In this latest edition of her “Facts about….” series, I share interesting facts about Edward VI, the boy king, son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour.

How many of these facts about Edward VI do you know? Hopefully at least a few of them surprised you!

Find out more about Edward VI in the Edward VI playlist:

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3 thoughts on “18 Interesting Facts about Edward VI”
  1. I have always felt so sorry for little King Edward poor little mite, he suffered terribly during his last illness, and I have always felt that England lost a real gem there because I do believe he had the makings of a great king, I did not know he was the first English king to be crowned Head Of The Church, but Henry V111 had declared he was and made it treason not to acknowledge him as such, so it was inevitable he would inherit that title, he was the darling of the nursery the cherished son which his father had waited over twenty three years for, his mother endured a dreadful labour and died not after his sumptuous christening, from the moment he arrived he was doted on looked after and the walls of his nursery were scrubbed frequently to keep any kind of disease out, Lady Bryon who had been all of Henry V111’s children’s governess was in charge, and a suitable nursemaid was found for him whilst all of England celebrated with a grand tournament and fireworks and his father was overjoyed, but with the joy came great sorrow and Jane Seymour the little princes mother died of puerperal fever, commonly known as childbed fever and for a long time the king was bereft, Edward was born robust contrary to earlier myths that painted him as pale and sickly, he was a bonny little baby and Holbein’s portrait of him as a toddler is charming, little Edward was painted full faced and he has a chubby rosy face with a little smile on his face, he has his mother’s slanting eyes and he is dressed in the Tudor fashion like a little adult, his hair is golden with a hint of red which he had inherited from his father, as he grew up he had a whipping boy who was punished for any misdemeanour’s Edward did, his food was tested for poison and his father visited him frequently he was his little jewel, like when his elder sister Mary had been born she had been called a pearl by her father, and she was still his pearl, even though she had defied him for many years, growing up Edward was very fond of Mary, and she maybe with some amount of maternal instinct like to mother him, she had been fond of his mother and she must have grieved greatly when she died, she had been chief mourner at the queens funeral, as Edward grew older however they clashed over that old elephant in the room, religion, Mary still fervently Catholic must have despaired of Edwards schooling for he was soundly of the Protestant faith, and he has been called the first Protestant king, there was no such friction with Elizabeth because she like Edward was tutored by Roger Ascham, a believer in the reformist faith, Elizabeth’s mother after all had been keen on the new religion, we can see there was a kind of love hate relationship between Edward and Mary, and they often clashed over her wanting to hear mass in the chapel, Edward forbade it and once Mary was in tears but she defied him, just like she had Henry V111, Edwards character was asserting itself, well aware from very young he was special, he had grown up aware of the importance of his person and the great destiny he had, it probably made him insufferably arrogant and somewhat pompous, he was said to be rather cold, he is also noted as never laughing except once and his portraits show him looking deadly serious, there is no smile on his lips unlike when he was a toddler, he does appear rather emotionless and very unlike his father, who from a young age had been known for his sunny friendly personality, maybe Edward inherited this trait from his mother, who showed no qualms stepping into her predecessors shoes after she had just been brutally beheaded, maybe like Jane Seymour he had the gift of distancing himself from anything unpleasant, and told himself it was gods will and therefore, not his responsibility, his brief entry in his diary on the execution of his uncle is devoid of emotion, as if he was talking about some one not known or related to him, yet the Admiral had been his favourite uncle who had often given him gifts of pocket money, Thomas Seymour had been a merry charming rogue, yet he did foolishly try to kidnap Edward during one of his hare brained schemes which sadly ended in the death of the kings dog, maybe Edward had been fond of his pets more than his human companions, it is easy to say this reckless action by the admiral must have greatly shocked and upset Edward, yet he chillingly recorded his death and it was noted did not shed a tear for him, he had been at Hatfield with Elizabeth when the old kings council arrived to inform them both the king was dead, and Edward was now king, both children burst into tears and the men patted them and sought to comfort them, King Henry V111 must have aroused mixed emotions in both Edward and his sister, to Elizabeth he had been a remote and glittering figure, and little Edward a very fussy giant of a man who must have visited the Royal nursery frequently and had a daily report of his health, given to him by his hovering anxious servants, Edward was also very precocious like his father and sisters, and one of his tutors was John Cheke who had studied at Cambridge and was a gifted Greek scholar, Edward learnt both Latin and Greek but he was not just a bookworm, he liked archery and was fond of riding he also had his own falcons, he was his fathers dream of continuing the Tudor dynasty and had he lived and had sons himself, then we would have had no Mary 1st and no Elizabeth 1st, but he was fated never to be the great king his father had wanted so desperately, though shaking of a bout of malaria successfully when younger, he unfortunately fell ill with measles and maybe chicken pox, it is now believed both illnesses lowered his immunity which proved fatal, for the next year he caught TB that dreaded disease of the age, and which had possibly killed his uncle Arthur and half brother Henry Fitzroy, it seems the weakened Tudor genes had appeared in young Edward and he became ill with a continuous cough, growing weaker daily his doctors believed death was near yet he did rally for a bit then weakened again, he received a visit from his sister Mary whilst he was in bed, and she was shocked at his condition, by now both uncles had been beheaded and Lord Dudley was really ruling the country, it is believed he had the young king under his control, this man was very ambitious and not well liked, he was the son of one of Henry V11’s tax gatherer’s who had been executed shortly after Henry V111 had come to the throne, it is thought he had influenced the young king to alter the terms of his fathers will, whilst England prayed for their king who was only fifteen, Edward lay exhausted in his great ornate bed, the candles fluttering in their sconces must have echoed the poor kings shallow breathing, nothing could be done to ease his suffering and by now his hair and nails had begun to fall out, ulcers had erupted all over his body and he could not keep any of his food or drink down, when he coughed his phlegm was green, and we can only imagine the torment he was in, his friend Henry Sidney was with him and took him in his arms, Edward said he felt faint life was leaving him, and thus the poor frail and ravaged body of the fifteen year old king breathed his last, tragically he died too young and therefore he never came to rule on his own, and one wonders what sort of king he would have made, he was fanatical about his religion, and could well have ruled with an iron will like his father, he did not like frivolities and once reprimanded Mary for being over fond of dancing, I doubt if he would have been a womaniser, his character reminds me of a person old before their time, we know he was highly gifted, I can see him marrying and being faithful, because he would find other women tiresome and god would not approve, his death gave us Mary then Elizabeth who was the successful monarch his father had wanted for his realm, only she was the true offspring of the mother of misery’s – female, Mary honoured her brothers beliefs however and his funeral was carried out in the Protestant style, the full length portrait of King Edward V1 where he has adopted his fathers famous pose is beautiful, but he has none of his fathers august presence, Edward though king and sumptuously dressed looks what he was, just a very young boy, rather thin pale faced but with a haughty expression, the hope of his father and the realm and whose existence had cost his mother her life, it is sad to think of such promise, hope and precociousness condemned to an early grave.

