UK Constitution and Government/British Monarchs/Edward VI of England

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Born: 12 Oct 1537, Hampton Court Palace, Richmond, England Acceded: 25 Feb 1547, Westminster Abbey, London, England

Died: 6 Jul 1553, Greenwich Palace, London, England

Buried: Westminster Abbey, London, England

Father: HENRY VIII TUDOR (King of England)

Mother: Jane SEYMOUR (Queen of England)




Edward VI

attrib. to the Flemish School, 1546



See him at The King Gallery

For more than a quarter century King Henry VIII had desperately wanted a son, and Edward's birth caused great rejoicing. The prince was baptized in a splendorous cermony in the chapel oh Hampton Court palace. But Queen Jane soon fell ill with childbed fever, and on Oct 24 she died.

Until the age of six Edward was raised by his nurse, Mother Jack, and other servants. During that time Henry took two wives in quick succession, but both marriages ended badly; Anne of Cleves was discarded because the King found her ugly, and Catherine Howard was executed for adultery. In 1543 Henry married Catherine Parr, who became a loving stepmother to Edward and his older half sisters, Mary and Elizabeth. She was a highly learned woman who personally oversaw Prince Edward's education.

Edward's tutors taught him geography, government, history, French, German, Greek, and Latin. He was also given lessons in etiquette, fencing, horseback riding, music and other gentlemanly pursuits. The King arranged for a privileged group of fourteen well-born children to share his education, and thus envolved an exclusive palace school. Edward´s companion included Henry Brandon, the young Duke of Suffolk; Henry, Lord Hastings; Robert Dudley; Henry Sidney; and possibly even another cousin, Lady Jane Grey. The Prince favorite companion seems to have been Barnaby Fitzpatick, a cousin of the Earl of Ormonde (when Edward became King Barnaby was appointed to the unenviable port of royal whipping boy, which meant that he had to suffer the punishments that their governors would not dare to administer to the Lord´s Anointed, their sovereign).

Although Edward was serious and studious, at times he displayed a savage temper. Reginald Pole, later Archbishop of Canterbury, heard from people that, in front of his tutors, the young King, in a fit of anger, tore a living falcon into four pieces.

Because Elizabeth was only four years his senior, Edward was naturally closer to her than to Mary. His letters to her were warm and affectionate.

Henry VIII died in 1547 and his nine-year-old son became King Edward VI. A council was appointed by his father to rule during his minority. But Edward's uncle, the Edward Seymour, lord Hertford (Jane Seymour's brother), wanted to be Protector of the country and the King.

He entrusted Sir William Paget with the safe-keeping of King Henry´s will, and had no intention of showing it to anyone else until he had taken possession of the person of the new King and brought him to London. Hertford wasted no time; he left Whitehall with Sir Anthony Browne and galloped to Ashdrige, where Edward was staying. They decided that it would be better to take the Prince to Enfield so that he could be with his sister Elizabeth when the news of their father´s death was broken to them. Hertford announced the death of their royal father in the presence chamber of Enfield, and made formal obeisance on his knees to Edward as King. Both children burst into uncontrollable sobs, which were so heart-rending that their servants were soon crying too. So long did their lamentations continue that the Earl and his attendants became concerned, but at lenght Edward and Elizabeth calmed themselves. Already a change was taking place, as both became conscious of their altered roles in life. Never again would they be so close.

On 17 Feb 1547 Edward VI was knighted by Hertford, who was himself created Duke of Somerset and Earl Marshall (an office vacant as a result of the Duke of Norfolk imprisonment). At the same time, John Dudley, Viscount Lisle, was created Earl of Warwick.

Somerset's brother, Lord High Admiral Thomas Seymour, was jealous of Somerset and schemed to put himself in power.

Edward had been easing the Admiral out of his life and when the Admiral tried for a late-night visit (armed with a pistol of all things) he shot the King's small dog. That was it for Seymour. Very few in the world would forgive the murder of a beloved pet.

Thomas Seymour played Edward VI for a fool, counting on the young king's continuing good will and the fact that he was a favoured uncle. Edward was showing signs of becoming independent and more self-reliant; he was the King and he knew it.

Edward VI was moving from child to man, and was starting to see things in that light. For Thomas' part, he was so busy trying to undermine his older brother that he never realized that the King himself would prove his undoing.

The Admiral was arrested and charged with treason. Somerset hesitated to sign his