||Edward VI (Tudor) of England is managed by the England Project.|
Join: England Project
|King of England
28 Jan 1547 - 6 Jul 1553
Mary I or (disputed) Lady Jane Grey
On 12 October 1537, at the birth of Edward Tudor, the Te Deum of rejoicing was sung in the churches of England, the bells rang all day, at night there were bonfires in the streets and guns shot from the Tower, because at long last the kingdom had a legitimate male heir to its throne.
The Tudor dynasty's hold on the throne was insecure. Edward's grandfather, King Henry VII, had taken it by force, defeating Richard III of York in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth, but his reign was plagued by insurrections in the name of pretenders, and Yorkist claimants still lived and plotted. Henry VII had only two sons, of whom Edward's father Henry VIII was the sole survivor. He needed a son of indisputable legitimacy to inherit.
By 1536, Henry VIII had three living children, but they were all - either by birth or law - illegitimate. Henry Fitzroy was regarded as everything a prince should be, except legitimate. Henry raised him to the highest rank in the kingdom, and there were rumors that he might make him heir to the throne, but Henry Fitzroy died 22 July 1536.
Henry VIII's two daughters were Mary, only surviving daughter of his first wife Catherine of Aragon, and Elizabeth, daughter of his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Since neither of these women seemed able to give him the necessary son, Henry disposed of them and in his Second Succession Act imprudently delegitimized their daughters so they could make no claim on the throne against the son he was determined to generate.
Henry VIII's third wife, mother of Edward, was Jane Seymour, daughter of a family of courtiers, who had captured his interest while he was still married to Anne Boleyn. They were married 30 May 1536, eleven days after Anne's execution. Jane died of complications of childbirth twelve days after the birth of Henry's long-wished-for son.
While Henry married three more times, he was never able to produce another child. Some historians  have speculated that even while he was still married to Anne Boleyn, he was beginning to suffer from impotence. It became increasingly clear that the future of the throne rested on the survival of young Prince Edward.
Recalling the untimely death of his own elder brother, King Henry made efforts to shield the child from disease,  but the demands of royal ceremony often had to take priority. Edward's christening on 15 October was an affair of grandeur at the royal chapel of Hampton Court, with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Duke of Norfolk as his godfathers and the former princess, now known as Lady Mary, as her brother's godmother. He was then created Duke of Cornwall, but his official investiture as Prince of Wales was meant to wait until he was able to participate in the ritual.
In 1538, as was the custom, a household was created for Edward at Hampton Court, under the charge of Lady Margaret Bryan, who had been Lady Mistress to all Henry VIII's children. He was by all accounts a healthy and vigorous child, contrary to reports that he was sickly, suffering only one serious illness in his childhood, from which he recovered fully.
At age six, Prince Edward was placed under the care of tutors, notably Richard Cox, John Cheke, and Roger Ascham who were close to his godfather Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, all chosen both for their humanist learning and their reformed religious views. While Edward was an excellent student, he also enjoyed the pastimes of the court - the opulence and luxuries. He loved spectacle and festivities, with masques and dramas, just as his father had enjoyed. He had his own company of players and minstrels, and his own choir. He reintroduced the Lord of Misrule at New Years. As he grew older, he spent increasing amounts of time in hunting, tennis and other games, and was beginning to take part in tourneys. He seemed increasingly to be his father's son.
Two of Edward's closest schoolmates were Thomas Butler (future 10th Earl of Ormond) and Barnaby FitzPatrick (future 2nd Baron Upper Ossory), both of whom were sent from Ireland to be educated in the English court as a show of loyalty to the Crown. Edward knighted Thomas upon his coronation in 1547. Meanwhile, Edward appointed Barnaby as his "whipping boy" in 1551. The two were clearly very close, as evidence by letters "written by King Edward VI to his favourite, Barnaby FitzPatrick", while the latter was posted to France in 1551-1552.
