1st Earl of Warwick, Duke of Northumberland, House of Tudor, Jayne Seymour, John Dudley, King Edward VI, King Henry VIII of England, King of England, King of Ireland, Queen Elizabeth I of England, Queen Mary I of England, the Succession to the Crown of 1543
Edward VI (October 12, 1537 – July 6, 1553) was King of England and Ireland from January 28, 1547 until his death on July 6, 1553.
Edward was born on October 12, 1537 in his mother’s room inside Hampton Court Palace, in Middlesex. He was the son of King Henry VIII by his third wife, Jane Seymour. Throughout the realm, the people greeted the birth of a male heir, “whom we hungered for so long”, with joy and relief. Te Deums were sung in churches, bonfires lit, and “their was shott at the Tower that night above two thousand gonnes”.
Queen Jane, appearing to recover quickly from the birth, sent out personally signed letters announcing the birth of “a Prince, conceived in most lawful matrimony between my Lord the King’s Majesty and us”.
Edward was christened on October 15, with his half-sisters, the 21-year-old Lady Mary as godmother and the 4-year-old Lady Elizabeth carrying the chrisom; and the Garter King of Arms proclaimed him as Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester. The queen, however, fell ill on 23 October from presumed postnatal complications, and died the following night. Henry VIII wrote to François I of France that “Divine Providence … hath mingled my joy with bitterness of the death of her who brought me this happiness”.
Both Edward’s sisters were attentive to their brother and often visited him—on one occasion, Elizabeth gave him a shirt “of her own working”. Edward “took special content” in Mary’s company, though he disapproved of her taste for foreign dances; “I love you most”, he wrote to her in 1546. In 1543, Henry invited his children to spend Christmas with him, signalling his reconciliation with his daughters, whom he had previously illegitimised and disinherited. The following spring, he restored them to their place in the succession with a Third Succession Act, which also provided for a regency council during Edward’s minority.
The Act did not have a title in the modern sense. It is formally cited as 35 Hen. 8 c.1 (meaning the first Act passed in the 35th year of Henry VIII’s reign), and referred to by historians as the Succession to the Crown Act 1543 or the Act of Succession 1543. The royal assent was given to this bill in the spring of 1544 at the conclusion of the 1543/1544 Parliament, but until 1793 acts were usually backdated to the beginning of the session of Parliament in which they were passed; as such the Act is also often dated 1544.
This unaccustomed family harmony may have owed much to the influence of Henry’s new wife, Catherine Parr, of whom Edward soon became fond. He called her his “most dear mother” and in September 1546 wrote to her: “I received so many benefits from you that my mind can hardly grasp them.”
On January 10, 1547 from Hertford, nine-year-old Edward wrote to his father and stepmother thanking them for his new year’s gift of their portraits from life. On January 28, King Henry VIII died.
Those close to the throne, led by Edward Seymour and William Paget, agreed to delay the announcement of the king’s death until arrangements had been made for a smooth succession. Seymour and Sir Anthony Browne, the Master of the Horse, rode to collect Edward from Hertford and brought him to Enfield, where Lady Elizabeth was living. He and Elizabeth were then told of their father’s death and heard a reading of his will.
Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley announced Henry’s death to Parliament on January 31, and general proclamations of Edward VI’s succession were ordered. The new king was taken to the Tower of London, where he was welcomed with “great shot of ordnance in all places there about, as well out of the Tower as out of the ships”.
The following day, the nobles of the realm made their obeisance to Edward at the Tower, and Seymour was announced as Protector. Henry VIII was buried at Windsor on February 16, in the same tomb as Jane Seymour, as he had wished.
Edward VI was crowned at Westminster Abbey on Sunday February 20, 1547.
Edward VI was the first English monarch to be raised as a Protestant. During his reign, the realm was governed by a regency council because he never reached maturity. 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 (1550–1553), who from 1551 was Duke of Northumberland.
Edward’s reign was marked by economic problems and social unrest that in 1549 erupted into riot and rebellion. An expensive war with Scotland, at first successful, ended with military withdrawal from Scotland and Boulogne-sur-Mer in exchange for peace.
The transformation of the Church of England into a recognisably Protestant body also occurred under Edward VI, who took great interest in religious matters. His father, Henry VIII, had severed the link between the Church and Rome, but continued to uphold most Catholic doctrine and ceremony. It was during Edward’s reign that Protestantism was established for the first time in England with reforms that included the abolition of clerical celibacy and the Mass, and the imposition of compulsory services in English.
In February 1553, at age 15, Edward fell ill. When his sickness was discovered to be terminal, he and his council drew up a “Devise for the Succession” to prevent the country’s return to Catholicism. Edward named his first cousin once removed, Lady Jane Grey, as his heir, excluding his half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth.
Although it was the will of the King that his cousin Lady Jane Grey succeed him on the throne, the Devise for the Succession was never introduced into Parliament and made into law, thus the the Succession to the Crown Act 1543 was still legally in effect making Jane’s attempt at taking the throne an illegal usurpation that lasted for nine days.
Edward VI was succeeded by his half-sister Mary, a Catholic, who reversed Edward’s Protestant reforms during her reign, but his other half-sister, Elizabeth, restored them in 1559 after she succeeded Queen Mary I in 1558.