Overview

Edward VI

(1537—1553) king of England and Ireland


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

(1537–53),

king of England (1547–53). Since Edward was 9 years old when he succeeded Henry VIII in 1547, he was in tutelage for the greater part of his reign, with Somerset as his governor until 1549 and Northumberland thereafter. His mother Jane Seymour died when he was born. Edward's chronicle, which he kept from the age of 12, is largely factual and reveals little of character, save perhaps reserve. Contemporaries saw much in him to admire. In 1552 the imperial ambassador reported him ‘a likely lad, of quick, ready and well‐developed mind’. Less sentimentally, G. R. Elton summed up: ‘Edward had a marked intellectual ability, which an appalling schooling had turned into a precocious passion for protestant theology—a cold‐hearted prig.’

The religious policy must have been that of his two chief ministers, though with Edward's growing approval. A series of measures during Edward's reign pushed England into the protestant camp. Catholic bishops were replaced by reformers. The new Prayer Book of 1549, though not going far enough for many protestants, shocked Devon and Cornwall catholics into revolt. In 1552 the young king had measles and smallpox and by the beginning of 1553 the signs of pulmonary tuberculosis were evident. Edward's last significant action was an attempt to head off any catholic revival by a ‘devise of the crown’, switching the succession from Mary. The plan to bring in Lady Jane Grey, of the blood royal, hastily married to Northumberland's son, was not as hare‐brained as the ultimate fiasco made it seem. The last weeks of Edward's life were grim as the illness took hold and diplomats speculated on his survival in terms of days, then hours. He died at Greenwich palace on 6 July. The settlement of the succession, which had meant so much to him, lasted barely a fortnight.

Subjects: British History.


Reference entries

See all related reference entries in Oxford Index »


Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.