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Edward VI of England

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Edward VI of England

of Southampton">Earldom of Southampton had evidently failed to buy off, and by his own brother.[63] Wriothesley, a religious conservative, objected to Somerset's assumption of monarchical power over the Council. He then found himself abruptly dismissed from the chancellorship on charges of selling off some of his offices to delegates.[64]

Thomas Seymour

Somerset faced less manageable opposition from his younger brother Thomas Seymour, who has been described as a "worm in the bud".[65] As King Edward's uncle, Thomas Seymour demanded the governorship of the king's person and a greater share of power.[66] Somerset tried to buy his brother off with a barony, an appointment to the Lord Admiralship, and a seat on the Privy Council—but Thomas was bent on scheming for power. He began smuggling pocket money to King Edward, telling him that Somerset held the purse strings too tight, making him a "beggarly king".[67] He also urged him to throw off the Protector within two years and "bear rule as other kings do"; but Edward, schooled to defer to the Council, failed to co-operate.[68] In the Spring of 1547, using Edward's support to circumvent Somerset's opposition, Thomas Seymour secretly married Henry VIII's widow Catherine Parr, whose Protestant household included the 11-year-old Lady Jane Grey and the 13-year-old Lady Elizabeth.[69]

In summer 1548, a pregnant Catherine Parr discovered Thomas Seymour embracing Lady Elizabeth.[70] As a result, Elizabeth was removed from Catherine Parr's household and transferred to Sir Anthony Denny's. That September, Catherine Parr died in childbirth, and Thomas Seymour promptly resumed his attentions to Elizabeth by letter, planning to marry her. Elizabeth was receptive, but, like Edward, unready to agree to anything unless permitted by the Council.[71] In January 1549, the Council had Thomas Seymour arrested on various charges, including embezzlement at the Bristol mint. King Edward, whom Seymour was accused of planning to marry to Lady Jane Grey, himself testified about the pocket money.[72] Lack of clear evidence for treason ruled out a trial, so Seymour was condemned instead by an Act of Attainder and beheaded on 20 March 1549.[73]


Somerset's only undoubted skill was as a soldier, which he had proven on expeditions to Scotland and in the defence of Boulogne-sur-Mer in 1546. From the first, his main interest as Protector was the war against Scotland.[74] After a crushing victory at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in September 1547, he set up a network of garrisons in Scotland, stretching as far north as Dundee.[75] His initial successes, however, were followed by a loss of direction, as his aim of uniting the realms through conquest became increasingly unrealistic. The Scots allied with France, who sent reinforcements for the defence of Edinburgh in 1548,[76] while Mary, Queen of Scots, was removed to France, where she was betrothed to the dauphin.[77] The cost of maintaining the Protector's massive armies and his permanent garrisons in Scotland also placed an unsustainable burden on the royal finances.[78] A French attack on Boulogne in August 1549 at last forced Somerset to begin a withdrawal from Scotland.[79]


 Formal portrait of the Duke of Somerset. He has a long thin face with a goatee beard and moustache of long fine straight reddish hair. His expression is wary. He wears his collar of the Order of the Garter.
Edward VI's uncle, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, ruled England in the name of his nephew as Lord Protector from 1547 to 1549.

During 1548, England was subject to social unrest. After April 1549, a series of armed revolts broke out, fuelled by various religious and agrarian grievances. The two most serious rebellions, which required major military intervention to put down, were in Devon and Cornwall and in Norfolk. The first, sometimes called the Prayer Book Rebellion, arose mainly from the imposition of church services in English, and the second, led by a tradesman called Robert Kett, mainly from the encroachment of landlords on common grazing ground.[80] A complex aspect of the social unrest was that the protesters believed they were acting legitimately against enclosing landlords with the Protector's support, convinced that the landlords were the lawbreakers.[81]

The same justification for outbreaks of unrest was voiced throughout the country, not only in Norfolk and the west. The origin of the popular view of Somerset as sympathetic to the rebel cause lies partly in his series of sometimes liberal, often contradictory, proclamations,[82] and partly in the uncoordinated activities of the commissions he sent out in 1548 and 1549 to investigate grievances about loss of tillage, encroachment of large sheep flocks on common land, and similar issues.[83] Somerset's commissions were led by an evangelical M.P. called John Hales, whose socially liberal rhetoric linked the issue of enclosure with Reformation theology and the notion of a godly commonwealth.[84] Local groups often assumed that the findings of these commissions entitled them to act against offending landlords themselves.[85] King Edward wrote in his Chronicle that the 1549 risings began "because certain commissions were sent down to pluck down enclosures".[86]

Whatever the popular view of Somerset, the disastrous events of 1549 were taken as evidence of a colossal failure of government, and the Council laid the responsibility at the Protector's door.[87] In July 1549, Paget wrote to Somerset: "Every man of the council have misliked your proceedings ... would to God, that, at the first stir you had followed the matter hotly, and caused justice to be ministered in solemn fashion to the terror of others ...".[88]

Fall of Somerset

The sequence of events that led to Somerset's removal from power has often been called a coup d'état.[87] By 1 October 1549, Somerset had been alerted that his rule faced a serious threat. He issued a proclamation calling for assistance, took possession of the king's person, and withdrew for safety to the fortified Windsor Castle, where Edward wrote, "Me thinks I am in prison".[89] Meanwhile, a united Council published details of Somerset's government mismanagement. They made clear that the Protector's power came from them, not from Henry VIII's will. On 11 October, the Council had Somerset arrested and brought the king to Richmond.[87] Edward summarised the charges against Somerset in his Chronicle: "ambition, vainglory, entering into rash wars in mine youth, negligent looking on Newhaven, enriching himself of my treasure, following his own opinion, and doing all by his own authority, etc."[90] In February 1550, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, emerged as the leader of the Council and, in effect, as Somerset's successor. Although Somerset was released from the Tower and restored to the Council, he was executed for felony in January 1552 after scheming to overthrow Dudley's regime.[91] Edward noted his uncle's death in his Chronicle: "the duke of Somerset had his head cut off upon Tower Hill between eight and nine o'clock in the morning".[92]

