Edward VI

Orfeas Katsoulis | Feb 9, 2023

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Edward VI (English: Edward VI), born 12 October 1537 at Hampton Court Palace, died 6 July 1553 at Greenwich Palace, became King of England and Ireland on 28 January 1547 at the age of nine, and was crowned on 20 February of the same year. Edward was the son of Henry VIII of England and his third wife Jane Seymour. He was the third monarch of the House of Tudor, and the first King of England to have a Protestant upbringing.

As Edward never reached the age of majority, England was ruled by a tutelary government during his reign. This was headed by the king's uncle, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, who was succeeded by John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland.

Edward's reign was marked by economic problems and social changes that led to outbreaks of unrest and rebellion in 1549. An initially successful war with Scotland ended in defeat. The transition of the English Church to Protestantism was carried out under Edward who, despite his young age, was very interested in religious matters. Although Henry VIII had severed ties between the Church of England and the Catholic Church, he never allowed Catholic doctrines and ceremonies to be abandoned. Among the reforms carried out under Edward were the abolition of priestly celibacy and the replacement of the liturgical mass with services in English. The man behind most of the reforms was Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, who wrote the Book of Common Prayer, which became compulsory and is still used in the Church of England.

Edward fell ill in January 1553, and when it was realised that this illness would be fatal, he decided, in conjunction with the guardian government, to try to prevent the king's half-sister, the Catholic Mary, from succeeding him on the throne and returning England to the Catholic Church. They therefore drew up a kind of will, the Devise for the Succession, which, contrary to the succession order adopted by Parliament under Henry VIII, sought to bypass both Mary's and the king's other half-sister Elizabeth's right to the throne and instead hand over the crown to Lady Jane Grey. However, support for Mary, as the legitimate heir to the throne, was too strong, and Jane Grey was deposed after reigning for only nine days. Mary then tried to repeal the Reformed legislation that Edward had enforced, but after her death in 1558 Elizabeth I came to ensure that the Protestant legacy of Edward VI lived on.


Prince Edward was born on 12 October 1537 in his mother's chamber at Hampton Court in Middlesex. He was the son of Henry VIII of England and his third wife Jane Seymour. When it was announced that a male heir to the throne had been born, spontaneous celebrations broke out and tributes were paid to the prince "for whom we have hungered for so long". Churches sang the Te Deum, bonfires were lit and "over two thousand cannon salutes were fired that night at the Tower". Queen Jane, who seemed to recover quickly after the birth, had letters sent out, written and signed in advance, announcing the birth of "a prince, conceived in the most lawful wedlock between my Lord the King's Majesty and ourselves". Edward was baptised on 15 October. His half-sister Mary acted as godmother, and his other half-sister Elizabeth carried his christening garment, and the Master of Ceremonies, or Garter Principal King of Arms proclaimed that the little prince was Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester. On 23 October, however, the Queen fell ill, dying the following night from childbed fever. Henry VIII wrote to Francis I of France that "the providence of God ... has mingled my joy with bitterness at the death of her who gave me this happiness".

Education and training

Edward was a healthy child with a good appetite even when he was breastfed. His father's delight in his son was very great; in May 1538, a witness told how he had seen the king "snuggling with him in his arms ... and hold him up in a window in the sight of the people to give them great confidence". In September of that year, Henry's Lord Chancellor, Thomas Audley, 1st Baron Audley of Walden, reported that Edward was growing rapidly and was in good health, and there are other sources describing him as a well-bred and happy boy. The historiography that claimed Edward was a sickly child has been contradicted by recent research. At the age of four, the prince contracted a life-threatening fever, but despite occasional illnesses and poor eyesight, he enjoyed mainly good health until the last six months of his life. (In 1552, Edward also suffered mild bouts of measles and smallpox.)

Early on, Edward was placed in his own household under the supervision of Margaret Bryan, who was appointed his Lady Mistress, a sort of cross between a lady-in-waiting and a governess. Up to the age of six, the Prince was brought up, as he himself would later put it in his diary, "among the women". The formal court formed around the prince was presided over first by Sir William Sidney, and later by Sir Richard Page, who was the stepfather of Edward Seymour's wife, Anne Stanhope. Henry was careful to ensure that his son's household met the highest standards of safety and hygiene, and he stressed that Edward was "the most precious jewel in this whole kingdom". Visitors described the prince, who was very generously provided with toys and amenities, including his own group of minstrels, as a child who was well content.

At the age of six, Edward began his formal education under the guidance of Bishop Richard Cox and John Cheke. Edward described himself as focusing on "the study of languages, Bible, philosophy and all the liberal arts". He was also taught French, Spanish and Italian by Roger Ascham, who was also Elizabeth's informant. It is also known that Edward studied geometry and that he was taught to play several instruments, including the lute and the virginal. He collected globes and maps and, according to the monetary historian C. E. Challis, developed an early understanding of economics that demonstrated a high level of intelligence. The religious education Edward received was mainly Reformed. The people who came to serve the prince's religious needs were probably appointed by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was a prominent reformer. Both Cox and Cheke were converted Catholics influenced by Erasmus of Rotterdam, and they were both later forced into exile during Mary's reign. By 1549, Edward had already written a treatise describing the Pope as the Antichrist, and he wrote several reflections on theological problems. However, one can find several Catholic traits in the young Edward's religious practice, including celebrating liturgical mass and venerating relics and images of saints.

