Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset

Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset

Birth
Preshute, Wiltshire Unitary Authority, Wiltshire, England
Death 2 Dec 1748 (aged 86)
Petworth, Chichester District, West Sussex, England
Burial Salisbury, Wiltshire Unitary Authority, Wiltshire, England
Memorial ID 85286965 · View Source
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Courtier and statesman, nicknamed the "Proud Duke" on account of his inordinate pride and arrogance. He was the second son of Charles Seymour, second Baron Trowbridge (c.1621–1665), and Elizabeth, née Alington (bap. 1635, d. 1691), daughter of William Alington, first baron Alington. Little is known of his early life and he only succeeded to the dukedom through a series of tragic coincidences. His cousin, the fourth duke of Somerset, died childless, so Seymour's elder brother Francis became fifth duke of Somerset. However, he also died childless after being shot by a Genoese nobleman who claimed that Francis had insulted the nobleman's wife.

After becoming duke in 1678, Somerset had little money and no estate of his own. His financial problems were therefore solved when he arranged to marry the 16-year-old Elizabeth Percy (1667–1722), daughter and heiress of the eleventh earl of Northumberland. Through his wife, Somerset therefore inherited vast estates in Sussex, Cumbria and Northumberland, and the two grand London properties Northumberland House (formerly on the Strand, now demolished) and Syon House near Brentford. He also rebuilt Petworth House in West Sussex as his principal country residence, now owned by the National Trust.

With his wife, he was a regular presence at Court. He was made gentleman of the bedchamber to James II in 1685, but lost favour with the Catholic monarch after refusing to introduce the Papal Nuncio, on account that any contact with representatives from Rome was treason. When reminded that the king was above the law, he replied that while the king was above the law, he was not. The king therefore dismissed him.

When James II was declared to have abdicated after fleeing the country in 1688, William III and Mary II became joint monarchs, but Somerset once again lost favour after offering Mary's sister Anne lodgings at Syon House. Anne had defied her sister by not dismissing Sarah Churchill, later duchess of Marlborough, and she was therefore expelled from court. During this period Somerset concentrated on the construction of Petworth House.

Mary II died in 1694, and after William's death in 1702, Anne became queen. She made Somerset Master of Horse in 1702, but his haughtiness made him a liability for the Whig government. In 1712 he was dismissed when the Tories won an overwhelming election majority, but Anne retained the duchess, whom she made Groom of the Stole.

Somerset saw a brief revival of favour following Anne's death when the new Hanoverian monarch, George I, restored his court positions. However, he resigned in disgust when he failed to stop the imprisonment of his son-in-law, Sir William Wyndham, a suspected Jacobite.

The duchess of Somerset died at Northumberland House in 1722, and for a few years the duke courted his former enemy, the duchess of Marlborough. She politely turned down his proposal of marriage so, in 1726, he married Charlotte Finch, daughter of another former enemy, the Tory second earl of Nottingham.

The duke died at Petworth House on 2 December 1748 and was buried alongside his first duchess at Salisbury Cathedral. His second duchess died in 1773 and was buried at Chiswick.


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  • Created by: Peter Symonds
  • Added: 21 Feb 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 85286965
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset (13 Aug 1662–2 Dec 1748), Find A Grave Memorial no. 85286965, citing Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury, Wiltshire Unitary Authority, Wiltshire, England ; Maintained by Peter Symonds (contributor 46908338) .