Although Henry VIII caused the upheaval of many lives in trying to secure a male heir, he ended up leaving a sickly male child on the throne. King Edward VI was only 9 years old when he mounted the throne. Because of his age he ruled under a Regency Council. The Council was first led by his uncle Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, (1547–1549), and then by John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick, from 1551 Duke of Northumberland.
Edward did not live long and died at the age of 15 from consumption (Tuberculosis). His death saw another struggle for the crown. A new element was introduced for the struggle for the crown that had not been an issue in other battles for the throne. The issue was religion. In trying to secure a male heir and a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII broke from the Roman Catholic Church and created the Protestant Church of England with himself as its head. This move would cause great strife and pain and have historical repercussion that would stretch into today.
During the reign of Henry VIII and his struggle for an heir, his children were on a roller coaster of being accepted and rejected. Edward’s sisters, Mary & Elizabeth, were at times removed from the succession and batserdized, only to be returned to the succession and legitimized later. Their final acceptance came in Henry VIII’s last Will which restored both Mary & Elizabeth to their rights to the throne and were once and for all declared legitimate.
In 1543 Henry enacted the Third Succession Act. This Act gave the children of Henry VIII the succession. The Act gave the descendents of Henry’s sister Mary rights to the throne and barred the right of succession to the Scottish descendants of his sister Margaret who married James IV, King of Scots. According to the Act if Edward VI had no issue the throne would go to his elder sister, Mary, a devout Catholic. John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, was regent at the time and a Protestant. He and others in power did not want the crown to go to the Catholic Mary.
Part II will examine, in-depth, who had the legal right to be England’s first Queen regnant, Jane or Mary?