Historians contrast the efficiency of Somerset's takeover of power, in which they detect the organising skills of allies such as Paget, the "master of practices", with the subsequent ineptitude of his rule.[93] By autumn 1549, his costly wars had lost momentum, the crown faced financial ruin, and riots and rebellions had broken out around the country. Until recent decades, Somerset's reputation with historians was high, in view of his many proclamations that appeared to back the common people against a rapacious landowning class.[94] More recently, however, he has often been portrayed as an arrogant and aloof ruler, lacking in political and administrative skills.[95]

Northumberland's regime

Miniature portrait of the Earl of Warwick, richly dressed in a slashed doublet with the Order of the Garter on a ribbon round his neck. He is a handsome man with dark eyes and dark goatee beard.
John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, later 1st Duke of Northumberland, led the Privy Council after the downfall of Somerset

In contrast, Somerset's successor John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, made Duke of Northumberland in 1551, was once regarded by historians merely as a grasping schemer who cynically elevated and enriched himself at the expense of the crown.[96] Since the 1970s, the administrative and economic achievements of his regime have been recognised, and he has been credited with restoring the authority of the royal Council and returning the government to an even keel after the disasters of Somerset's protectorate.[97]

The Earl of Warwick's rival for leadership of the new regime was Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton, whose conservative supporters had allied with Dudley's followers to create a unanimous Council, which they, and observers such as the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V's ambassador, expected to reverse Somerset's policy of religious reform.[98] Warwick, on the other hand, pinned his hopes on the king's strong Protestantism and, claiming that Edward was old enough to rule in person, moved himself and his people closer to the king, taking control of the Privy Chamber.[99] Paget, accepting a barony, joined Warwick when he realised that a conservative policy would not bring the emperor onto the English side over Boulogne.[100] Southampton prepared a case for executing Somerset, aiming to discredit Warwick through Somerset's statements that he had done all with Warwick's co-operation. As a counter-move, Warwick convinced parliament to free Somerset, which it did on 14 January 1550. Warwick then had Southampton and his followers purged from the Council after winning the support of Council members in return for titles, and was made Lord President of the Council and great master of the king's household.[101] Although not called a Protector, he was now clearly the head of the government.[102]

As Edward was growing up, he was able to understand more and more government business. However, his actual involvement in decisions has long been a matter of debate, and during the 20th century, historians have presented the whole gamut of possibilities, "balanc[ing] an articulate puppet against a mature, precocious, and essentially adult king", in the words of Stephen Alford.[103] A special "Counsel for the Estate" was created when Edward was fourteen. Edward chose the members himself.[104] In the weekly meetings with this Council, Edward was "to hear the debating of things of most importance".[105] A major point of contact with the king was the Privy Chamber, and there Edward worked closely with William Cecil and William Petre, the Principal Secretaries.[106] The king's greatest influence was in matters of religion, where the Council followed the strongly Protestant policy that Edward favoured.[107]

The Duke of Northumberland's mode of operation was very different from Somerset's. Careful to make sure he always commanded a majority of councillors, he encouraged a working council and used it to legitimatise his authority. Lacking Somerset's blood-relationship with the king, he added members to the Council from his own faction in order to control it. He also added members of his family to the royal household.[108] He saw that to achieve personal dominance, he needed total procedural control of the Council.[109] In the words of historian John Guy, "Like Somerset, he became quasi-king; the difference was that he managed the bureaucracy on the pretence that Edward had assumed full sovereignty, whereas Somerset had asserted the right to near-sovereignty as Protector".[110]

Shilling with portrait of Edward VI, struck 1551-1553

Warwick's war policies were more pragmatic than Somerset's, and they have earned him criticism for weakness. In 1550, he signed a peace treaty with France that agreed to withdrawal from Boulogne and recalled all English garrisons from Scotland. In 1551, Edward was betrothed to Elisabeth of Valois, King Henry II's daughter.[111] In practice, he realised that England could no longer support the cost of wars.[112] At home, he took measures to police local unrest. To forestall future rebellions, he kept permanent representatives of the crown in the localities, including lords lieutenant, who commanded military forces and reported back to central government.[113]

Working with William Paulet and Walter Mildmay, Warwick tackled the disastrous state of the kingdom's finances.[114] However, his regime first succumbed to the temptations of a quick profit by further debasing the coinage.[115] The economic disaster that resulted caused Warwick to hand the initiative to the expert Thomas Gresham. By 1552, confidence in the coinage was restored, prices fell, and trade at last improved. Though a full economic recovery was not achieved until Elizabeth's reign, its origins lay in the Duke of Northumberland's policies.[116] The regime also cracked down on widespread embezzlement of government finances, and carried out a thorough review of revenue collection practices, which has been called "one of the more remarkable achievements of Tudor administration".[117]


In the matter of religion, the regime of Northumberland followed the same policy as that of Somerset, supporting an increasingly vigorous programme of reform.[118] Although Edward VI's practical influence on government was limited, his intense Protestantism made a reforming administration obligatory; his succession was managed by the reforming faction, who continued in power throughout his reign. The man Edward trusted most, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, introduced a series of religious reforms that revolutionised the English church from one that—while rejecting papal supremacy—remained essentially Catholic, to one that was institutionally Protestant. The confiscation of church property that had begun under Henry VIII resumed under Edward—notably with the dissolution of the chantries—to the great monetary advantage of the crown and the new owners of the seized property.[119] Church reform was therefore as much a political as a religious policy under Edward VI.[120] By the end of his reign, the church had been financially ruined, with much of the property of the bishops transferred into lay hands.[121]

