Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Edward VI

Edward Tudor was born on October 12, 1537. He was the son of King Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour. The longed for heir was welcomed with 2000 gun salutes from the tower and countless pageants and celebrations. However, the celebrations were dimmed when his mother died on October 24 from an infection due to the prolonged birth (she was in labor for about 3 days).

Edward was quickly taken from court and placed in his own household headed by Margaret Bryan. He was educated under John Cheek and Richard Cox. When he was older, he joined his half sister Elizabeth's household.

In 1543, all three children joined their father for the Christmas celebrations. Henry restored Mary and Elizabeth to the succession. Much of this took place thanks to Catherine Parr, Henry's sixth wife. She became a loving step-mother to her children who no longer had their mothers...for one reason or the other. In the summer of that same year, Edward was betrothed to his cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, though no marriage ever took place.

In 1547 King Henry VIII died, leaving his nine year old son King of England. A Regentship had been set up in such a case. However, no Protector was named. The council was to be ruled by majority rule. Despite this, Edward's uncle Edward Seymour rose to power and became Lord Protector, ruling in his nephew's name with the council simply stamping their approval of his will.

Edward VI was crowned on February 20th at Westminster Abbey. Though Edward Seymour held immense power, his defenses were shaken when his brother, Thomas Seymour, was executed on March 20, 1549 by order of the King. His brother was accused of embezzlement and attempting to kidnap the King in order to gain power. Though Thomas tried to protect his brother, he failed. He was now open to his enemies and after grave financial losses due to his war with Scotland, they closed in.

In a panic, Seymour took Edward to Windsor and fortified himself inside. The council ruled that he had no power to do so, but that his power came from them according to the late King's will. John Dudley, Earl of Warwick emerged as the new head of the council. Seymour was eventually executed in January of 1554.

Dudley, unlike Seymour, used the council, always assuring that he had majority support. Edward was little more than a puppet head, though the council did use his Protestant religious policy. Edward was England's first Protestant king.

At the end of 1552 Edward became very ill. He had a fever and cough that constantly grew worse. For the next six months of 1553, Edward continually lost his health. On July 6, 1553 Edward died at fifteen years old at Greenwich Palace. Though scholars still debate the cause of Edward's death, it is generally decided that her died of tuberculosis or bronchopneumonia. 

In his will he named his cousin Jane Grey his heir, passing over his two sisters. However, many of the people supported his sister Mary, Henry VIII's eldest daughter. Lady Jane was overthrown after only nine days in power. 

Edward was buried in a private funeral in Westminster Abbey where his sister, Queen Mary I, allowed it to be conducted using the new Protestant Book of Common Prayer.

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Contemporary Highlight 
Exerpt from the journal of Edward VI in which he writes about the fall of Edward Seymour as Lord Protector
"...the protector began to treat by letters, sending Sir Philip Hoby, lately come from his embassy in Flanders to see his family, who brought on his return a very gentle letter to the protector which he delivered to him, another to me, another to my household, to declare his faults, ambition, vainglory, entering into rash wars in my youth, negligence about Newhaven, enriching himself from my treasure, following his own opinions, and doing all by his own authority etc., which letters were openly read, and immediately the lords came to Windsor, took him and brought him through Holborn to the Tower.  Afterwards I came to Hampton Court where they appointed by my consent six lords of the council to be attendant on me, at least two, and four knights...The lord protector, by his own agreement and submission, lost his protectorship, treasureship, marshalship, all his movables and nearly 2,000 pds of lands, by act of Parliament."
 


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