Seymour, Sir Edward

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Seymour, Sir Edward (1633–1708). Tory politician. Opinionated, arrogant, self-seeking, and complex, Seymour was one of the most formidable parliamentarians of his age and a thorn in the side of any government. On becoming an MP in 1661, he set out as an aspiring careerist. At heart a country gentleman, he wavered between a craving for high office and an attachment to ‘country principles’, often giving the impression of being motivated by pure self-interest. He was a skilful if authoritarian Speaker of the Commons (1673–8, 1678–9), and opposed ‘Exclusion’ despite his anti-catholicism. In 1688 he joined William of Orange at Exeter, but like many Tories harboured misgivings about William's claim to be king de jure. After a troubled spell as a Treasury lord (1692–4), he was for the rest of William's reign a heavyweight opponent of the Whig ministers. Featuring among Anne's new ‘high-church’ appointments in 1702, his opposition to Marlborough's costly land campaigns earned him dismissal in 1704.

Andrew Hanham