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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Birth of the last Tudor king and accession to the throne
- Reign of Edward VI
- Death of Edward VI
KEY FACTS AND INFORMATION
Let’s know more about Edward VI!
- The last Tudor king, Edward VI was born to King Henry VIII and Queen Jane Seymour on 12 October 1537. The death of the queen came only twelve days after his birth. At the age of nine, he became a royal orphan when King Henry VIII died. As the heir to the throne, Edward VI was crowned and began his short reign of the Kingdom of England and its realms. Whilst the young king left most of the governmental duties to his protector, his influence in matters of religion made the English Reformation successful during his reign.
Birth of the last Tudor king and accession to the throne
- Edward VI was the son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour. He was born on 12 October 1537, and was christened in the chapel at Hampton Court three days later. His mother died only twelve days after giving birth to him. Jane Seymour, third wife of King Henry VIII, was the only queen consort who gave birth to a son. This meant Edward VI was the only male Tudor heir of his generation. The people welcomed the birth of the prince "whom we hungered for so long" with triumph.
- Edward’s half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, were attentive and cheerful towards him during their occasional visits.
- Edward became fond of the king’s new wife, Catherine Parr, and referred to her as his “most dear mother”.
- At the age of six, he was taught the scripture, philosophy and liberal sciences by Dr. Richard Cox, Sir John Cheke and Sir Anthony Cooke.
- John Belmaine then taught Edward the French language, and Roger Ascham the penmanship.
- Edward was more dedicated to his schoolwork than his companions, who were children with noble standing.
- In addition, Edward’s religious upbringing favoured the reforming agenda and was probably established by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.
- He dedicated himself to the study of music by learning how to sing and play the lute.
- When King Henry VIII employed the Flemish musician Philip van Wilder, he wanted his son to fully appreciate such art and encourage him to learn how to compose music.
- Although it is commonly believed that Edward was a frail, unhealthy boy, the child-king was actually in good health, robust and athletic, with a keen interest in Greek, Latin, French and theology.
- Apart from suffering from quartan fever in 1541 and measles in 1552, he was generally a healthy teen.
- King Henry VIII finished his last will on 30 December 1546, about a month before his death.
- On 28 January 1547, Henry VIII died and, at only nine years old, Edward was the successor to the crown.
- The leading statesmen were too occupied with negotiating for their personal interests, which caused the delay of his crowning.
- In his will, Henry VIII named the council who would serve Edward. He had ordained sixteen individuals (executors) who would exercise the authority of the crown until Edward turned eighteen.
- The executors had sworn before the king and urged for the election of an individual head to oversee the communication with ambassadors and princes.
- The council elected Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, uncle of the young king, as the Protector of the Realm, Governor of the King’s Person, and Duke of Somerset.
- During Edward VI’s coronation on 20 February 1547, three crowns were set upon his head: St. Edward’s crown, the imperial crown of the realm of England, and a special crown made particularly for the young king.
- Thomas Cranmer officiated the act of coronation and delivered a brief address reminding the king of his duty, especially in religion, and compared the young king to Biblical Josiah.
- Four gentlemen ushers carried Edward VI and shouted with acceptance of the sovereign: Yea, yea, yea, God save King Edward!
The Reign of Edward VI
- During the reign of King Edward VI, his daily routines were confined to academic discipline and state ceremonies, which left no room for socialising.
- In fact, occasional visits from his sisters and the assembly of royal children in his father’s court became limited, which meant he was often in the company of his protector.
- However, Barnaby Fitzpatrick, one of his schoolfellows, remained his closest companion.
DUKE OF SOMERSET AS PROTECTOR OF THE REALM
- Under Somerset’s protectorate, the heresy and nearly all treason laws were revoked and the Battle of Pinkie was won.
- Somerset’s election as the Lord Protector consolidated his power but it was opposed by his younger brother, Thomas Seymour.
- Thomas Seymour demanded a share of Somerset’s ruling power but when his schemes were denied, he smuggled pocket money to the king and tried to turn him against the Protector.
- The king testified before the council about the pocket money.
- Thomas Seymour was arrested on various charges and was executed in 20 March 1549.
- In the summer of 1549, there was a rumour in London that the king had died, but this was found to be a false report.
- Edward took an interest in the events of the war between the French king and the emperor. Whilst the king did not engage in such wars, he wrote about foreign matters in his journal.