The religious convictions of both Somerset and Northumberland have proved elusive for historians, who are divided on the sincerity of their Protestantism.[122] There is less doubt, however, about the religious fervour[123] of King Edward, who was said to have read twelve chapters of scripture daily and enjoyed sermons, and was commemorated by John Foxe as a "godly imp".[124] Edward was depicted during his life and afterwards as a new Josiah, the biblical king who destroyed the idols of Baal.[125] He could be priggish in his anti-Catholicism and once asked Catherine Parr to persuade Lady Mary "to attend no longer to foreign dances and merriments which do not become a most Christian princess".[19] Edward's biographer Jennifer Loach cautions, however, against accepting too readily the pious image of Edward handed down by the reformers, as in John Foxe's influential Acts and Monuments, where a woodcut depicts the young king listening to a sermon by Hugh Latimer.[126] In the early part of his life, Edward conformed to the prevailing Catholic practices, including attendance at mass: but he became convinced, under the influence of Cranmer and the reformers among his tutors and courtiers, that "true" religion should be imposed in England.[127]

Portrait of Archbishop Cranmer as an elderly man. He has a long face with a flowing white beard, large nose, dark eyes and rosy cheeks. He wears clerical robes with a black mantle over full white sleeves and has a doctoral cap on his head
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, exerted a powerful influence on Edward's Protestantism.

The English Reformation advanced under pressure from two directions: from the traditionalists on the one hand and the zealots on the other, who led incidents of iconoclasm (image-smashing) and complained that reform did not go far enough. Reformed doctrines were made official, such as justification by faith alone and communion for laity as well as clergy in both kinds, of bread and wine.[128] The Ordinal of 1550 replaced the divine ordination of priests with a government-run appointment system, authorising ministers to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments rather than, as before, "to offer sacrifice and celebrate mass both for the living and the dead".[129] Cranmer set himself the task of writing a uniform liturgy in English, detailing all weekly and daily services and religious festivals, to be made compulsory in the first Act of Uniformity of 1549.[130] The Book of Common Prayer of 1549, intended as a compromise, was attacked by traditionalists for dispensing with many cherished rituals of the liturgy, such as the elevation of the bread and wine,[131] while some reformers complained about the retention of too many "popish" elements, including vestiges of sacrificial rites at communion.[132] The prayer book was also opposed by many senior Catholic clerics, including Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London, who were both imprisoned in the Tower and, along with others, deprived of their sees.[99]

After 1551, the Reformation advanced further, with the approval and encouragement of Edward, who began to exert more personal influence in his role as Supreme Head of the church.[133] The new changes were also a response to criticism from such reformers as John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester, and the Scot John Knox, who was employed as a minister in Newcastle under the Duke of Northumberland and whose preaching at court prompted the king to oppose kneeling at communion.[134] Cranmer was also influenced by the views of the continental reformer Martin Bucer, who died in England in 1551, by Peter Martyr, who was teaching at Oxford, and by other foreign theologians.[135] The progress of the Reformation was further speeded by the consecration of more reformers as bishops.[136] In the winter of 1551–52, Cranmer rewrote the Book of Common Prayer in less ambiguous reformist terms, revised canon law, and prepared a doctrinal statement, the Forty-two Articles, to clarify the practice of the reformed religion, particularly in the divisive matter of the communion service.[137] Cranmer's formulation of the reformed religion, finally divesting the communion service of any notion of the real presence of God in the bread and the wine, effectively abolished the mass.[138] According to Elton, the publication of Cranmer's revised prayer book in 1552, supported by a second Act of Uniformity, "marked the arrival of the English Church at protestantism".[139] The prayer book of 1552 remains the foundation of the Church of England's services.[140] However, Cranmer was unable to implement all these reforms once it became clear in spring 1553 that King Edward, upon whom the whole Reformation in England depended, was dying.[141]

Succession crisis

Devise for the succession

 A letter written in pen and ink, with irregular writing and several alterations
In his "devise for the succession", Edward passed over his sisters' claims to the throne in favour of Lady Jane Grey. In the fourth line, he altered "L Janes heires masles" to "L Jane and her heires masles" (Lady Jane and her male heirs).

In February 1553, Edward VI became ill, and by June, after several improvements and relapses, he was in a hopeless condition.[142] The king's death and the succession of his Catholic half-sister Mary would jeopardise the English Reformation and Edward's Council and officers had many reasons to fear it.[143] Edward himself opposed Mary's succession, not only on religious grounds but also on those of legitimacy and male inheritance, which also applied to Elizabeth.[144] He composed a draft document, headed "My devise for the succession", in which he undertook to change the succession, most probably inspired by his father Henry VIII's precedent.[145] He passed over the claims of his half-sisters and, at last, settled the Crown on his first cousin once removed, the 16-year-old Lady Jane Grey, who on 25 May 1553 had married Lord Guilford Dudley, a younger son of the Duke of Northumberland.[146]

In his document Edward provided, in case of "lack of issue of my body", for the succession of male heirs only, that is, Jane Grey's mother's, Jane's or her sisters'.[147] As his death approached and possibly persuaded by Northumberland,[148] he altered the wording so that Jane and her sisters themselves should be able to succeed. Yet Edward conceded Jane's right only as an exception to male rule, demanded by reality, an example not to be followed if Jane or her sisters had only daughters.[149] In the final document both Mary and Elizabeth were excluded because of bastardy[150] since both had been declared bastards under Henry VIII and never made legitimate again, this reason could be advanced for both sisters.[151] The provisions to alter the succession directly contravened Henry VIII's Third Succession Act of 1543 and have been described as bizarre and illogical.[152]

 A stiff Elizabethan-style three-quarter portrait of Lady Jane Grey wearing elaborate formal dress and holding a prayer book. She is a tall, pale, rather horsey-faced young woman.
Lady Jane Grey, who was proclaimed queen four days after Edward's death

