland). His titles were forfeited and he was beheaded on 22 Jan 1552.

In 1644 Charles I granted the earldom of Glamorgan to Edward Somerset (1613-1667). He was a descendant of Charles Somerset, the illegitimate son of Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset. In return for obtaining military help from Ireland he promised Edward the title of Duke of Somerset. Under the Commonwealth Edward was banished from England and his estates were seized. At the Restoration his estates were restored, and he claimed the dukedom of Somerset as promised to him by Charles I. The claim was rejected by the House of Lords and neither was the title of Earl of Glamorgan.

Edward Seymour (1538-1621) was a son of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, from his second marriage. He had been created Earl of Hertford, in 1559 under Elizabeth. The Earl of Hertford's grandson William Seymour (15881660) secretly married Lady Arabella Stuart (1575-1615) on 22 June 1610. She was the niece of Lord Darnley, a cousin of James I and next in succession to both Scottish and English thrones. Both William and Arabella were imprisoned but managed to escape. William fled to Paris but Arabella was recaptured. She was imprisoned in the Tower of London where she died in 1615. William returned to England shortly after her death and inherited his father's titles in 1621. He was made Marquess of Hertford in 1640 and on 13 September 1660 shortly before his death on 24 October the title of Duke of Somerset was restored to him and the Seymour family. He had outlived his three eldest sons and the dukedom passed to William Seymour (1654-1671) who was the son of Henry Seymour, Lord Beauchamp (1626-1654), the 2nd duke's eldest son. The 3rd duke died unmarried and the title passed to John Seymour (bef. 1646-1675) the last surviving son of the 2nd Duke. On his death without issue in 29 April 1675 the marquessate of Hertford became extinct. His cousin Francis Seymour, 3rd Baron Seymour of Trowbridge (16581678) became 5th Duke of Somerset. He was the eldest surviving son of Charles Seymour (1621-1665), whose father Sir Francis Seymour (c. 15901664), a younger brother of the 2nd Duke of Somerset, had been created Baron Seymour of Trowbridge in 1641. When he died unmarried in 1678, the title passed to his uncle, Charles Seymour (1662-1748) youngest son of the 2nd Baron Trowbridge. The 6th Duke, was known as "the Proud Duke" and was a favourite of Queen Anne. He married firstly Lady Elizabeth Percy daughter of Joceline Percy, 11th Earl of Northumberland (1644-1670). She died in 1622 and in 1625 he married Lady Charlotte Finch (?-1773) daughter of Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham. The 6th duke died 2 December 1748 at age 86 leaving the title to his son from his first marriage Algernon Seymour (1684-1750).

Algernon had been created Baron Percy in 1722. After succeeding his father as 7th Duke of Somerset he created was Earl of Northumberland in 1749. The Earldom of Northumberland having become extinct with the passing of his maternal grandfather in 1670. The remainder for the earldom was to pass to Sir Hugh Smithson, husband of Algernon's daughter Elizabeth Seymour (bef.1730-1776) whilst the titles Baron Cockermouth and Earl of Egremont, were remaindered to the children of his sister, Lady Catherine Seymour (1693-1731). On 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 his distant cousin.

Sir Edward Seymour, 6th baronet of Berry Pomeroy (1701-1757) became the 8th Duke of Somerset in 1750. The 1st baronet was Edward Seymour (1556-1613) grandson of the 1st Duke of Somerset, son of Edward Seymour (1527/1535-1593) who was the 1st duke's eldest son from his first marriage to Catherine Fillol. The 6th baronet was thus 7 generations removed from the 1st Duke. The 4th Baronet had been speaker of the House of Commons during the reign of Charles II. Upon the death of the 8th duke he was succeeded by his eldest son Edward Seymour (1717-1792). He died unmarried and was succeeded by his brother Webb Seymour (1718-1793) who became the 10th Duke. His son Edward Adolphus Seymour (1775-1855) was a noted mathematician and became the 11th Duke upon his father's death. He changed the family name to St. Maur but Seymour was still very often used.

Earl St. Maur

The 11th duke was succeeded by his eldest son Edward Adolphus Seymour (1804-1885) who was created Earl St. Maur of Berry Pomeroy in 1863. His eldest son Edward Adolphus Ferdinand Seymour (1835-1869) was known as Lord Seymour until 1863 when he took his father's new creation as a courtesy title. Commonly known as Ferdy, he was an adventurer who joined Garibaldi's army under the assumed name of Capt. Richard Sarsfield. In 1866 he began a relationship with a 17-year-old maid called Rosina Swan. The Earl took Rosina with him during his travels, returning to England with her in 1868 to live near Brighton. Ferdy and Rosina had two children; a girl named Ruth (1867-1953) was born whilst the couple were in Tangier and a boy named Richard Harold St. Maur (1869-1927) was born in Brighton shortly before the death of his father. Had the earl married Rosina, Harold would have been the heir to his grandfather's dukedom and for this reason Harold tried to find proof that the couple had married whilst they were living in the Netherlands, offering reward of £50 for evidence to support the claim, but was unsuccessful.

The 12th Duke died on 28 December 1885 aged 81 outliving both of his sons and the title passed to his aged unmarried brother Archibald Henry Algernon Seymour (1810-1891), when he died a few years later, the youngest brother Algernon Percy Banks St. Maur (1813-1894) became the 14th Duke. Three and a half years later he was dead. His son Algernon Seymour (1846-1923) became the 15th Duke. He died without children and the title passed to his distant cousin Edward Hamilton Seymour (1860-1931). He was the great great grandson of Francis Seymour, Dean of Wells (1726-1799), youngest son of the 8th duke. He was succeeded by his son Evelyn Francis Seymour (1882-1954) who passed the title on to his son Percy Hamilton Seymour (1910-1984). The title is currently held by his son John Michael Edward Seymour who was born in 1952. The current heir to the title is Lord Sebastian Edward, Lord Seymour who was born in 1982.

Earls of Somerset, first Creation (1141)

Earls of Somerset, second Creation (1397)

Dukes of Somerset, first Creation (1443)

Dukes of Somerset, second Creation (1448)

Dukes of Somerset, third Creation (1499)

Dukes of Richmond and Somerset, fourth Creation (1525)

Earls of Hertford 1559

Duke of Somerset, fifth Creation (1547)