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  • Susan Stoderl

Four Women Writers of the 16th Century | The Seymour Sisters and Margaret of Valois

Seymour sisters writing verse in memory of Margaret of Valois
Four Women 16th Century Writers

Who were the Seymour sisters? The first and only Englishwomen published in Latin during the 16th century and the sole work by any Englishwomen published in any language before the 1560s.

Lady Jane Seymour (c.1541–61) was the middle daughter of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset. He was Lord Protector of England from 1547 after the death of King Henry VIII and during the minority of King Edward VI. Lady Jane was the sole witness to the secret marriage of her brother, Edward Seymour, to Lady Katherine Grey in 1560. Grey was a potential heir to Queen Elizabeth I. Lady Jane died the following year following the wedding, likely from tuberculosis. Anne Seymour, Countess of Warwick, was the eldest daughter. From 1566 on, the Countess of Warwick suffered from recurring bouts of madness. In 1582, she was declared a lunatic and died in 1588. The middle daughter, Lady Margaret Seymour (1540?), and her two sisters were nieces to Queen Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife.

The three Seymour sisters wrote Hecatodistichon, a collection of 103(4) Latin distichs. The sisters’ tutor, Nicolas Denisot published it in Paris in 1550. It was written upon the death of Margaret of Valois, Queen of Navarre, who was also a distinguished lady of letters.

Because of war and political intrigue, Margaret of Valois, was exiled and imprisoned by her husband and brother. While imprisoned, she wrote her memoirs, becoming the first woman to do so. Under the title of La Reine Margot, Alexandre Dumas père fictionalized her life in 1845. It is a historical novel, however it’s believed that some of its aspects are based upon slanders and scandals of her time.


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