- Edward VI kept a diary, where he detailed the key events of his reign. His account was seen as cold and unfeeling due to the lack of emotion in his writings.
DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND AS PROTECTOR OF THE REALM
- In February 1550, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, who later became Duke of Northumberland, succeeded Somerset’s position as the king’s Protector.
- He signed a peace treaty with France and arranged the union between King Edward and Elisabeth of Valois, King Henry II's daughter.
- Under Northumberland’s policies, trade improved, prices fell, and the economy recovered a little from the financial burden caused by past wars and rebellion.
- The Duke of Somerset and the Duke of Northumberland took advantage of their power for personal gains and meddled with the affairs in the government and supported the reformation.
- King Edward’s active participation in the government was limited but it was distinct in matters of religion.
- Henry VIII’s reign saw the return to conservative values but the young king made radical progress in the Reformation.
- The king continued the religious observances of his predecessors. Sermons had been more frequent and Lent remained the main season for preaching.
- The priests were not obliged to wear the same type of clothing as Roman Catholic priests and clerical marriage was allowed.
- The king trusted Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, and his religious reforms that ultimately made the Church of England institutionally Protestant.
- Churches were made to look simple and plain: stained glass windows, religious pictures and anything sumptuous were removed. Even the furniture was made more basic.
- By the end of Edward’s reign, the church was financially ruined and the properties were removed from the bishops.
- Moreover, services were no longer carried out in Latin: the holy mass was carried out in English. Cranmer prepared and wrote the prayer book which consisted of the liturgy written in English, daily and weekly services, and religious observations.
- King Edward approved of these reforms and displayed his influence as Supreme Head of the Church.
- The king went as far to dissuade his half-sister Mary, a devout Catholic, from practising her religion.
- In 1552, Cranmer made revisions to his prayer book, the canon law, and clarified the terms of the reformed religion.
- However, these further reforms were put on hold when King Edward fell ill in 1553.
- Edward VI was fond of taking notes during sermons, especially if they touched him.
The Death of Edward VI
- In January 1553, the king’s severe illness began with a violent cough and high fever. In fact, he missed the preaching and sermons which he would normally listen to avidly.
- Whilst the king was seen only by a few, rumours began to spread again about his death; the perpetrators of such rumours were caught and committed to prison.
- Around the same time, the decline of the king’s health was inevitable but was kept a secret.
- Significant measures were in progress with regards to the succession to the crown until the king decided to ordain Lady Jane Grey as his successor, excluding his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth on account of bastardy and of fear that the English Reformation would be compromised (through Mary’s succession).
- Lady Jane Grey married Northumberland’s younger son, Lord Guildford Dudley.
- Mary attempted to visit Edward. However, the king’s suffering was too intense, and she was not able to enter his chamber for three days.
- On the 24 June, the Imperial Ambassador had publicly proclaimed in London that the king was far too ill to live more than three days.
- At the beginning of July, Edward made an appearance in Greenwich in order to prove that he was alive, but he was frail and showed no improvement in his health.
- Unbeknown to the young king, Sir Thomas Wrothe, Sir Henry Sidney, Doctor Owen, Doctor Wendy and Christopher Salmon witnessed him praying and talking to himself before he died: Lord God, deliver me out of this miserable and wretched life, and take me among thy chosen: howbeit not my will, but thy will be done. Lord I commit my spirit to thee. O Lord! Thou knowest how happy it were for me to be with thee: yet, for thy chosen’s sake, send me life and health, that I may truly serve thee. O my Lord God, bless thy people, and save thine inheritance! O Lord God save thy chosen people of England! O my Lord God, defend this realm from papistry, and maintain thy true religion; that I and my people may praise thy holy name, for thy Son Jesus Christ’s sake!
- The king’s final words were: “I am faint; Lord have mercy upon me, and take my spirit.”
- King Edward drew his last breath on 6 July 1553.
- Whilst Northumberland gathered his forces to secure the succession of Jane Grey, he delayed the announcement of the king’s death and prevented the arrival of Mary and her allies in the continent.
- On 19 July 1553, Mary came to Suffolk with her army of around twenty thousand, putting an end to Lady Jane Grey’s nine-day reign.
- On 8 August 1553, King Edward was buried beneath the original altar of Henry VII's Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey.
- The long negotiations between Mary I and her ministers as to the mode of the funeral rites caused the delay of his burial.