Edward's half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth were both very devoted to him and visited him often. On one occasion, Elizabeth gave him the gift of a shirt "of her own manufacture". Edward enjoyed Mary's company even though he disliked her penchant for foreign dances. "In 1543, Henry VIII invited all his children to the court to celebrate Christmas together, as a sign of reconciliation with his daughters after they had both been declared illegitimate and excluded from the succession. In the spring of 1544, Henry had a new Act of Succession passed which reinstated the daughters in the succession and also stipulated that if the king died before Edward came of age, a guardianship government would be appointed. That the royal family was able to reunite in some sort of harmony may have been thanks to Henry's sixth wife Katarina Parr, who quickly befriended the king's three children. Edward called her his "dearest mother" and in September 1546 he wrote to her: "I received so much that benefited me from you that my mind can hardly comprehend it".

Edward was provided with peer playmates, including a grandson of Edward's chamberlain Sir William Sidney, who recalled as an adult that the prince had been "a wonderfully nice child, with a very gentle and generous disposition". Edward was educated alongside the sons of prominent noblemen who had been specially appointed to be part of his court, as a sort of court in miniature. Among these, Barnaby Fitzpatrick, the son of an Irish peer, became a particularly close friend of the Prince. Edward was more anxious about his studies than his classmates were, and he seems to have outshone them all. He was driven by a sense of duty, but also by his desire to compete with, and surpass, his half-sister Elizabeth, whose academic achievements were much talked about. Edward lived in highly regal surroundings, his rooms were hung with Flemish tapestries and his clothes, books and cutlery were adorned with jewels and gold. Like his father, Edward was fascinated by military art and several portraits of the prince show him carrying a jewelled dagger, just as we can see in the portraits of Henry VIII. Edward writes enthusiastically in his diary about, for example, the English wars against France and Scotland and about adventures such as the occasion when John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland was almost captured at Musselburgh in 1547.

"The heavy-handed proposal"

On 1 July 1543, Henry VIII signed the Treaty of Greenwich with the Scots, after which the peace was sealed with a betrothal between Edward and seven-month-old Mary Stuart. The Scots' bargaining position was weak after their devastating loss at the Battle of Solway Moss the previous November, and Henry therefore demanded that Mary be handed over to him to be brought up in England. When the Scots chose to break the treaty in December 1543 and instead revive the age-old alliance with France, Henry was furious. In April 1544, he ordered Edward's uncle Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset to invade Scotland and "Let all perish by fire and sword, burn the city of Edinburgh, which shall be so razed and disfigured when you have plundered and taken what you can of it, that there shall remain forever an everlasting memory of how God's vengeance struck them like a thunderbolt for their falsehood and treachery". Seymour obeyed the command by waging the most brutal war of aggression England had ever subjected the Scots to. This war, which was fought well into Edward's reign, has become known in history as "The Rough Wooing".

Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547, when Edward was only nine years old. A group of leading members of the King's Crown Council, led by Edward Seymour and William Paget, decided to postpone the announcement of the King's death until they could ensure that the Prince's accession to the throne would go smoothly. Seymour and Sir Anthony Browne, the Lord Chamberlain, went to Hertford to fetch Edward and took him to Enfield, where Edward's half-sister Elizabeth lived. Edward and Elizabeth learned there that their father was dead, and they had his will read to them. The Lord Chancellor, Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton, announced the King's death before Parliament on 31 January, and it was ordered that Edward be publicly proclaimed King. The new king was then taken to the Tower of London, where he was received with great acclaim. The following day, representatives of the kingdom's chief nobles gathered at the Tower to swear allegiance to Edward, and Edward Seymour was proclaimed head of the tutelary government as Lord Protector. Henry VIII was buried at Windsor Castle on 16 February; in accordance with his wishes, he was placed in the same grave as Jane Seymour.

Edward's coronation took place on Sunday 20 February in Westminster Abbey, and was the first royal coronation in England for almost 40 years. The ceremony was shortened in view of the king's young age, but also because the Reformation meant that some elements were considered too Catholic. On the eve of the coronation, Edward rode in procession from the Tower to the Palace of Westminster through cheering crowds and tableaux, many of which borrowed motifs from the coronation of a previous king of the throne - Henry VI of England. During the coronation service, Cranmer affirmed the Act of Supremacy and called Edward a second Josiah, urging him to continue to implement the reformation of the Church of England. After the service, a banquet was held at Westminster Hall where, as Edward later described in his diary, he sat in the high seat and ate his meal with the crown on his head.

Council of Regency

Henry VIII's will listed sixteen executors who would serve as Edward's crown council until he came of age. These executors were to have access to twelve additional named advisors as needed. The content of Henry VIII's will has been the basis of conflict between historians throughout the ages. Some have argued that people in the king's immediate circle manipulated either him or the will in order to create a situation that gave them the greatest possible power. According to this theory, the composition of the king's immediate court was changed towards the end of 1546 to make room for as many reformers as possible.

In addition, two Conservative advisers lost their position in the king's immediate circle of advisers: Stephen Gardiner was not allowed access to the king during his final months of illness, and Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk was charged with high treason - the day before the king's death, the duke's vast estates were seized and he was then forced to spend the whole of Edward's reign in the Tower. Other historians have argued that the exclusion of Gardiner was for reasons other than religion, that Norfolk was not particularly conservative on religious matters, that many conservatives remained in the Privy Council and that it is questionable how radical the king's closest men, such as Sir Anthony Denny who was the keeper of the stamp used to copy the king's signature, really were.

