CHAPTER XII. EDWARD VI (i), 1547-49 - THE PROTECTOR SOMERSET
One other matter was to occupy the attention of Parliament before the close of the session, namely the treason of the Protector's brother, the Admiral, Lord Seymour of Sudeley. He was the King's uncle; he had taken to wife the late King's widow on being refused the hand of the Princess Elizabeth; he was violently jealous of his brother and angry at not having the guardianship of the King entrusted to him - an office which in his opinion ought to be separated from that of Protector of the realm. After marrying Katharine Parr he did obtain from the Council the guardianship of Elizabeth, and from Lord Dorset that of his daughter Lady Jane Grey, who, under Henry's will, stood next in succession to the throne after his own offspring. As Admiral, he had refused to take command of the fleet which accompanied the march to Pinkie; and had entered into secret relations with the pirates who infested the Channel. It had long been palpable that he was intriguing for power, but no one was disposed to take part with him, and Somerset was lenient to him. His principal ally was one Sharington, master of the mint at Bristol, who abused his office by debasing the coinage and pocketing or sharing his nefarious profits: Dorset and probably his brother-in-law Northampton (Parr) favoured him. Thus supported, he had money enough in hand to maintain a considerable armed following should occasion arise, and had established a private cannon foundry. When his wife died, he renewed his pretensions to the hand of Elizabeth, and was not unnaturally suspected of having hastened Katharine's end with that intention. Trusting to the soreness of Southampton (Wriothesly) at his deprivation of the Chancellorship, he tried to win him over, and also Rutland. The attempt failed, and was reported to the Protector; who summoned him to give an account of himself before the Council. Seymour refused to attend, using defiant language; and on January 17th he was arrested. Practically there is no doubt of his treason, and had he then been fairly brought to trial, Somerset would have been free from reproach. But the question was debated in parliament whether the Admiral should be so tried, or attainted, and attainder was decided on after he had refused to answer to the Council; as he was entitled to do. He was allowed to plead before a committee of both Houses in his own defence, but did not take advantage of the permission: virtually he was denied the right of an open trial, and was condemned without such defence as he had to make being heard. Cranmer signed the death-sentence: Latimer defended it. The fact is significant of the chaos into which English ideas of justice and fair play had fallen. The Protector's brother was executed at the end of March.
[Troubles in the Provinces]
From April to September, Somerset's troubles thickened. Formidable insurrections took place both in the western and eastern counties, and the hostilities with France, not yet openly at war, were assuming an aggravated form. The one piece of good fortune for England was that the antagonism between Charles and the French King in other fields still prevented any rapprochement between them.
[The Western Rising]
In the country districts there were two exciting causes of disturbance - one, the general agricultural distress due to the selfish policy of the landowners, the extension of sheep-farming and consequent displacement of labour, the enclosure of common lands and evictions from small holdings; the other, the innovations in religion and interference with immemorial practices to which the people were attached with the persistent conservatism of rural folk. The two types of grievance were associated by the recent abolition of the monasteries, and the transfer of their lands to the most obnoxious class of landlord - a class in the nature of the circumstances popularly identified with the enemies of the old ecclesiastical system, since it was they who conspicuously profited by the change. The North and the West, then and for more than a century to come, were the strongholds of traditional faiths and traditional ideals, as Yorkshire had shown by the Pilgrimage of Grace. Now the main trouble arose in the West. The introduction of the new Service Book at Whitsuntide was met with violent opposition; the men of Cornwall and Devon rose, and demanded the redress of grievances. They would have the religious houses reinstated, and at least half their lands restored. They would have the old services, not the new one which was "like a Christmas play". They would not have it in English which the Cornishmen "did not understand". Elsewhere there had already been disturbances, the peasants anticipating Somerset's efforts to remedy the agricultural grievances by a commission to enforce what was actually the law, and assembling in mobs to level fences and enclosures; whereat the Council was wrath, but the Protector as Friend of the People was disposed to applaud them. A religious revolt however was an attack on the Protector's own policy, and must be put down. Foreign mercenaries were called in, to embitter the quarrel. The insurgents besieged Exeter, and had been for some months in arms before they were at last crushed by the Government forces, in August, after desperate fighting.