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Charles Seymour

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 or.) 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 himself 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 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 prWe 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 17150 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 SEYMOUR, or ST MAUR.)

The Seymours of Berry Pomeroy were the elder branch of the family, being descended from the protector Somerset by his first marriage, the issue of which had been excluded from succession to the titles and estates until after the failure of the issue of his second marriage (see above), which failure occurred on the death of the above-named Algernon, 7th duke. Sir Edward Seymour (1695-1757), who thus became 8th duke of Somerset, was grandson of Sir Edmund Seymour, Speaker of the House of Commons in the reign of Charles II. His two sons succeeded in turn to the dukedom, and his grandson Edward Adolphus, nth duke (1775-1855), was a mathematician and scientist of some distinction. The latter's son Edward Adolphus, 12th duke (1804-1885), was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, and from 1830 till he succeeded to the peerage in 1855 he was a Liberal member of the House of Commons as Lord Seymour, first for Okehampton, and afterwards for Totnes. He held various offices in Lord Melbourne's administration from 1835 to 1841; was a member of Lord John Russell's cabinet in 1851; and first lord of the admiralty from 1859 to 1866. In 1863 he was created Earl St Maur of Berry Pomeroy. He refused to join W. E. Gladstone's ministry in 1868, but he gave independent support to the chief measures of the government. He died in November 1885. In 1830, while still Lord Seymour, he married Jane Georgiana, youngest of the three celebrated daughters of Thomas Sheridan, who was the " Queen of Beauty " at the famous Egiinton Tournament in 1839. The duke was the author of Christian Theology and Modern Scepticism (1872), and Monarchy and Democracy (1880). As his two sons both died unmarried in his lifetime, the family titles, except the earldom of St Maur, which became extinct, devolved on his two brothers successively; the younger of whom, Algernon Percy Banks, 14th duke (1813-1894), was succeeded by his son Algernon (b. 1846) as isth duke of Somerset.

The title of Earl St Maur adopted by the 12th duke in 1863 is said to have been the original form of the family name of which Seymour was a later corruption, and since the lastmentioned date it has been assumed as the family surname of the dukes of Somerset.

See SEYMOUR, or ST MAUR, and the authorities there cited.

(R. J. M.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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