In any case, Henry VIII's death was followed by a lavish giving away of titles and crown property to the executors and their relatives and friends. The will contained an "uncompleted gifts clause" which allowed land and titles to be distributed in this way. Most of all, Edward Seymour benefited, being appointed Lord Protector, Governor of the King's Person, and elevated from Earl of Hertford to Duke of Somerset.

The decision to appoint a Lord Protector went against what Henry VIII had decreed in his will. He had explicitly stipulated that the Trustees should make joint decisions, and that no one's vote should carry more weight than anyone else's. Only a few days after Henry's death, however, the Executors had decided to grant Somerset virtually royal privileges and powers. Thirteen of the sixteen Executors supported this decision, arguing that it was a decision they had the right to make in unison under Henry VIII's will. The generous gifts that were distributed can be seen as bribes from Seymour to the Executors. It is known that Seymour made arrangements with William Paget, Henry VIII's private secretary, and that he also secured the support of Sir Anthony Browne, who was one of Henry's chamberlains.

The appointment of a Lord Protector was in accordance with historical tradition. Somerset's suitability for the post was underlined by his military successes in Scotland and France. In March 1547, he obtained from the King quasi-royal power to appoint members of the Crown Council himself and to consult with them only when he wished to do so. As the historian Geoffrey Elton put it: "from that moment his autocratic system was complete". He continued to rule mainly by proclamation, only really calling the Council when he wanted them to sign off on decisions he had already made.

Somerset managed to take over power smoothly and efficiently. François van der Delft, who was the Imperial Ambassador, reported that "he rules supremely and absolutely", with Paget as his secretary, but Delft also foresaw that he might have problems with John Dudley who had recently been elevated to the Earl of Warwick. During the early days of the Protectorate, however, only Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton, who was Lord Chancellor, and Somerset's own brother, Thomas Seymour, dared to criticise him. Wriothesley, who was conservative on religious matters, objected to Somerset exercising royal power over the Crown Council. Somerset then saw to it that he was removed from office after being accused of nepotism.

Thomas Seymour

The resistance of Thomas Seymour, Somerset's own brother, was more difficult for Somerset to attack. As the king's uncle, Thomas Seymour demanded the governorship of the king's person and a seat on the Crown Council. Somerset tried to bribe his brother with a baronetcy, the appointment of Lord Admiral and a seat on the Crown Council, but Thomas Seymour aimed higher than that. He began to smuggle in extra pocket money for the little king, while telling Edward that Somerset's miserliness made him a "beggar king". He also encouraged the king to get rid of Somerset within two years so that he could "exercise governmental power as other kings do", but Edward, who had been brought up to bow to the crown council, didn't seem to take Seymour's bait. In April, Seymour used the king's permission to go behind the backs of Somerset and the Crown Council and marry Henry VIII's widow, Catherine Parr. In doing so, he took over the Dowager Queen's household, which also included the 11-year-old Lady Jane Grey and the 13-year-old Lady Elizabeth.

In the summer of 1548, Seymour courted the young Elizabeth, which was discovered by Catherine Parr. Elizabeth was therefore sent away to live with Anthony Denny instead. In September, Catherine Parr died in childbirth, and Thomas Seymour immediately resumed his courtship of Elizabeth, with a view to marrying her. Elizabeth may have appreciated the courtship, but like Edward she was reluctant to do anything without the permission of the King's Privy Council. In January 1549, the Privy Council had Thomas Seymour arrested and he was charged with, among other things, embezzlement of royal funds. King Edward, whom Thomas Seymour had planned to marry off to Jane Grey, testified against his uncle himself, and told of the pocket money smuggled in. In the absence of clear evidence of high treason, he could not be prosecuted. Somerset therefore issued a special order, known as an Act of Attainder, which allowed Thomas Seymour to be executed without trial. Seymour was beheaded on 20 March 1549.

Somerset's main asset was his undoubted skill as a soldier, which he had proved in the war against Scotland and in the defence of Boulogne-sur-Mer in 1546. His main interest as Lord Protector was therefore the war against Scotland. After a crushing victory at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in September 1547, he ordered a network of English garrisons to extend as far as Dundee. However, these successes were followed by problems in deciding how to continue the warfare, as his dream of uniting the kingdoms through wars of conquest became increasingly unrealistic. The Scots forged an alliance with France, which sent forces to defend Edinburgh in 1548. The Scottish king, James V of Scotland, sent his daughter Mary Stuart to France, where she was betrothed to the French crown prince. This move put an end to any plans to marry her off to Edward VI. The garrisons Somerset left in Scotland proved to be close to breaking the state's finances. A French attack on Boulogne in August 1549 finally forced Somerset to begin a retreat from Scotland.


In 1548, unrest spread in England. From April 1549, a series of armed rebellions broke out, spurred by both religious and economic discontent. The two most serious uprisings, which required the state to deploy a military force, were those in Devon and Cornwall, and in Norfolk. The first rebellion is sometimes called the Prayer Book Rebellion, and was based mainly on the order that services should be held in English. The second rebellion, led by a merchant named Robert Kett (which is why the rebellion is known as Kett's Rebellion), was mainly caused by conflicts that arose when prominent lords decided to occupy grazing land that had previously been common land. A complication was that the rebels believed that their actions were legal and would win the support of the Crown, as they believed that it was the lords who were breaking the law.