At the beginning of 1547, Edward was expecting to be formally invested as Prince of Wales; instead, on 20 February, at age nine, he was crowned king, his father having died on 28 January.
King Henry had prepared for his son's accession to the throne with a Will dated 30 December 1546 that established a council of sixteen executors who were to form Edward's Privy Council and "have the Gouvernment" of the king and the realm until he reached the age of eighteen. There was controversy about the Will, which, when read, contained an "unfulfilled gifts" clause - gifts that Henry would have made, if he had made them. The councillors fell upon this clause to reward themselves with titles and honors. King Edward's oldest maternal uncle, Edward Seymour, who had been named Earl of Hertford at the prince's christening, gave himself the title "Duke of Somerset" upon being elected Lord Protector - effectively regent.
Seymour was closely allied on the council with the new king's godfather Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who now, with Henry safely dead, was free to reform the English church to remove the remnants of "popery" retained by the former king when he had removed the supremacy of the church from Rome and installed himself as its Head - a role now held by his successor Edward VI, whom the reformers called a "new King Josiah" who would purge the land of idols.
King Edward, as a child, had no responsibility for the policies of his governors, but we can read the comments he expressed on those affairs in his Chronicle. This work was begun in 1548 as an exercise for his tutors, and it was not intended to express Edward's private beliefs. He had no real expectation of privacy or secrecy, and with a family where one uncle would have the other one killed to retain power, Edward had learned early to be wary. But it is still possible to see much about his thought and opinions in its pages.
Lord Protector Edward Seymour was a soldier, and his overriding ambition was to finish the ruinous two-front war that Henry VIII had declared on Scotland and France in 1542, ostensibly to force the Scots to marry their orphaned infant queen Mary to her cousin Edward, which would have made him effectively King of Scotland. Young Edward followed the action closely, with obvious interest. Yet during this time, he made no mention of the cousin that the war was meant to have made his bride.
In 1549, Archbishop Cranmer decreed the adoption of his new Book of Common Prayer, which sparked a large-scale rebellion in conservative Cornwall. A separate rebellion in East Anglia broke out at about the same time. Edward Seymour, lacking sufficient troops to quell these "commotions", deployed foreign mercenaries, "hitherto never employed to suppress an insurrection at home".
Following these disasters, the lords of the council turned against Seymour, who took the king to Windsor, where Edward felt himself a prisoner, and used him as a tool to raise forces in his defense, but Seymour's support on the council was insufficient and he was deposed and sent to the Tower, with Edward obviously relishing his confession of "ambition, vainglory, entering into rash wars in mine youth, negligent looking on Newhaven (in the French war), enriching himself of my treasure, following his own opinion, and doing all by his own authority, etc."
Following Seymour's arrest, the headship of the state was taken by John Dudley, who later took the title Duke of Northumberland. He quickly made peace with Scotland and France - which led to enjoyment for Edward as there were French nobles and ambassadors to be entertained. King Henri II was invested as a Knight of the Garter, and Edward in exchange with the Order of St Michel. Finally, a marriage was arranged between Edward and the French princess Elizabeth.
Dudley also took steps to renew the soundness of the currency, which had been debased to pay for Henry's (and Seymour's) wars. Edward evinced a sharp interest in this notoriously dry subject. In general, while Dudley ruled, he allowed Edward to at least believe he was participating - an apprentice in the art, or perhaps a catspaw for Dudley. Historians are in great disagreement on this point - to what extent Dudley had manipulated the young king to do his will.
At the end of 1551, tensions between Dudley and his predecessor, Edward Seymour, had grown, so that Seymour was arrested and charged with treason, convicted of felony. By this time, Edward had been authorized to sign bills under the Great Seal without the counter-signature of the council, and, apparently, he signed the death warrant for his uncle. On 22 January, he noted briefly: "The Duke of Somerset had his head cut off on Tower Hill between eight and nine o'clock in the morning." He does not mention signing the death warrant.