In early June, Edward personally supervised the drafting of a clean version of his devise by lawyers, to which he lent his signature "in six several places."[153] Then, on 15 June he summoned high ranking judges to his sickbed, commanding them on their allegiance "with sharp words and angry countenance" to prepare his devise as letters patent and announced that he would have these passed in parliament.[154] His next measure was to have leading councillors and lawyers sign a bond in his presence, in which they agreed faithfully to perform Edward's will after his death.[155] A few months later, Chief Justice Edward Montagu recalled that when he and his colleagues had raised legal objections to the devise, Northumberland had threatened them "trembling for anger, and ... further said that he would fight in his shirt with any man in that quarrel".[156] Montagu also overheard a group of lords standing behind him conclude "if they refused to do that, they were traitors".[157] At last, on 21 June, the devise was signed by over a hundred notables, including councillors, peers, archbishops, bishops, and sheriffs;[158] many of them later claimed that they had been bullied into doing so by Northumberland, although in the words of Edward's biographer Jennifer Loach, "few of them gave any clear indication of reluctance at the time".[159]

It was now common knowledge that Edward was dying and foreign diplomats suspected that some scheme to debar Mary was under way. France found the prospect of the emperor's cousin on the English throne disagreeable and engaged in secret talks with Northumberland, indicating support.[160] The diplomats were certain that the overwhelming majority of the English people backed Mary, but nevertheless believed that Queen Jane would be successfully established.[161]

For centuries, the attempt to alter the succession was mostly seen as a one-man-plot by the Duke of Northumberland.[162] Since the 1970s, however, many historians have attributed the inception of the "devise" and the insistence on its implementation to the king's initiative.[163] Diarmaid MacCulloch has made out Edward's "teenage dreams of founding an evangelical realm of Christ",[164] while David Starkey has stated that "Edward had a couple of co-operators, but the driving will was his".[165] Among other members of the Privy Chamber, Northumberland's intimate Sir John Gates has been suspected of suggesting to Edward to change his devise so that Lady Jane Grey herself—not just any sons of hers—could inherit the Crown.[166] Whatever the degree of his contribution, Edward was convinced that his word was law[167] and fully endorsed disinheriting his half-sisters: "barring Mary from the succession was a cause in which the young King believed."[168]

Illness and death

Edward became ill during January 1553 with a fever and cough that gradually worsened. The imperial ambassador, [169] Edward felt well enough in early April to take the air in the park at Westminster and to move to Greenwich, but by the end of the month he had weakened again. By 7 May he was "much amended" and the royal doctors had no doubt of his recovery. A few days later the king was watching the ships on the Thames, sitting at his window.[170] However, he relapsed, and on 11 June Scheyfve, who had an informant in the king's household, reported that "the matter he ejects from his mouth is sometimes coloured a greenish yellow and black, sometimes pink, like the colour of blood".[171] Now his doctors believed he was suffering from "a suppurating tumour" of the lung and admitted that Edward's life was beyond recovery.[172] Soon, his legs became so swollen that he had to lie on his back, and he lost the strength to resist the disease. To his tutor John Cheke, he whispered "I am glad to die".[173]

Edward made his final appearance in public on 1 July, when he showed himself at his window in Greenwich Palace, horrifying those who saw him by his "thin and wasted" condition. During the next two days, large crowds arrived hoping to see the king again, but on the 3rd, they were told that the weather was too chilly for him to appear. Edward died at the age of 15 at Greenwich Palace on 6 July 1553. According to John Foxe's legendary account of his death, his last words were: "I am faint; Lord have mercy upon me, and take my spirit".[174] He was buried in Henry VII Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey on 8 August 1553, with reformed rites performed by Thomas Cranmer. The procession was led by "a grett company of chylderyn in ther surples" and watched by Londoners "wepyng and lamenting"; the funeral chariot, draped in cloth of gold, was topped by an effigy of Edward, with crown, sceptre, and garter.[175]

The cause of Edward VI's death is not certain. As with many royal deaths in the 16th century, rumours of poisoning abounded, but no evidence has been found to support these.[176] The Duke of Northumberland, whose unpopularity was underlined by the events that followed Edward's death, was widely believed to have ordered the imagined poisoning.[177] Another theory held that Edward had been poisoned by Catholics seeking to bring Mary to the throne.[178] The surgeon who opened Edward's chest after his death found that "the disease whereof his majesty died was the disease of the lungs".[179] The Venetian ambassador reported that Edward had died of consumption—in other words, tuberculosis—a diagnosis accepted by many historians.[180] Skidmore believes that Edward contracted the tuberculosis after a bout of measles and smallpox in 1552 that suppressed his natural immunity to the disease.[179] Loach suggests instead that his symptoms were typical of acute bronchopneumonia, leading to a "suppurating pulmonary infection" or lung abscess, septicaemia, and kidney failure.[181]

Queen Jane and Queen Mary

A formal seated portrait in the Spanish style of Mary I. She has a sallow fleshy face with reddish-brown hair and light eyes. Her mouth is firmly set and her eyes wary. She wears a dress of fine dark brown fur over a brocade underskirt heavily patterned in the florentine style. Her cap is bordered with jewels and pearls. Much of her jewellery is grey pearls. She holds a pair of kid gloves and a rose.
Mary I, by Antonis Mor, 1554

Lady Mary, who had last seen Edward in February, was kept informed about the state of her brother's health by Northumberland and through her contacts with the imperial ambassadors.[182] Aware of Edward's imminent death, she left Hunsdon House, near London, and sped to her estates around Kenninghall in Norfolk, where she could count on the support of her tenants.[183] Northumberland sent ships to the Norfolk coast to prevent her escape or the arrival of reinforcements 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.[184] On the same day, she was proclaimed queen in the streets of London, to murmurings of discontent. The Privy Council received a message from Mary asserting her "right and title" to the throne and commanding that the Council proclaim her queen, as she had already proclaimed herself.[185] The Council replied that Jane was queen by Edward's authority and that Mary, by contrast, was illegitimate and supported only by "a few lewd, base people".[186]