The same explanations for revolts were heard all over the country, not just in Norfolk and the West. The belief that the crown, i.e. Somerset, would sympathise with the rebels probably stems from the series of contradictory announcements Somerset made during this time. Some of these announcements included expressions of sympathy with villagers whose commons had been enclosed by local lords and announced that the crown intended to take action; others gave amnesty to people who had destroyed such enclosures 'foolishly and by mistake', as long as the perpetrators repented. A further cause of confusion was the committees Somerset set up to resolve disputes over enclosures between sheep farmers in the north of England. These envoys were led by a reformer named John Hales, whose rhetoric managed to build a link between the enclosure issue and Reformed theology and the concept of the Godly Commonwealth. Local groups of peasants often perceived these committees as giving them permission to act against the lords who were enclosing commons. King Edward wrote in his diary that the 1549 rebellions began "because certain committees had been sent down to pull down enclosures".

Whatever the public thought of Somerset, the disastrous events of 1549 were seen as a huge failure on the part of the government, and the Crown Council was quick to point the finger at Somerset as the culprit. In July 1549, Paget wrote to Somerset: "Every man in the Crown Council has disapproved of your actions ... I wish to God that as soon as things began to move you had taken strong action and brought about solemn justice to the dismay of others ...".

The Fall of Somerset

The series of events that led to Somerset's downfall has often been called a coup d'état. Sometime before 1 October 1549, Somerset had been warned that his position of power was under threat. He had a proclamation issued urging people to support him, and then took the young king with him and retired to the safety of Windsor Castle, where Edward was writing: "I think I am imprisoned". Meanwhile, the Crown Council had details of misjudgements and mismanagement of the government and finances under Somerset announced. They also pointed out that the Duke's power emanated from them, not from Henry VIII's will. On 11 October, the Council had Somerset arrested and Edward was taken to Richmond. Edward summarised the charges against Somerset in his diary: 'ambition, pride, starting hasty wars in my youth, mismanagement of Newhaven (Ambleteuse in present-day France), enriching himself out of my treasures, following his own opinions and doing everything with (only) his own authority'. In February 1550, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick emerged as the new leader of the Crown Council and, in effect, Somerset's successor. Although Somerset was released and reinstated to the Crown Council, he was executed the following year after attempting to overthrow Dudley. Edward records his uncle's death in his diary: 'The Duke of Somerset had his head cut off on Tower Hill, between eight and nine o'clock in the morning'.

Historians have observed the stark contrast between Somerset's rise to power, during which he showed very good organisational qualities, and his subsequent rule where these qualities were lacking as the government was very inefficient. By 1549, his costly wars had failed, the crown was on the brink of ruin, and rebellions and revolts had broken out across the land. Until the last decade, however, Somerset enjoyed a good reputation among historians, thanks in large part to all the proclamations he had issued that seemed to support the public against unjust lords. In the 21st century, however, he has been most often portrayed as an arrogant and out-of-touch leader who lacked political and administrative skill.

Unlike the Duke of Somerset, his successor, John Dudley, who was elevated to the Duke of Northumberland in 1551, has previously been described by historians as a greedy schemer who elevated and enriched himself at the expense of the crown. Since the 1970s, however, perceptions of his reign have changed and now include his administrative skills and how effectively he restored the Crown's stability and power after Somerset's failures.

The only one to challenge Dudley's rise to power was Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton, whose Conservative supporters had joined forces with Dudley's followers to unite the Crown Council, as reported by Charles V's ambassador, in order to repeal several of Somerset's religious reforms. Northumberland, however, had no such plans, hoping instead that the king's strong Protestantism would enable further reforms. He therefore argued that Edward was old enough to govern himself, while at the same time replacing the king's immediate court with his own supporters. Paget joined Northumberland, realising that even if Catholicism was reintroduced, Charles V would still not back England in the war against Scotland, and Paget was given a baronial title in return. Southampton had evidence gathered to execute Somerset, in order to blackmail Northumberland by getting Somerset to claim that Northumberland had been complicit in his misrule. Northumberland countered by persuading Parliament to release Somerset, which it did on 14 January 1550. Northumberland then bribed a number of members of the Crown Council, with titles and estates, to depose Southampton whereupon Northumberland was appointed President of the Crown Council and Warden of the King's household. The office of Lord President of the Crown Council gave him the same power that Somerset had previously held as Lord Protector, but without the negative connotation that recent events had given that office. Northumberland was now effectively the head of state.

As Edward grew older, he was able to understand more and more of the kingdom's affairs. However, the extent to which he took an active part in decisions has been debated. Historian Stephen Albutt argues that views of the king have ranged from "an eloquent puppet to a precocious, enterprising and essentially adult king". When Edward was 14, a special council, the Counsel for the Estate, was set up, with Edward himself choosing its members. This was a step towards Edward assuming power. In the weekly meetings of the Council, Edward was to familiarise himself with the government of the Empire. Just as important as the Council, however, was the King's Privy Chamber, or internal courtship, where Edward worked closely with, for example, William Cecil and William Petre, who was Secretary of State. The area in which the King was able to exert the greatest influence was religion, where he was advised to carry out far-reaching reforms.