  2. I always think would I have liked Edward or not as a growing teen King and I have to say probably not. He sounds like the sort of teen one might want to smack on a regular basis one moment and have a good day out with another. He certainly did have his own mind, although we don’t always get to know it. His diary is the most precious thing we have because it was so rare for anyone at that time. He sometimes comes across as cold and rigid like when his Uncle Tom Seymour was executed and sometimes he is recorded laughing and enjoying himself.

    His relationship with Mary was definitely a strange one, mind you given the age difference that was not surprising. Mary didn’t resent Edward but she must have always been aware that given he was a boy, he would succeed her father. Mary was perhaps a bit motherly and saw him as a child rather than her King. She was also a devoted Catholic as most people were so a young King not yet a man telling her how to worship was a definite no no. Mary was also determined not to be treated as she had been by her father and said no to Edward in no uncertain terms. Yes, she respected him, he was King, but she not going against her conscience again. She was keeping her counsel and so were her ladies. Then she rode through London in a grand procession with her entire household carrying rosary beads. Mary wasn’t being told anything by her little brother.

    I feel sorry for Edward as a child because he was isolated. He did appear to find some more of a role during the latter wives like Anne of Cleves who wrote to him and visited him and Katherine Parr brought him into the family. He made an appearance at one of the Christmas parties in 1542 or 1543 and addressed a couple of Ambassadors. It was probably well rehearsed but he was described as very eloquent. That reminds me of his father as a child meeting Thomas More and Erasmus. More obviously took a present but Erasmus forgot and young Prince Henry asked him to write something for him. He came up with a set of verses to praise the Prince. The fact about the inscription telling Prince Edward to surpass his father made me smile. There is a lovely portrait of Edward as a baby of two and one has to wonder how do you get a two year old to sit long enough over several weeks to do a portrait?

    Edward was certainly a bright and robust child because the one thing he did have, tertiary fever or malaria as we might call it, could have killed him. Henry had prayers for his recovery and his happiness with the Queen at the time, Kathryn Howard, the latter very pre mature as he was also told of her colourful past at the same time. Edward seems to have gone on to be relatively healthy and strong and was tall as well. He had a good capacity for learning and he had ideas about the Reformation. He wrote his own paper on it. His Devise was certainly tailored on a few occasions before the final one because of the alterations and crossing out. He was determined that only a legitimate Protestant would do and thus Lady Jane Grey. Now given how ill Edward was the question of how much influence John Dudley had here is important and the document wasn’t without its legal problems. Not all of the Judges were happy, the Letters Patent never made it to Parliament which didn’t meet until September and the Council later said they were bullied into agreeing. It’s one of those things a modern law school would probably have a field day with.

