Edward VI.

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
King Edward VI. around 1550
Signature of King Edward VI.

Edward VI. ( English Edward Tudor ; * October 12, 1537 in Hampton Court Palace ; † July 6, 1553 in Greenwich ) was the third monarch of the Tudor dynasty from 1547 to 1553, King of England and Ireland . He was the only legitimate son of Henry VIII (with his third wife Jane Seymour ) and ascended the English throne when he was nine years old. Since he died at the age of 15, there was a Regency Council throughout his reign, initially by his uncle Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (1547-1549), and after his execution by John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland (1550-1553).

Edward was the first English king to receive a Protestant education. His reign was marked by religious reforms, which for the first time put the Anglican Church on a course that was closely related to the Protestant creed. His father, Henry VIII, had dissolved the English Church from Rome, but largely upheld the Catholic Church doctrine. Under Eduard, services in English became mandatory, Holy Mass was banned, celibacy for priests was abolished and the Book of Common Prayer was introduced, which is still used today in a modified form. The main architect of the reforms was Thomas Cranmer , Archbishop of Canterbury. Edward's reign was nevertheless plagued by economic problems and uprisings (1549); an expensive war with Scotland also ended in a military retreat.

After Edward became terminally ill in February 1553, he and his council tried to prevent England from returning to Catholicism by changing the line of succession. His half-sisters Maria and Elisabeth were excluded from the line of succession and instead his cousin Jane Gray was named as heiress. However, Jane was deposed after only 9 days and Maria ascended the throne , who reversed Edward's Protestant reforms. Only under Elisabeth did these reforms become the basis for religious regulation again .

Early years


"There is no less joy here about the birth of our Prince, for whom we have hungered for so long, than at the birth of John the Baptist "

Little one, emulate your father and be the heir to his virtue,
Prince Edward as a toddler, right hand raised in blessing, in the left a golden rattle that resembles a scepter , Hans Holbein, around 1538

Edward's birth on October 12, 1537 at Hampton Court Palace was a great event because after nearly thirty years of reign and three wives, the king was finally born with the long-awaited male heir. He wept with joy the first time he held him. Eduard was Heinrich's third child and his only child with his third wife Jane Seymour - his two previous marriages to Katharina von Aragon and Anne Boleyn had been declared invalid and the two daughters of these marriages had been declared illegitimate. The official letter announcing Edward's birth (formulated as if it had been written by the Queen herself) described the birth of a "prince conceived in lawful marriage between ... His Majesty the King and Us", carefully emphasizing the legitimate character of this new marriage of the king - and thus Edward's legally valid procreation and his claim to the throne.

The enthusiastic cry “We have a prince!” Could soon be heard everywhere in the streets, spontaneous celebrations began and to thank the joyful event, the Te Deum was sung in every parish church in England as usual at the birth of an heir , wine and beer free of charge distributed to the population and bonfires lit. The enthusiasm was so great that the guards in Tower 2000 fired cannonballs to drown out the church bells that rang everywhere until ten o'clock in the evening. Three days after his birth, the prince was baptized Edward in a splendid ceremony in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court, since he had been born on the eve of the feast day of St. Edward . The Garter King of Arms announced Edward's titles Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester , which he was entitled to by birth. His half-sister Maria , 21 years his senior, was his godmother, and his four-year-old half-sister Elisabeth carried the chrism in the procession. His uncle Edward Seymour, who later played an important role in his reign, was elevated to Earl of Hertford on the occasion of the event.

After the difficult, almost three-day birth, Jane Seymour initially recovered well and was able to receive her son sitting after the baptism. Shortly afterwards, however, she became seriously ill, either with childbed fever or due to a placenta that had partially remained in the body, and died a few days later on October 24th. The king wrote to Francis I : "Divine providence has mixed my joy with the bitterness of the death of those who brought me this happiness."

Education and training

Edward in 1546, around his neck he wears a chain with the spring and the crown of the heir to the throne
A Latin letter by Edward from 1546 to his tutor Richard Cox. Eduard's handwritten copy in a book. London, British Library , Harley 5087, fol. 2r

Eduard was handed over to a wet nurse, as was customary at the time, and after the death of his mother they hastily reported that he was healthy and drank well. Up to the age of six he was, as he later wrote in his chronicle, “brought up among women”. His household, headed by Lady Margaret Bryan, included his wet nurse and others. a. a nanny, several cradle rockers, a doctor, chaplain and treasurer and a group of minstrels. The king gave meticulous instructions on how to keep his surroundings clean in order to protect his "most precious jewel" from disease; When Eduard fell ill with a life-threatening fever (presumably malaria ) at the age of four in October 1541 , he hastily summoned all doctors in the country. Contrary to the long-held idea of ​​Eduard as an always sickly child, he was generally in good health. Visitors described him as a handsome, happy child, with a friendly disposition and tall for his age. As was customary at the time, the prince's household traveled constantly from residence to residence and sometimes followed the royal court - in the spring of 1538, for example, to the royal hunting lodge near Royston, where the villagers watched the king standing at a window “with great serenity and joy, long played with the prince in the arms, for the joy and consolation of all ”. However, visits from the father were rare.