The Duke of Northumberland used an entirely different set of methods than Somerset had done. Northumberland made sure that the Crown Council was very active and decided everything together, and instead of ruling alone, he aimed to always have a majority of the Crown Council on his side. To compensate for the fact that, unlike Somerset, he had no family ties to the king, he had many of his own family and friends appointed to the Crown Council. He also appointed members of his family to the king's court. He realised that the best way to guarantee his own power was to control the agenda of the Crown Council. Historian John Guy has described Northumberland's tactics thus: 'Like Somerset, he became a sham king, the difference being that he embraced the bureaucracy on the pretext that Edward had assumed all the royal power, whereas Somerset asserted his right as Lord Protector to be virtually king'.

Northumberland's strategies for warfare were more pragmatic than Somerset's had been, and he has sometimes been criticised for being outright weak. In 1550 he made peace with France, agreeing to return Boulogne and recall all English troops from Scotland. In 1551 an engagement was agreed between Edward and Elizabeth of Valois, daughter of Henry II of France. Edward sent a "beautiful diamond" from the jewellery collection Henry VIII had acquired for Catherine Parr. Northumberland had simply realised that England could not afford any further war. At home, too, Northumberland tried to bring an end to the troubles. To prevent future rebellions, he appointed crown representatives to be stationed in the various counties, including lord lieutenants, who commanded military forces and reported to the Crown Council.

Along with William Paulet and Walter Mildmay, Northumberland set out to address the kingdom's poor finances. However, they could not resist initially trying to increase revenue through devaluation. The resulting economic disaster forced Northumberland to leave fiscal policy in the hands of the expert Thomas Gresham. By 1552, mainly by applying Gresham's law to the Antwerp exchange, which was essential to the English economy, he had managed to restore confidence in the currency, prices fell and trade recovered. Although government finances did not fully recover until Elizabeth I, Northumberland laid the foundations for a stronger economy. The government also made massive efforts to end corruption, and overhauled the way tax revenues were collected and spent. This has been called one of the best and most important measures of the Tudor era.

Northumberland's regime followed the same religious policy as Somerset's, supporting an increasingly vigorous programme of reform. Although Edward VI's practical influence on government was limited, his intense Protestantism made a reforming administration mandatory. His accession to the throne was handled by the Reformation faction, which continued to hold power throughout his reign. The man in whom Edward had most confidence, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, introduced a series of religious reforms that revolutionised the Church of England from a church that, despite its denial of papal supremacy, had been predominantly Catholic, to one that became institutionally Protestant. The seizure of church property that had begun during Henry VIII's reign continued under Edward's rule, including the dismantling of mass chapels. This was of great financial benefit to the Crown and the new owners of the acquired property. Church reforms were therefore as much political as religious during the reign of Edward VI. During the last period of his rule, the Church had been ruined, and much of the bishops' property had been transferred to persons outside the Church.

It has proved difficult for historians to accurately describe and document the actual religious beliefs of Somerset and Northumberland respectively. There is disagreement about how sincere their Protestantism really was. However, no one has doubted King Edward's religious devotion (some have called it bigotry) Edward is said to have read twelve chapters of the Bible daily and enjoyed listening to sermons, and he was later to be praised by John Foxe. Edward was portrayed both during his lifetime and later as a new Josiah, the biblical king who destroyed Baal's idols. He could appear fastidious in his anti-Catholicism, and once asked Catherine Parr to persuade his half-sister Mary to "abstain from foreign dances and pleasures not befitting a thoroughly Christian princess". However, Jennifer Loach, who has written a biography of Edward, argues that one should be wary of accepting too uncritically the pious image of Edward painted by Reformed historians, such as in John Foxe's influential Foxe's Book of Martyrs, where the reader finds, among other things, a wooden engraving depicting the young king listening to a sermon delivered by Hugh Latimer. In his early childhood, Edward followed prevailing Catholic norms and attended the liturgical Mass, but later, under the influence of Thomas Cranmer and the influence of his Reformed informants, he came to form the view that religion in England needed to be reformed.

The development of the English Reformation was influenced by the conflict between the Catholic traditionalists and the Reformed radicals who, among other things, destroyed images of saints and complained that the Reformation was not going far enough or fast enough. However, several Protestant doctrines were imposed, such as that faith alone was salvific and that communion was to be shared by congregation and clergy. The Church Code was changed in 1550 so that priests were appointed as state officials, rather than by ordination as before. Their job description was also changed to make it clear that they were the servants of the congregation rather than the link between the congregation and God. Cranmer had set out to write a new order of worship in English, and this became compulsory with the first Act of Uniformity in 1549. This Book of Common Prayer was intended as a compromise that would satisfy both traditionalists and reformers, but instead it came to be regarded as a lukewarm mixture that did not go far enough in either direction to satisfy either group. The radicals argued that too many "papist rites" were retained, while many traditionalists, including Stephen Gardiner and Edmund Bonner, who was Bishop of London, and who was both imprisoned in the Tower, argued that it was contrary to the tenets of Christianity.