Northumberland soon realised that he had miscalculated drastically, not least in failing to secure Mary's person before Edward's death.[187] Although many of those who rallied to Mary were conservatives hoping for the defeat of Protestantism, her supporters also included many for whom her lawful claim to the throne overrode religious considerations.[188] Northumberland was obliged to relinquish control of a nervous Council in London and launch an unplanned pursuit of Mary into East Anglia, from where news was arriving of her growing support, which included a number of nobles and gentlemen and "innumerable companies of the common people".[189] On 14 July Northumberland marched out of London with three thousand men, reaching Cambridge the next day; meanwhile, Mary rallied her forces at Framlingham Castle in Suffolk, gathering an army of nearly twenty thousand by 19 July.[190]

It now dawned on the Privy Council that it had made a terrible mistake. Led by the Earl of Arundel and the Earl of Pembroke, on 19 July the Council publicly proclaimed Mary as queen; Jane's nine-day reign came to an end. The proclamation triggered wild rejoicing throughout London.[191] Stranded in Cambridge, Northumberland proclaimed Mary himself—as he had been commanded to do by a letter from the Council.[192] William Paget and the Earl of Arundel rode to Framlingham to beg Mary's pardon, and Arundel arrested Northumberland on 24 July. Northumberland was beheaded on 22 August, shortly after renouncing Protestantism.[193] His recantation dismayed his daughter-in-law, Jane, who followed him to the scaffold on 12 February 1554, after her father's involvement in Wyatt's rebellion.[194]

Protestant legacy

A contemporary woodcut of Hugh Latimer preaching to King Edward and a crowd of courtiers from a pulpit in the privy garden at the Palace of Whitehall. Published in John Foxe's Acts and Monuments in 1563.[195]

Although Edward reigned for only six years and died at the age of 15, his reign made a lasting contribution to the English Reformation and the structure of the Church of England.[196] The last decade of Henry VIII's reign had seen a partial stalling of the Reformation, a drifting back to more conservative values.[197] By contrast, Edward's reign saw radical progress in the Reformation. In those six years, the Church transferred from an essentially Roman Catholic liturgy and structure to one that is usually identified as Protestant.[198] In particular, the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal of 1550, and Cranmer's Forty-two Articles formed the basis for English Church practices that continue to this day.[199] Edward himself fully approved these changes, and though they were the work of reformers such as Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, and Nicholas Ridley, backed by Edward's determinedly evangelical Council, the fact of the king's religion was a catalyst in the acceleration of the Reformation during his reign.[200]

Queen Mary's attempts to undo the reforming work of her brother's reign faced major obstacles. Despite her belief in the papal supremacy, she ruled constitutionally as the Supreme Head of the English Church, a contradiction under which she bridled.[201] She found herself entirely unable to restore the vast number of ecclesiastical properties handed over or sold to private landowners.[202] Although she burned a number of leading Protestant churchmen, many reformers either went into exile or remained subversively active in England during her reign, producing a torrent of reforming propaganda that she was unable to stem.[203] Nevertheless, Protestantism was not yet "printed in the stomachs" of the English people,[204] and had Mary lived longer, her Catholic reconstruction might have succeeded, leaving Edward's reign, rather than hers, as a historical aberration.[205]

On Mary's death in 1558, the English Reformation resumed its course, and most of the reforms instituted during Edward's reign were reinstated in the Elizabethan Religious Settlement. Queen Elizabeth replaced Mary's councillors and bishops with ex-Edwardians, such as William Cecil, Northumberland's former secretary, and Richard Cox, Edward's old tutor, who preached an anti-Catholic sermon at the opening of parliament in 1559.[206] Parliament passed an Act of Uniformity the following spring that restored, with modifications, Cranmer's prayer book of 1552;[207] and the Thirty-nine Articles of 1563 were largely based on Cranmer's Forty-two Articles. The theological developments of Edward's reign provided a vital source of reference for Elizabeth's religious policies, though the internationalism of the Edwardian Reformation was never revived.[208]


Family tree

John Seymour
d. 1536
Margery Wentworth
d. 1550
Henry VII,
King of England

Elizabeth of York
Edward Seymour
d. 1552
Thomas Seymour
d. 1549
Jane Seymour
d. 1537
Henry VIII,
King of England

