Birthday: October 12, 1537
Emperors & Kings
Died At Age: 15
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Edward VI
Born Country: England
Born in: Hampton Court Palace, Molesey, United Kingdom
Famous as: King of England
Died on: July 6, 1553
place of death: Greenwich Palace, England
Cause of Death: Tuberculosis
Founder/Co-Founder: Sherborne School, Christ's Hospital, Shrewsbury School, King Edward's School, Birmingham, King Edward's School, Witley, Bedford School, King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon, Queen Elizabeth's Community College
Edward VI served as the king of England for six years from 1547 until his death in 1553. The only son of King Henry VIII from his third wife Jane Seymour, Edward’s accession as the king of England was indisputable right from the time of his birth, surpassing his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth. The death of King Henry VIII led Edward to take up the coveted throne at the tender age of nine. As he was too young to reign, a Regency Council was set up to act on his behalf until he reached the age of maturity. The Council was first led by his uncle Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and later by John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland. Though King Edward himself did not reign, much of the policies assumed during these six years were approved by him. It was under King Edward VI’s reign that Protestantism was established, transferring the Church from the Roman Catholic liturgy. Also, his reign led to the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal of 1550, and Cranmer's Forty-two Articles, which has formed the basis for English Church practices till date. Intellectually bright and talented, Edward VI’s health had constantly been a matter of concern. In 1553, he died from tuberculosis.
Childhood & Early Life
Edward VI was born on October 12, 1537, in Hampton Court Palace, Middlesex, to King Henry VIII and his third wife Jane Seymour. At the time of his birth, he became the undisputed heir to the throne, surpassing his two stepsisters, Mary and Elizabeth I.
Edward was christened on October 15 and was proclaimed with the title Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester. Sadly, his mother passed away a week after his christening due to postnatal complications.
Following Jane Seymour’s death, Edward was put under the care of several mistresses. He received his education under the tutelage of Richard Cox and John Cheke. Other than academic studies, young Edward developed musical skills as well.
Since an early age, Edward was fascinated with military arts. He was often spotted sporting gold dagger with a jeweled hilt, just like the one worn by his father King Henry VIII.
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Accession & Reign
Upon his father’s death on January 28, 1547, the nine-year-old Edward became the heir apparent to the throne. He was anointed and crowned as the king of England on February 20, 1547, at Westminster Abbey.
In accordance to Henry VIII’s will, King Edward had a Council of Regency to fall back on. The Council comprised of 16 executors and 12 assistants to the executors, who would rule on his behalf.
King Henry VIII had not mentioned the appointment of a Protector in his will. However, the members of the Regency collaterally appointed King Edward’s uncle Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford as the Lord Protector of the Realm, Governor of the King’s Person, and Duke of Somerset.
Somerset’s military success in Scotland and France further reinforced his appointment as the Protector. In March 1547, he also secured from King Edward the monarchical rights to appoint members to the Privy Council.
The only hitch in Somerset’s autocratic rule was his younger brother Thomas Seymour who was hell bent for power. However, due to the latter’s involvement with Lady Elizabeth, he was beheaded in 1549.
A competent military campaigner, Somerset could not add to his initial military success after his appointment as the Protector. He failed in his military pursuits against Scotland as his conquests became increasingly unrealistic. He had to withdraw from Scotland following a French attack in 1549.
Along with Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer Seymour was intent on converting England into a Protestant state. For the same, he even issued an English Prayer Book in 1549 under the ‘Act of Uniformity,’ which enforced English people to follow it. The new Prayer Book excluded aspects of Roman Catholic practices and allowed the marriage of the clergy.
It was the imposition of the Prayer Book that led to rebellion in Cornwall and Devon in the summer of 1549. Furthermore, the upheaval instigated Kett’s rebellion against land enclosures in Norfolk. Adding to the turmoil was the French declaration of war on England.
Though militarily proficient, Seymour was too liberal to deal with Kett’s rebellion. It was John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, who intervened and suppressed the Norfolk rebellion.
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The events of 1549 marked a colossal failure of the government and Seymour, being the Protector, was held responsible for the same. Isolated by the Council, he was arrested in October 1549. Though Seymour was eventually released and re-admitted into the Council in 1552, he was executed on charges of felony.
In 1550, Seymour was succeeded by Dudley as the leader of the Council. Dudley was made Duke of Northumberland in 1551. Unlike Seymour, Dudley set up a working council, which he primarily used to legitimize his actions. Most of the members of the council were people from his faction; this enabled him to gain complete control over the Council.
Unlike Seymour’s policies, Dudley’s war policies earned him much criticism for being weak. He signed a peace treaty with France, upon realizing the lack of funds to support the cost of war. Tempted by quick profit, Dudley debased the coinage, which was eventually restored by Thomas Gresham.
Following King Edward’s illness in 1553, succession became a major cause of concern. According to the ‘Succession’s Act,’ Mary was the next rightful heir to the throne. However, King Edward opposed it by making a will, in which he passed over the claim to the throne from his half sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, to his first cousin Lady Jane Grey. Jane Grey was married to Dudley’s younger son.
Edward's reign saw radical progress in the Reformation. In his six years of supremacy, the Church transferred from an essentially Roman Catholic liturgy to a structure that was based on Protestantism. Also, it was under him that the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal of 1550, and Cranmer's Forty-two Articles were introduced.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1543, Edward was betrothed to Mary, Queen of Scots. The betrothal was arranged by his father King Henry VIII, as a measure to keep up peace between England and Scotland after signing the ‘Treaty of Greenwich,’ which abandoned the alliance between Scotland and France. However, with the Scots repudiating the treaty, the betrothal was rejected.
In 1551, King Edward was betrothed to Elisabeth of Valois, daughter of King Henry II.
In January 1553, King Edward became sick with fever and cough which only worsened with time. He made his final public appearance on July 1, 1553.
On July 6, 1553, he breathed his last at Greenwich Palace. He was only 15 years old at the time of his death. On August 8, his body was buried in Henry VII Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey with the last rites performed by Thomas Cranmer, his confidante. Historians believe that tuberculosis led to his untimely death.
As per his will, he was succeeded by Lady Jane Grey, his cousin and wife of younger son of Duke of Northumberland. However, Jane’s reign lasted only nine days, after which Mary ascended the throne as the rightful heir.
This king of England kept a journal wherein he wrote a detailed overview of his time in power.