After 1551, Edward began to have a more active influence on church policy in his role as Supreme Head of the Church, and this meant that the Reformation was set in motion. The changes now being promoted by the king were also a response to criticism from such reformers as John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester, and the Scotsman John Knox, who was at this time employed as a clergyman in Newcastle by the Duke of Northumberland and whose sermons led, among other things, to the king being urged to oppose genuflection during the administration of Holy Communion. Cranmer was also influenced by the eminent Reformed theologians Martin Bucer and Peter Martyr Vermigli. The development of the Reformation was also accelerated by the appointment of more Reformed bishops. In the winter of 1551-52, Cranmer rewrote the Book of Common Prayer and the revised version came to be more clearly Reformed than the earlier one. It also established Reformed doctrines such as the symbolic nature of the Eucharist. This effectively put an end to the celebration of the liturgical Mass in England. According to Elton, the publication of Cranmer's revised Prayer Book in 1552, combined with the second Act of Uniformity in 1552, marked "the final transition of the Church of England to Protestantism". The Prayer Book of 1552 still forms the basis of the English Church's worship services. However, Cranmer was prevented from pursuing all his reforms when it became apparent in the spring of 1553 that the young king who made the Reformation possible was dying.

New order of succession

In January 1553, Edward VI fell ill, and by June it had become clear, after several rounds of temporary recoveries and relapses, that the king was dying. If the king died and was succeeded by his Catholic half-sister Mary, this would jeopardise the whole English Reformation, and such a course of events was feared by both Edward and his ministers. Edward also opposed Mary's right to the throne because she had been declared illegitimate, and because she was a woman. He also had these objections to his other half-sister Elizabeth. In February 1553, Mary made an official visit to Edward's court and was welcomed by the King's Privy Council "as if she were Queen of England", as the Imperial Ambassador described it. Despite this, an attempt was made shortly before the king's death to change the line of succession.

Henry VIII had set a precedent by his will, in which he himself appointed his successors instead of strictly following the law of succession. With a document called "My devise for the succession", Edward VI also tried to change the order of succession by bypassing the right of inheritance of his half-sisters and appointing as his successor the sixteen-year-old Lady Jane Grey, granddaughter of Mary Tudor (Queen of France). On 21 May 1553, a triple marriage took place when Lady Jane was married to Lord Guildford Dudley, fourth son of the Duke of Northumberland, her sister Lady Catherine Grey was married to a son of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, and a sister of Guildford Dudley was married to a descendant of the House of Plantagenet, formerly the royal house of England. This took place "in a truly royal display".

At the beginning of June, Edward personally supervised the drafting of a transcribed version of the order of succession he had written. When the King's lawyers had finished the text, the King signed it in six places. On 15 June, he summoned a group of eminent judges and lawyers to his sickbed, and under the supervision of the Duke of Northumberland, he ordered them "with sharp words and angry looks" to prepare for the succession ordinance to be passed into law, including in Parliament. He also took the precaution of having his principal advisers and lawyers sign an oath swearing to see that the King's last will and testament was faithfully carried out after his death. Finally, on 21 June, the Act of Succession was signed by more than 100 nobles, aldermen, bishops and sheriffs, many of whom later claimed to have been forced to do so by the Duke of Northumberland. They conveniently forgot that they had also received large estates donated to them by the Duke.

A few months later, when one of the judges, Edward Montagu, tried to excuse his actions in a petition for mercy to Queen Mary, he described how he and some of the others had tried to refuse to sign the Act of Succession, questioning the legality of the document. But then the Duke of Northumberland "entered the council chamber ... and was in a great rage and fury, so angry that he trembled, and in the course of his furious speech he called this Sir Edward a 'traitor', and further declared that he would fight in the bare shirt with any man in that quarrel". Later, when King Edward himself ordered the lords to obey, Montagu heard several of them declare that "they would be traitors if they refused to do so." Thomas Cranmer, who did not get on well with Northumberland, and who was deeply reluctant to sign the document, only relented when Edward stressed that he expected greater respect for his will from Cranmer than from anyone else. It was now common knowledge that the king was dying and that there were plans to prevent Mary's accession. France, very reluctant to see a close relative of the Emperor on the throne, let Northumberland know that they supported the plan. Although the foreign diplomats were convinced that the majority of the English people supported Mary's claim to the throne, they were still of the opinion that Lady Jane should be successfully proclaimed queen: "To be in real possession of power is a thing of the greatest importance, especially among barbarians such as the English," wrote the imperial ambassador Simon Renard to Charles V. "It is a thing of the greatest importance to be in real possession of power, especially among barbarians such as the English.

Edward had often drafted political documents as exercises. In his last year he applied this increasingly to the real affairs of government. One such document was the first draft of his "Order of Succession". Edward stipulated that in the event of "the absence of my bodily offspring", the throne would be inherited only by male heirs, that is, Jane Grey's mother, Jane Grey or her sisters. As his death approached, and possibly through persuasion by Northumberland, he amended the provision so that Jane and her sisters could ascend the throne themselves. Still, Edward only granted Jane's rights as an exception to male rule. If the order of succession had been followed literally, the right of inheritance would have belonged to Jane's mother, Frances Grey, Duchess of Suffolk, but she, who had already renounced her claims in support of her children in Henry's will, seems to have renounced this time as well after a visit to Edward. The letters of privilege of 21 June excluded the king's two half-sisters on the grounds of illegitimacy of birth, both having been declared illegitimate during Henry VIII's reign. This reasoning could be applied not only to Mary but also to the Protestant Elizabeth. The terms of the altered succession were a direct violation of Henry VIII's Act of Succession of 1543 and a result of hasty and illogical thinking.