Edward VI,
King of England
Mary I, Queen
of England

Elizabeth I,
Queen of England

James V,
King of Scots

Frances Brandon
Mary I,
Queen of Scots

Jane Grey


See also


  1. ^ Henry VIII had replaced the style "Lord of Ireland" with "King of Ireland" in 1541; Edward also maintained the English claim to the French throne but did not rule France. See Scarisbrick 1971, pp. 548–49, and Lydon 1998, p. 119.
  2. ^ Foister 2006, p. 100
  3. ^ Loach 1999, p. 4
  4. ^ Hugh Latimer, bishop of Worcester, quoted by Erickson 1978, p. 181
  5. ^ a b Loach 1999, pp. 5–6
  6. ^ Erickson 1978, p. 182
  7. ^ Skidmore 2007, p. 20
  8. ^ Strong 1969, p. 92; Hearn 1995, p. 50.
  9. ^ a b Loach 1999, p. 8
  10. ^ e.g.: Elton 1977, p. 372; Loach 1999, p. 161; MacCulloch 2002, p. 21
  11. ^ Skidmore 2007, p. 27. A fever recurring about every four days, today usually associated with malaria.
  12. ^ Skidmore 2007, pp. 33, 177, 223–34, 260. Edward was also ill in 1550 and "of the measles and the smallpox" in 1552.
  13. ^ Skidmore 2007, p. 22; Jordan 1968, pp. 37–38
  14. ^ Skidmore 2007, p. 23; Jordan 1968, pp. 38–39
  15. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 9–11
  16. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 11–12; Jordan 1968, p. 42. For example, he read biblical texts, Cato, Aesop's Fables, and Vives's Satellitium Vivis, which were written for his sister, Mary.
  17. ^ Jordan 1968, p. 40; MacCulloch 2002, p. 8
  18. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 13–16; MacCulloch 2002, pp. 26–30
  19. ^ a b Skidmore 2007, p. 38
  20. ^ Skidmore 2007, p. 26
  21. ^ Skidmore 2007, pp. 38–37; Loach 1999, p. 16
  22. ^ Mackie 1952, pp. 413–14; Guy 1988, p. 196. Mary and Elizabeth remained technically illegitimate, succeeding to the crown due to Henry's nomination. They could lose their rights, for example by marrying without the consent of the Privy Council: Ives 2009, pp. 142–143; Loades 1996, p. 231.
  23. ^ Starkey 2004, p. 720
  24. ^ Skidmore 2007, p. 34
  25. ^ Skidmore 2007, pp. 28–29
  26. ^ Jordan 1968, p. 44
  27. ^ Skidmore 2007, pp. 35–36
  28. ^ Skidmore 2007, p. 36; Strong 1969, p. 92. Such portraits were modelled on Holbein's depiction of Henry VIII for a wall-painting at Whitehall in 1537, in which Henry confronts the viewer, wearing a dagger. See Remigius van Leemput's 1667 copy of the mural, which was destroyed in a fire in 1698.
  29. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 53–54 see Jordan 1966 for full text
  30. ^ This miniature, formerly attributed to Hans Holbein the Younger and one of several versions derived from the same pattern, is now thought likely to be by a follower of William Scrots. The background inscription gives Edward's age as six, but this has been doubted after x-rays of the underpainting. See Strong 1969, pp. 92–93, and Rowlands 1985, pp. 235–36.
  31. ^ Skidmore 2007, p. 30
  32. ^ Wormald 2001, p. 58
  33. ^ "His detailed reports to his master are a hideous record of fire and bloodshed, chronicled in the most factual and laconic manner." Wormald 2001, p. 59
  34. ^ Strype, John, Ecclesiastical Memorials, vol 2,part 2, (1822), 507–509, 'tua effigies ad vivum expressa.'
  35. ^ Jordan 1968, pp. 51–52; Loades 2004, p. 28
  36. ^ a b Loach 1999, p. 29
  37. ^ Jordan 1968, p. 52
  38. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 30–38
  39. ^ Jordan 1968, pp. 65–66; Loach 1999, pp. 35–37
  40. ^ Loach 1999, p. 33
  41. ^ Skidmore 2007, p. 59
  42. ^ Skidmore 2007, p. 61; MacCulloch 2002, p. 62
  43. ^ Jordan 1968, p. 67
  44. ^ Jordan 1968, pp. 65–69; Loach 1999, pp. 29–38
  45. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 17–18; Jordan 1968, p. 56
  46. ^ Starkey 2002, pp. 130–145
  47. ^ Starkey 2002, pp. 130–145; Elton 1977, pp. 330–31
  48. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 19–25. In addressing these views, Loach cites, among others: G. Redworth, In Defence of the Church Catholic: the Life of Stephen Gardiner (Oxford, 1990), 231–37; Susan Brigden, "Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, and the Conjoured League", Historical Journal, xxxvii (1994), 507–37; and Eric Ives, "Henry VIII's Will: A Forensic Conundrum", Historical Journal (1992), 792–99.
  49. ^ a b Loach 1999, pp. 19–25
  50. ^ Starkey 2002, p. 142; Elton 1977, p. 332. David Starkey describes this distribution of benefits as typical of "the shameless back-scratching of the alliance"; G. R. Elton calls the changes to the will "convenient".
  51. ^ Aston 1993; Loach 1999, p. 187; Hearn 1995, pp. 75–76
  52. ^ Starkey 2002, pp. 138–39; Alford 2002, p. 69. The existence of a council of executors alongside the Privy Council was rationalised in March when the two became one, incorporating the executors and most of their appointed assistants and adding Thomas Seymour, who had protested at his exclusion from power.
  53. ^ MacCulloch 2002, p. 7; Alford 2002, p. 65
  54. ^ Starkey 2002, pp. 138–39; Alford 2002, p. 67
  55. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 26–27; Elton 1962, p. 203
  56. ^ In 1549, Paget was to remind Seymour: "Remember what you promised me in the gallery at Westminster before the breath was out of the body of the king that dead is. Remember what you promised immediately after, devising with me concerning the place which you now occupy ... and that was to follow mine advice in all your proceedings more than any other man's". Quoted in Guy 1988, p. 211