If there was one matter on which King Edward asserted himself, it was the Royal Supremacy over the church, in which he was certainly influenced by Cranmer if not also Dudley. The great issue under contention was Edward's Catholic sister Mary. In 1549, when the new reformed liturgy was decreed, she held an ostentatious mass in her private chapel, and when ordered by the council to conform, she had responded, "I have offended no law unless it be a late law of your own making for altering of matters of religion, which in my conscience is not worthy to have the name of a law." At a time when a major rebellion was breaking out over this very issue, causing the deaths of thousands, her answer was not well-received, but Mary had the backing of the Emperor Charles V, her nephew, so she was given a limited exemption for private masses for a small number of her household - which ended up being for large numbers of people.
In 1550, with John Dudley having replaced Edward Seymour, King Edward stepped in personally to demand that Mary conform to his laws on religion, that as his sister, her fault was greater, as it encouraged others to follow her example. He added in his own hand on 24 January: "I will see my law strictly obeyed and those that break them shall be watched and denounced."  He was particularly offended by her intimation that his youth made him incompetent to decide such matters. Mary defied the council to execute her, as she refused to violate her conscience, and the matter was tacitly dropped. But it is noteworthy that Edward Seymour, by then released from the Tower and restored to the council, supported Mary in this dispute.  It was not long afterward that he was arrested again and executed, with Edward's name on the death warrant.
It is likely that this drawn-out dispute with his heir presumptive was behind King Edward's eventual decision, when in early 1533 he realized he would soon die, to alter the succession to exclude Mary, who appeared likely to wipe out the reformation of the English church if she became its head - as, in fact, she did. But again, this matter has been controversial. Some historians  have seen it as a plot orchestrated by John Dudley, but accounts of Edward pressuring the council to agree to his "devise for the succession" indicate that he was hardly averse to the plan, even if it was not entirely his own idea.
Edward's argument was based on the Third Succession Act of Henry VIII, which, in the event that Henry left no sons, fixed the succession on his illegitimate daughters - without legitimizing them. Edward claimed that it was illegal under English law for bastards to inherit, and thus reverted to the Second Succession Act, which left the throne to the male heirs of Henry's sister Mary Brandon. However, given that Mary Brandon had no male heirs and would not by the time Edward died, he devised that the throne would pass to her eldest granddaughter, Lady Jane Grey.
By the time of his death, Edward had this Declaration signed by every member his council and other officials and peers, amounting to 102 signatures, as well as an "engagement" to make certain it was implemented, in which Edward personally witnessed every name. Those reluctant were personally persuaded by the king. In addition, writs were being prepared to summon a Parliament, which would then pass another Succession Act.
King Edward VI died on 6 July 1533, before this Parliament could be summoned. The council duly declared Queen Jane on 10 July,  but Mary had already begun to assemble her forces; she was declared queen on 19 July.
King Edward was buried 8 August at Westminster with a funeral of properly regal magnificence, conducted by Archbishop Cranmer with Edward's reformed liturgy while Queen Mary heard a requiem mass in the Tower.
He lies in Henry VII's Lady Chapel beneath a plain stone.
Have you taken a DNA test? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.
Edward VI is 17 degrees from Michael Collins, 21 degrees from Judith Resnik, 24 degrees from Ellison Onizuka, 34 degrees from Michael Phillip Anderson, 18 degrees from Sally Ride, 28 degrees from Wubbo Johannes Ockels, 20 degrees from Neil Armstrong, 19 degrees from Virgil Grissom, 19 degrees from Christa McAuliffe, 21 degrees from Dick Scobee, 17 degrees from Edward White and 22 degrees from Frances Piercy-Reins on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.
Categories: Royalty | Church of England | Westminster Abbey | This Day In History July 06 | This Day In History October 12 | Hampton Court Palace, Kingston-upon-Thames, London | Palace of Placentia, Greenwich, London | Princes of Wales | Dukes of Cornwall | Knights of the Order of Saint Michael | House of Tudor