For centuries, the attempt to change the line of succession has mostly been seen as a one-man act by the Duke of Northumberland. Since the 1970s, however, many historians have attributed the initiation of the succession arrangement and the call for its implementation as one of the king's initiatives. Diarmaid MacCulloch has portrayed Edward's "adolescent dreams of founding an evangelical kingdom of Christ", while David Starkey has noted that "Edward had a few co-authors, but the driving will was his". Among other members of the King's Privy Council, Northumberland's trusted friend John Gates has been suspected of suggesting to Edward that he change his succession arrangement so that Jane Grey herself - not just one of her sons - could inherit the crown. No matter how much he contributed, Edward was convinced that his word was law, and he wholeheartedly supported the decision to disinherit his half-sisters: "to exclude Mary from the succession was a matter on the young king's mind".

Sickness and death

Edward fell ill in January 1553 with a fever and cough. He became continuously worse. The imperial ambassador, Scheyfve, reported that "he suffers a great deal when the fever comes upon him, especially from a difficulty in breathing, due to a constriction of the organs on his right side ... I consider this to be a haunting and a sign from God". Edward felt well enough at the beginning of April to go out and enjoy the fresh air at Westminster, and then move to his palace in Greenwich, but by the end of the month he had become worse again. By 7 May, however, he was clearly on the mend and his doctor had no doubt that he would make a full recovery. A few days later, the King was seen sitting in a window watching the ships on the Thames. By 11 June, however, Edward was rapidly getting worse again, and Scheyfve, who had an informant in the king's court, reported that "the fluids he expels through his mouth are sometimes coloured greenish yellow and black, sometimes pink, like the colour of his blood". His doctors now believed he was suffering from a leaking tumor, located in a lung, and they admitted that the king's life was beyond saving. Before long, Edvard's legs had become so swollen that he had to lie only on his back, and he was losing the strength to resist the disease. To his informant, John Cheke, he whispered: "I am glad to die."

Edward made his last public appearance on 1 July, when he appeared in a window at Greenwich Palace. Those who saw him were horrified at how thin and ill he looked. Over the next two days, large crowds arrived at the palace in the hope of seeing the king again, but on 3 July they were told that it was too chilly for the king to appear. Edward died on 6 July at Greenwich Palace. He was 15 years old at the time. According to John Foxe's legendary account of the king's death, his last words were, "I am weak, Lord have mercy on me and receive my spirit". He was buried in Westminster Abbey on 8 August 1553, using Reformed rites performed by Thomas Cranmer. The procession was led by a large group of children and followed by the people of London with "weeping and lamentation", the hearse, adorned in golden robes, was crowned by a wax doll representing Edward, wearing a crown, sceptre and garter. As the funeral procession passed through London, Queen Mary attended Edward's Mass of the Soul in the Tower, where Jane Grey was by then imprisoned.

The exact cause of Edvard's death is not known. As with other deaths in the royal family in the 16th century, it was rumoured that the king had been poisoned, but no evidence to support this has been found. Many believed that the Duke of Northumberland, whose unpopularity was made clear by events shortly after Edward's death, had ordered the alleged poisoning. Another theory was that the Catholics had poisoned the king in the hope that Mary would succeed him on the throne. The surgeon who opened Edward's chest after his death reported that "the disease of which His Majesty died was a disease of the lungs". The Venetian ambassador reported that Edward had died of pneumonia, that is, tuberculosis, a diagnosis accepted by many historians. Skidmore believes that Edward contracted the disease after contracting measles and smallpox in 1552, which weakened his immune system. Loach instead argues that the king's symptoms are typical of pneumonia, which would then have led to kidney failure.

Queens Jane and Mary

Edward's half-sister Mary, who had last met Edward in February, had kept herself informed of her brother's health status through her contacts with the imperial ambassadors, and also through Northumberland, who kept in touch with Mary so that she would not become suspicious. Charles V advised her to accept the crown even though it was offered to her on condition that she did not reintroduce Catholicism. When Mary learned that Edward was at his wits' end, she left Hunsdon House near London and rushed to her estates at Kenninghall in Norfolk, where she could count on the support of her tenants. Northumberland sent ships to the Norfolk coast to prevent her escape or the arrival of forces from the Continent. He delayed the announcement of the king's death while he gathered his forces, and Jane Grey was taken to the Tower on 10 July. On the same day she was proclaimed Queen by the commoners in the streets of London. The Council of the Crown received a message from Mary asserting her birthright to the crown and ordering the Council to proclaim her queen, which she had already done for herself. The Council replied that Jane was Queen by Edward's authority, and that Mary was an unjust pretender and supported only by "some indecent, mean persons"

Northumberland soon realised that he had been badly mistaken about how things would turn out, not least when he failed to secure Mary's person before Edward's death. Although many of those who flocked to Mary were conservatives who hoped that Protestantism would be defeated, she was also supported by many for whom her legal claim to the throne overrode religious considerations. Northumberland was forced to relinquish control of a nervous council in London and launch an unplanned manhunt for Mary in East Anglia, from where news came of growing support for her from nobles and landowners as well as "innumerable companies of the common people". On 14 July, Northumberland marched out of London with three thousand men, reaching Cambridge the following day. Meanwhile, Mary rallied her forces at Framlingham Castle in Suffolk, amassing an army of nearly twenty thousand men on 19 July.