  57. ^ Alford 2002, pp. 67–68
  58. ^ Alford 2002, pp. 49–50, 91–92; Elton 1977, p. 333. Uncles of the king had been made Protector in 1422 and 1483 during the minorities of Henry VI and Edward V (though not also Governor of the King's Person, as Seymour's brother Thomas, who coveted the role for himself, pointed out).
  59. ^ Alford 2002, p. 70 ; Jordan 1968, pp. 73–75. In 1549, William Paget described him as king in all but name.
  60. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 334, 338
  61. ^ Alford 2002, p. 66
  62. ^ Jordan 1968, pp. 69, 76–77; Skidmore 2007, pp. 63–65
  63. ^ Elton 1977, p. 333
  64. ^ Loades 2004, pp. 33–34; Elton 1977, p. 333
  65. ^ Loades 2004, p. 34
  66. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 333, 346.
  67. ^ Loades 2004, p. 36
  68. ^ Loades 2004, pp. 36–37; Brigden 2000, p. 182
  69. ^ Erickson 1978, p. 234
  70. ^ Somerset 1997, p. 23
  71. ^ Loades 2004, pp. 37–38
  72. ^ Loades 2004, pp. 40–41; Alford 2002, pp. 96–97
  73. ^ Alford 2002, pp. 91–97
  74. ^ Brigden 2000, p. 183; MacCulloch 2002, p. 42
  75. ^ Mackie 1952, p. 484
  76. ^ Mackie 1952, p. 485
  77. ^ Wormald 2001, p. 62; Loach 1999, pp. 52–53. The dauphin was the future Francis II of France, son of Henry II of France.
  78. ^ Brigden 2000, p. 183
  79. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 340–41
  80. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 70–83
  81. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 347–350; Loach 1999, pp. 66–67, 86. For example, in Hereford, a man was recorded as saying that "by the king's proclamation all enclosures were to be broken up".
  82. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 60–61, 66–68, 89; Elton 1962, p. 207. Some proclamations expressed sympathy for the victims of enclosure and announced action; some condemned the destruction of enclosures and associated riots; another announced pardons for those who had destroyed enclosures by mistake ("of folly and of mistaking") after misunderstanding the meaning of proclamations, so long as they were sorry.
  83. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 61–66.
  84. ^ MacCulloch 2002, pp. 49–51; Dickens 1967, p. 310
  85. ^ "Their aim was not to bring down government, but to help it correct the faults of local magistrates and identify the ways in which England could be reformed." MacCulloch 2002, p. 126
  86. ^ Loach 1999, p. 85
  87. ^ a b c Elton 1977, p. 350
  88. ^ Loach 1999, p. 87
  89. ^ Brigden 2000, p. 192
  90. ^ Quoted in Loach 1999, p. 91. By "Newhaven" is meant Ambleteuse, near Boulogne.
  91. ^ Guy 1988, pp. 212–15; Loach 1999, pp. 101–102
  92. ^ Loach 1999, p. 102
  93. ^ MacCulloch 2002, p. 104; Dickens 1967, p. 279
  94. ^ Elton 1977, p. 333n; Alford 2002, p. 65. A. F. Pollard took this line in the early 20th century, echoed later by Edward VI's 1960s biographer W. K. Jordan. A more critical approach was initiated by M. L. Bush and Dale Hoak in the 1970s.
  95. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 334–350
  96. ^ Hoak 1980, pp. 31–32; MacCulloch 2002, p. 42
  97. ^ Alford 2002, p. 25; Hoak 1980, pp. 42, 51
  98. ^ Loach 1999, p. 92
  99. ^ a b Brigden 2000, p. 193
  100. ^ Elton 1977, p. 351
  101. ^ Guy 1988, p. 213; Hoak 1980, pp. 38–39. Hoak explains that the office of Lord President gave its holder the right to create and dismiss councillors, as well as to call and dissolve Council meetings.
  102. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 350–352
  103. ^ Alford 2002, p. 157
  104. ^ Alford 2002, pp. 162–165
  105. ^ Alford 2002, p. 162
  106. ^ Alford 2002, pp. 165–166
  107. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 354, 371
  108. ^ Loach 1999, p. 94.
  109. ^ Hoak 1980, pp. 36–37
  110. ^ Guy 1988, p. 215
  111. ^ Guy 1988, pp. 218–19; Loach 1999, p. 108. Edward sent Elisabeth a "fair diamond" from Catherine Parr's collection.
  112. ^ Loach 1999, p. 113; MacCulloch 2002, p. 55
  113. ^ Elton 1977, p. 355; Loach 1999, p. 105
  114. ^ Elton 1977, p. 355
  115. ^ Loach 1999, p. 110; Hoak 1980, p. 41
  116. ^ Elton 1977, p. 356
  117. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 357–58
  118. ^ MacCulloch 2002, p. 56
  119. ^ Dickens 1967, pp. 287–93
  120. ^ Elton 1962, pp. 204–205; MacCulloch 2002, p. 8
  121. ^ Elton 1962, p. 210
  122. ^ Haigh 1993, pp. 169–171; Elton 1962, p. 210; Guy 1988, p. 219; Loades 2004, p. 135; Skidmore 2007, pp. 286–87.
  123. ^ Mackie 1952, p. 524; Elton 1977, p. 354
  124. ^ Brigden 2000, p. 180; Skidmore 2007, p. 6
  125. ^ MacCulloch 2002, p. 14
  126. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 180–81; MacCulloch 2002, pp. 21–29. Loach points out, following Jordan, that Edward's Chronicle records nothing of his religious views and mentions no sermons; MacCulloch counters that Edward's notebook of sermons, which was once archived and documented, has since been lost.
  127. ^ Brigden 2000, pp. 180–81
  128. ^ Brigden 2000, pp. 188–89
  129. ^ Mackie 1952, p. 517; Elton 1977, p. 360; Haigh 1993, p. 168
  130. ^ Elton 1977, p. 345
  131. ^ Brigden 2000, p. 190; Haigh 1993, p. 174; Dickens 1967, p. 305. One of the grievances of the western prayer-book rebels in 1549 was that the new service seemed "like a Christmas game".
  132. ^
  133. ^ Brigden 2000, p. 195
