Edward VI succeeded his father King Henry VIII to the throne of England in January 1547. He was one of the youngest kings of England being only nine years old when he inherited the throne. Born in 1537 Edward was the much wanted son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour who was Henry’s third wife and according to history the only one that he actually loved. Jane unfortunately died in childbirth leaving Henry devastated as he had the son he had always wanted but now had lost his one true love.
Edward was the first of England’s monarchs to be raised as a protestant and although he was king officially, as he was so young, the Regency Council made decisions in his name. It has been written in the past that Edward was an unwell child but apart from a few childhood illnesses he was relatively well until the age of four when he did contract a life threatening illness but did pull through much to Henry’s relief.
Edward was lavished with everything a child could ever want or as we would say in present times he was very spoiled. He had many courtiers and helpers who looked after him, mainly women, while Henry referred to him as “The realms most precious jewel”. Edward of course had all the education a child could want and learned many languages as well as learning how to play musical instruments. He was in fact a very intelligent boy who learned well and had a good understanding when it came to financial matters.
Edward had a very good relationship with both his sisters Mary and Elizabeth that was affectionate and close. Henry was so pleased with his son that he brought his once banished daughters back to court to complete his family circle. Edward had also become increasingly fond of Catherine Parr, Henry’s wife, even referring to her as mother. Although Henry VIII left a will naming 16 executors and protectors for Edward, should anything happen to the king, there were those that did seek to move things their own way and there was a lot of behind scenes plotting and planning went on as was usually the case in the Tudor court.
In February 1553 Edward fell ill becoming steadily worse until by June his condition became critical. Edward drew up a document called the Devise which was a type of will where he insisted that his sisters Elizabeth and especially Mary, (due to her catholic faith) would not succeed to the English throne. Edward wanted any sons of Lady Jane Grey, who was his half cousin, to take the throne of England. Many thought this was more the design of The Duke of Northumberland but in recent years historians agree that Edward himself was the driving force behind it.
Edwards last public appearance was at the window of his room in Greenwich Palace on July 1st. Onlookers were shocked at how thin and wasted he had become and by the 16th July at the tender age of fifteen Edward was dead. It is thought that he probably had consumption a disease we know as tuberculosis. Edward did not get his wish regarding the succession to the throne as upon his death Mary’s followers imprisoned Lady Jane Grey and following battles and much plotting Mary was declared queen and Northumberland who had supported Lady Jane Grey, was executed.
Edward only reigned for six short years but his legacy lives on even today. He was prevalent in the reformation of the church following in his father’s footsteps giving the Church of England a solid base. Many of Catholicism’s ideology were left behind during Edward’s reign firmly establishing the Protestant religion as the overriding dogma. Although a short lived monarch the effect of his reign is long lasting.
Read more about Edward VI at BBC History