It now dawned on the members of the Crown Council that they had made a terrible mistake. Under the leadership of Henry Fitzalan, 19th Earl of Arundel and Earl of Pembroke, the Council publicly proclaimed Mary Queen on 19 July, ending Queen Jane's nine days on the throne. When the people of London heard that Mary had been declared a legitimate queen, cheers erupted in the streets. Northumberland, trapped in Cambridge, received a letter from the Crown Council ordering him to proclaim Mary Queen, which he did. William Paget and the Earl of Arundel rode to Framlingham to seek mercy from the Queen, and Arundel then arrested Northumberland on 24 July. Northumberland was beheaded on 22 August, having renounced the Reformed doctrines and returned to Catholicism. His religious somersault horrified Lady Jane Grey, who remained loyal to Protestantism. Jane accompanied her father-in-law to the scaffold on 12 February 1554, after her father had been involved in the Wyatt Rebellion.

Protestant heritage

Although Edward VI reigned for only six years and died at the age of fifteen, his reign made a lasting contribution to the Reformation in England and the structure of the English Church. Henry VIII's last decade of rule had seen a return to more conservative views and a certain pause in the Reformation. In contrast to these conditions, Edward's rule brought radical successes for the Reformed forces. During his six years, the Church was transferred from a predominantly Roman Catholic liturgy and structure to one usually identified as Protestant. The introduction of the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal of 1550, and Cranmer's forty-two articles, formed the basis of the doctrines still practiced by the Church of England. Edward himself approved of all these changes, and although it was reformers such as Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, backed by Edward's determined Evangelical Council, who drew up many of the new doctrines, the King's religious convictions were crucial to the far-reaching reformation under his rule.

Queen Mary's attempts to undo her brother's reforms met with great obstacles. Despite her belief in papal supremacy, she ruled constitutionally as head of the Church of England, a contradiction that was repugnant to her. She found herself completely unable to restore the large number of church properties that had been surrendered or sold to private landowners. Although she burned a number of leading Protestant churchmen, many reformers either went into exile or remained subversively active in England under her rule, creating a torrent of reformist propaganda that she was unable to stem. Nevertheless, Protestantism was not yet deeply rooted among the English people, and had Mary lived longer it is possible that her Catholic Reconstruction would have succeeded. In that case, Edward's rule, rather than hers, would have come to be seen as a historical aberration.

When Mary died in 1558, the Reformation continued in England, and most of the reforms instituted under Edward's rule were reinstated under the Elizabethan religious settlement. Queen Elizabeth I replaced Mary's councillors and bishops with former Edward supporters, such as William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley and former Secretary of Northumberland, and Bishop Richard Cox, Edward's old guardian, who preached an anti-Catholic sermon at the opening of Parliament in 1558. Parliament passed an Act of Uniformity the following spring, restoring Cranmer's 1552 Prayer Book with some modifications. The thirty-nine Articles of 1563 were largely based on Cranmer's 42 Articles. The theological reforms that took place during Edward's reign provided an important basis for Elizabeth's policy on religious matters, although the international aspect of Edward's Reformation never resurfaced.

Practical heritage

Edward VI founded three charitable institutions, such as Christ's Hospital, a school he founded 10 days before his death.

Edward VI in fiction

Edward VI is one of the main characters in Mark Twain's 1882 novel The Prince and the Beggar Boy, which has been filmed several times.


  1. Edward VI
  2. Edvard VI av England
  3. ^ "whom we hungered for so long"
  4. ^ "their was shott at the Tower that night above two thousand gonnes"
  5. ^ "a Prince, conceived in most lawful matrimony between my Lord the King's Majesty and us"
  6. ^ "Divine Providence ... hath mingled my joy with bitterness of the death of her who brought me this happiness"
  7. Henri VIII a remplacé le titre « Lord of Ireland » par « King of Ireland » en 1541 ; Édouard a aussi maintenu sa prétention au trône français même s'il n'a jamais régné sur la France. Scarisbrick 1971, p. 548–549 et Lydon 1998, p. 119.
  8. ^ By the logic of the devise, Frances Grey, Duchess of Suffolk, Jane's mother and Henry VIII's niece, should have been named as Edward's heir, but she, who had already been passed over in favour of her children in Henry's will, seems to have waived her claim after a visit to Edward.[154]
  9. ^ The article follows the majority of historians in using the term "Protestant" for the Church of England as it stood by the end of Edward's reign. However, a minority prefer the terms "evangelical" or "new". In this view, as expressed by Diarmaid MacCulloch, it is "premature to use the label 'Protestant' for the English movement of reform in the reigns of Henry and Edward, even though its priorities were intimately related to what was happening in central Europe. A description more true to the period would be 'evangelical', a word which was indeed used at the time in various cognates".[203]
  10. Uma febre recorrente a cada quatro dias. Hoje os sintomas são associados a malária.[10]
  11. Eduardo também adoeceu em 1550 e teve "do sarampo e da varíola" em 1552.[11]
  12. Por exemplo, ele lia textos bíblicos, Cato, Fábulas de Esopo e Satellitium Vivis de Juan Luis Vives, que foram escritos para sua irmã Maria.[17][18]
  13. Maria e Isabel permaneceram tecnicamente ilegítimas, sucedendo a coroa devido a nomeação de Henrique. Elas, por exemplo, poderiam perder seus direitos se casassem sem a aprovação do Conselho Privado.[27][28]
  14. Tais retratos eram inspirados na pintura de Hans Holbein de Henrique VIII em 1537 para um mural no Palácio de Whitehall, em que o rei confronta o espectador.[36]

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