  134. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 361, 365
  135. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 361–62; Haigh 1993, pp. 179–80; Dickens 1967, pp. 318–25, 40–42
  136. ^ Haigh 1993, p. 178. Notable among the new bishops were John Ponet, who succeeded Gardiner at Winchester, Myles Coverdale at Exeter, and John Hooper at Gloucester.
  137. ^ Dickens 1967, pp. 340–49
  138. ^ Brigden 2000, pp. 196–97; Elton 1962, p. 212
  139. ^ " The Prayer Book of 1552, the Ordinal of 1550, which it took over, the act of uniformity which made the Prayer Book the only legal form of worship, and the Forty-two Articles binding upon all Englishmen, clerical and lay—these between them comprehended the protestant Reformation in England." Elton 1962, p. 212
  140. ^ Elton 1977, p. 365
  141. ^ Elton 1977, p. 366. Edward approved the Forty-two Articles in June 1553, too late for them to be introduced—they later became the basis of Elizabeth I's Thirty-nine Articles of 1563. Cranmer's revision of canon law, Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum, was never authorised by king or parliament.
  142. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 159–162
  143. ^ Starkey 2001, pp. 111–112
  144. ^ Starkey 2001, pp. 112–113; Loades 1996, p. 232
  145. ^ Ives 2009, pp. 142–144
  146. ^ Ives 2009, p. 321; Loades 1996, pp. 238–239
  147. ^ Ives 2009, pp. 137, 139–140. In case there were no male heirs at the time of his death, England should have no king, but Jane's mother, Frances Grey, Duchess of Suffolk, should act as regent until the birth of a royal male. Edward made detailed provisions for a minority rule, stipulated at what age the male rulers were to take power, and left open the possibility of his having children. Ives 2009, pp. 137–139; Alford 2002, pp. 172–173; Loades 1996, p. 231.
  148. ^ Loades 1996, p. 240
  149. ^ Ives 2009, pp. 147, 150. 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.Ives 2009, pp. 157, 35
  150. ^ Ives 2009, p. 167
  151. ^ Jordan 1970, p. 515; Elton 1977, p. 373n16
  152. ^ Loach 1999, p. 163; Jordan 1970, p. 515
  153. ^ Ives 2009, pp. 145, 314
  154. ^ Loach 1999, p. 164; Dale Hoak. "Edward VI (1537–1553)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2010.  (subscription required)
  155. ^ Ives 2009, pp. 160–161
  156. ^ Ives 2009, pp. 105, 147; Loades 1996, p. 241
  157. ^ Ives 2009, p. 160
  158. ^ Ives 2009, p. 161
  159. ^ Loach 1999, p. 165
  160. ^ Loach 1999, p. 166; Loades 1996, pp. 254–255
  161. ^ Loades 1996, pp. 256–257
  162. ^ Ives 2009, p. 128
  163. ^ e.g.: Jordan 1970, pp. 514–517; Loades 1996, pp. 239–241; Starkey 2001, pp. 112–114; MacCulloch 2002, pp. 39–41; Alford 2002, pp. 171–174; Skidmore 2007, pp. 247–250; Ives 2009, pp. 136–142, 145–148; Dale Hoak. "Edward VI (1537–1553)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2010.  (subscription required)
  164. ^ MacCulloch 2002, p. 41
  165. ^ Starkey 2001, p. 112
  166. ^ Dale Hoak (2004). "Edward VI (1537–1553)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press; online edn, Jan 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2010.  (subscription required)
  167. ^ Mackie 1952, p. 524
  168. ^ Hoak 1980, p. 49.
  169. ^ Skidmore 2007, pp. 244–45
  170. ^ Loades 1996, p. 238
  171. ^ Loach 1999, p. 159
  172. ^ Loach 1999, p. 160; Skidmore 2007, p. 254
  173. ^ Skidmore 2007, p. 254
  174. ^ Skidmore 2007, p. 258; Loach 1999, p. 167. See Foxe's Acts and monuments, VI, 352.
  175. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 167–69
  176. ^ Loach 1999, p. 160; Jordan 1970, p. 520n1
  177. ^ Dickens 1967, p. 352
  178. ^ Skidmore 2007, pp. 258–59
  179. ^ a b Skidmore 2007, p. 260
  180. ^ Loach 1999, p. 161
  181. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 159–62
  182. ^ Loades 1996, pp. 239–240, 237
  183. ^ Loades 1996, pp. 257, 258
  184. ^ Jordan 1970, p. 521
  185. ^ Erickson 1978, pp. 290–91; Tittler 1991, p. 8
  186. ^ Jordan 1970, p. 522
  187. ^ Elton 1977, p. 375; Dickens 1967, p. 353
  188. ^ Jordan 1970, p. 524; Elton 1977, p. 375
  189. ^ Erickson 1978, p. 291
  190. ^ Tittler 1991, p. 10; Erickson 1978, pp. 292–93
  191. ^ Jordan 1970, pp. 529–30
  192. ^ Loades 2004, p. 134
  193. ^ Loades 2004, pp. 134–35
  194. ^ Tittler 1991, p. 11; Erickson 1978, pp. 357–58
  195. ^ MacCulloch 2002, pp. 21–25, 107
  196. ^ MacCulloch 2002, p. 12
  197. ^ Scarisbrick 1971, pp. 545–47
  198. ^ 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". MacCulloch 2002, p. 2
  199. ^ Elton 1962, p. 212; Skidmore 2007, pp. 8–9
  200. ^ MacCulloch 2002, p. 8
  201. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 378, 383
  202. ^ Elton 1962, pp. 216–219
  203. ^ Haigh 1993, p. 223; Elton 1977, pp. 382–83
  204. ^ Loach 1999, p. 182; Haigh 1993, p. 175
  205. ^ Haigh 1993, p. 235
  206. ^ Haigh 1993, p. 238
  207. ^ Somerset 1997, p. 101
  208. ^ Loach 1999, p. 182; MacCulloch 2002, p. 79


Further reading

External links

Edward VI of England
Born: 12 October 1537 Died: 6 July 1553
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Henry VIII
King of England and Ireland
28 January 1547 – 6 July 1553
Succeeded by
Jane (disputed)
Mary I
Peerage of England
Title last held by
Henry of Greenwich
Prince of Wales
Title next held by
Henry Frederick
Title last held by
Duke of Cornwall
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