It was not until his father's marriage in July 1543 to Catherine Parr , which had a decisive emotional and educational influence on Eduard, that changed this. The queen brought the prince and his sisters, both of whom had previously been declared illegitimate and disinherited by the king, together as a family in the royal court; Eduard called her "my dearest mother" and she showed great interest in his education. In July 1544, when the prince was six years old, a major household was established for him at Hampton Court and he began his formal education. He had already learned arithmetic, reading and writing in English from Richard Cox , now John Cheke took over his further training, a Cambridge humanist and enthusiastic evangelical reformer, as did Roger Ascham and Anthony Cooke, who also joined. Under their influence, Eduard was raised a Protestant. The prince received a group of noble boys as study companions, u. a. his cousins Edward and Henry Seymour, as well as Henry and Charles Brandon , the sons of the Duke of Suffolk, and Barnaby Fitzpatrick , son of the Baron Upper Ossory , who became his best friend. His sister Elisabeth also shared some of his lessons. His father had murals with historical and mythical figures made for him as a textbook in the newly built Nonsuch Palace.

Before Henry VIII could appoint him Prince of Wales , the traditional title of the English heir to the throne, the king died and Edward succeeded him to the throne.

Accession to the throne

After the death of Henry VIII on January 28, 1547 Eduard was named Eduard VI. King of England and Ireland. The accession to the throne was unproblematic, as Heinrich expressly designated him as his successor in his last will of December 30, 1546. In addition, he appointed a ten-member councilor to the throne to take over the business of government during Edward's minority, and made a list of twelve other important personalities who should support the Council of State during times of crisis.

The council consisted mostly of people who had already gained influence under the old king. The principal members of the council were Eduard Seymour, Earl of Hertford , a brother of the late Jane Seymour and Uncle Eduards, as well as John Dudley, Viscount Lisle and Sir William Paget .


The members of the council were for the most part reformers in the sense of an independent English state church. Her worst opponents - Stephen Gardiner , Bishop of Winchester, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk , and Thomas Thirlby - all devout Catholics - were expelled from the council. The late king had named Eduard Seymour as Edward's guardian in his will. The members of the council requested the new King Edward VI. now for a confirmation of the appointment, in order to take the wind out of the sails of those who doubt the legality of King Henry's last will.

On March 13, 1547, Edward VI confirmed. the members of the council (except the Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton ). King Edward appointed his uncle Eduard Seymour Duke of Somerset and gave him the office of Lord Protector. Seymour was granted the right to change the council as it sees fit.

Somerset's reign

Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, Edward's uncle and lord protector from 1547 to 1549

The Duke of Somerset thereby became the actual ruler of England and the role of King Edward VI. limited to purely representative tasks. Somerset influenced his nephew, the king, in his decisions significantly. The young king was also heavily influenced by the Archbishop of Canterbury , Thomas Cranmer . Together with Somerset, the archbishop began to spread Protestantism in England. By royal decree, Thomas Cranmer replaced various Catholic rites with Protestant rites. However, Somerset refused to prosecute opponents of this religious policy because he feared the powerful Catholic monarchs of mainland Europe, especially the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V , and did not want to anger them by persecuting heretics. Behind this prohibition of persecution was the idea of ​​not weakening England's position in world politics any further, since it was already at risk because of the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France , two Catholic countries.

Somerset embraced the idea of ​​uniting England and Scotland. He influenced King Edward to pursue this goal. While Henry was still alive, attempts had been made in vain to marry the Scottish Queen Maria Stuart to the English heir to the throne, Edward, but she eventually married the French heir to the throne, Dauphin Franz . A military union with Scotland was also out of the question because of its alliance with France.

Support for Eduard Seymour also increasingly waned in his own country. His own brother, Thomas Seymour, tried to overthrow Somerset as the king's guardian. The plot was uncovered in 1549 and Thomas Seymour was charged with treason against the crown. He was executed on March 20th that year. However, the guardian’s authority continued to decline in the months that followed, and the problems that arose also made him fall in favor of the king. Eventually the common peasants began to rise and rioted the country. France took advantage of England's increasing internal political problems to declare war on a weakened England. Under the lord protectorate of Seymours, the statute concerning the "Vagabonds" ("vagrants") was also created, which provided for bloody persecution measures such as branding and enslavement. The decree is quoted as follows in the first volume of the work “ Das Kapital ” by Karl Marx (p. 763): “All persons have the right to take away their children from the vagabonds and as apprentices, boys up to the 24th year, girls up to for the 20th year to hold. If they run away, up to this age they should be the slaves of the teachers, who can put them in chains, scourge etc. as they like. Every master is allowed to put an iron ring around the neck, arms or legs of his slave so that he knows him better and is more secure. "

Under Northumberland

The Duke of Somerset was for King Edward VI. became unsustainable and was replaced by John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick . He had built a close relationship with the young king and influenced him strongly. John Dudley cleverly lured the underage king with the promise that he would be of legal age at the age of sixteen. John Dudley was appointed Lord President of the Council and in 1551 Duke of Northumberland . Since 1549 he led the affairs of government almost without restriction.

Death and succession

King Edward died in Greenwich on July 6, 1553, presumably of tuberculosis . Since he and above all his advisors wanted to prevent the English throne from falling to his Catholic half-sister Maria in the event of his untimely death , he appointed his second niece Jane Gray , a great-granddaughter of King Henry VII , as heir to the throne in her place . Lord Warwick, whose daughter-in-law was Jane Gray, was behind this plan. Legend has it that John Dudley stole the crown of the dying monarch in order to give it to his daughter-in-law Lady Jane.

The death of the king was kept secret for a few days so that there was enough time to prepare for Lady Jane's succession to the throne. High officials of the government and the authorities privately vowed their allegiance and allegiance to the new queen. On July 10, 1553, Jane was officially proclaimed queen and thus actually took over rule over England for nine days. On July 19, she was overthrown by Maria's supporters and Maria was made queen. Lady Jane's succession to the throne was revoked as a coercive act and her line of succession was declared illegal. Jane had to cede the crown to Maria. As a result, Queen Mary I of England was the de jure successor of Edward VI, but was de facto succeeded by Lady Jane Gray .

After the death of Edward, who was only fifteen years old, rumors began to circulate that the king had survived. Some fraudsters used the hopes of the people to impersonate King Edward and claim their rightful claim to the throne. Such pretenders kept appearing up until the reign of Elizabeth . The story of the false Edward inspired some authors to novels, including Mark Twain ( The Prince and the Pauper - German The Prince and the Pauper ).

Edward VI. was buried in front of an altar in Westminster Abbey . Only a small grave slab with his name adorns the king's resting place.


Under Edward, the Anglican Church was brought on a course closely related to the Protestant creed for the first time. His successor, Queen Mary I of England , reversed many reforms in the course of the re-Catholicization of England.


Edward had the title of Duke of Cornwall from birth . With the accession to the throne, his Duketitel merged with the crown. He was proclaimed king with the same title as his father Henry VIII before him:

"Edward the Sixth, by the grace of God, King of England , France and Ireland , defender of the faith and head of the Church of England and Ireland."


Edmund Tudor
* around 1430; † November 1, 1456
⚭ 1455
Henry VII.
* January 28, 1457; † April 21, 1509
⚭ January 18, 1486
Margaret Beaufort
* May 31, 1443; † June 29, 1509
Henry VIII
* June 28, 1491; † January 28, 1547
⚭ January 25, 1533
Edward IV
* April 28, 1442; † April 9, 1483
⚭ May 1, 1464
Elizabeth of York
* February 11, 1466; † February 11, 1503
Elizabeth Woodville
* 1437; † June 8, 1492
Edward VI.
* October 12, 1537; † July 6, 1553
John Seymour
* about 1450; † October 26, 1491
⚭ before 1468
Sir John Seymour
* 1474; † December 21, 1536
⚭ before 1500
Elizabeth Darrell
* about 1451; † approx. 1479
Jane Seymour
b.1509; † October 24, 1537
Henry Wentworth
† approx. 1500
⚭ before 1478
Margery Wentworth
* about 1478; † 1550
Ann Say


Overview works


  • Chris Skidmore: Edward VI: The Lost King of England. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 2007, ISBN 978-0-297-84649-9
  • Jennifer Loach et al .: Edward VI. Yale University Press, New Haven 1999, ISBN 0-300-07992-3
  • Peter Wende (Ed.): English Kings and Queens. From Heinrich VII. To Elisabeth II. CH Beck, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-406-43391-X

Lexicon article

Web links

Commons : Edward VI.  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Letter from Hugh Latimers to Thomas Cromwell dated October 19, 1537 "Here is no less rejoicing at the birth of our prince, whom we hungered for so long, than there was at the birth of John the Baptist"
  2. a b c d e f Dale Hoak: Edward VI (1537–1553). In: HCG Matthew, Brian Harrison (Eds.): Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), Oxford University Press, Oxford 2004
  3. David Starkey: Six Wives , HarperCollins 2003, pp. 607f
  4. Chris Skidmore: Edward VI 2007, p. 18
  5. Chris Skidmore: Edward VI 2007, p. 19
  6. Chris Skidmore: Edward VI 2007, p. 20 "Divine Providence ... hath mingled my joy with the bitterness of the death of her who brought me this happiness."
  7. ^ Lucy Wooding: Henry VIII , Routledge Historical Biographies, London New York 2009, p. 215
  8. Chris Skidmore: Edward VI 2007, p. 27
predecessor Office successor
English crown domain Duke of Cornwall
English crown domain
Henry VIII King of England
Jane Gray
Henry VIII King of Ireland
Jane Gray