    Edward was merely nine when he succeeded and so not responsible for many of the upheavals of his short reign. The Protectorate of Edward Seymour saw the execution of his own brother, the Prayer Book Rebellions which cost the lives of thousands and constant fights in the Council. It also saw the conspiracy of his half sister Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour which is hidden in mystery and which she smarted her way out off and the constant war with Scotland. It also saw the introduction of the Prayer Book and reforms in services and in this Edward had a hand with his ideas and making alterations. By 1551, however, Edward was showing signs of having an interest on ruling and made some changes to the Prayer Book. He also hosted Queen Marie de Guise as Regent of Scotland who paid a State visit. He was much more interested in state affairs and attending Council Meetings and he showed great promise as another Josaiah, the reforming boy King of Israel. He was now 15 and almost at his majority. Then tragedy struck.

    Edward suffered a double whammy of small pox and measles and he was very ill. The following year he suffered the lingering illness which killed him. In January 1553 Edward vi became very ill, probably with a form of TB or some pulmonary disease and he remained ill until his death on 6th July 1553. His main concern was for the succession as he was only 15 and unmarried. That might sound an odd thing to say as he was only 15 but Prince Arthur was married then and the future Henry Prince of Wales, son of James I was already married by the time he died aged 16. Mary Queen of Scots married the Dauphin of France aged 15 and although sex was not advised, they didn’t always wait. Edward may have been looking for a suitable bride at the time of his early death. However, it wasn’t possible now and he looked immediately to the succession. He by passed both Mary and Elizabeth who were next in line, although legally still illegitimate. Mary was also a Catholic and she would remain so but Elizabeth didn’t care and was happy to conform. However, Edward wanted someone who was both Protestant and legitimate. The House of Suffolk was next but he overlooked Frances, Duchess of Suffolk and thought about the children of Lady Jane Grey who was married in May to Guildford Dudley. However, Edward was too ill for Jane to have children and he had to change the Device for it to read, Lady Jane and her heirs male. The Letters Patent were issued and Jane was officially the heir. The problem was Edward was dying and so no Parliament met to make his will law. Nobody told Jane either. On 6th July 1553 Edward died, leaving chaos to follow. His death wasn’t announced for three days and Jane not told until 9th July when she was informed by her parents. Mary, the real heir had to flee but nine days later she had rallied the people and taken the Kingdom as Mary I.

    Edward showed potential as a political leader and a smart ruler. His reformation would have been harder hitting than that of his advisors who wanted caution. He was also single minded like his father and much would depend on his ability to father sons and healthy ones. His education would certainly have made him a forward and able monarch. However, he was as zealous as the rest of the family in religious matters so that inevitably would mean religious persecution. If he had the wisdom to deal in a balanced way with the storm abroad and at home his reforms would inevitably cause, then yes I too can see him as a fair and great King. His foreign policy would need to be a balance of power but as his peace with Scotland showed, he was a capable negotiator as well. He knew his own mind and I don’t see anyone arguing with him.

  3. Apparently one contemporary noted that Edward only laughed once, so serious was he, but he must have enjoyed himself when he was with his riding companions and playing games, and at festivities like Christmas where he must have had cause to chuckle, I agree I doubt I would have like Edward very much either, as I said I think he was a bit pompous he was undoubtedly precocious like his sister Elizabeth, and maybe enjoyed the company of those on the same intellectual level as himself, the reformation which his father had started Edward carried through fervently, and it is a shame that this caused a further wedge between him and Mary, his devise for the succession which I feel was caused by a great deal of coercion from Lord Dudley and others of the council, really caused an uproar throughout the land when the people heard Lady Jane Grey had been proclaimed queen, it was said that a great storm occurred that same night which the superstitious attributed to the wrath of Henry V111 on knowing that his wishes had been overruled, if we study the law of the land, legally both Elizabeth and Mary should have been barred on account of Parliament ruling them both illegitimate, bastards were not supposed to inherit but Henry V111 had put them in the line of succession, however a monarch though declared illegitimate could reverse the act of titular Regis which Henry V11 did for his queen, who had also been declared illegitimate and Mary 1st also reversed the act which had made her parents marriage illegal and herself a bastard, so now she was born in rightful wedlock again and was the lawful queen, we can see Henry V111 with his meddling of his first two as he saw them cursed marriages, made it all the harder for his two daughters when they came to the throne, Edward was his only legal heir as he saw it, although Mary had been legitimately born and she was seen by Catholic Europe and most of England as the true heir, it was her younger sister who really suffered with the stain of bastardy because Henry V111 had really committed bigamy when he married her mother, Edward himself wrote rather disparagingly of his fathers first two wives when he referred to Katherine as ‘ the Spaniard’ and of Anne Boleyn, it was Elizabeth’s misfortune to have her as a mother, he was about the same age as Jane Grey his cousin, and after his sisters came her family in the line of succession, according to the will of Henry V111, but what did Edward do? He created more strife when he effectively cut both sisters out and overrode Frances Brandon, leaving the throne to her eldest Jane, why he overrode Frances is a mystery but she and her husband were plotting with Dudley and she may not have wanted to be queen, also Dudley wanted to rule England and he would have more chance with a pair of teenagers than a much older woman, all her family were legitimate there was no doubt of that, and yes Jane ticked all the boxes because she was Protestant with the same fanatical zeal as Edward, yet with the signature on his will he effectively signed Jane’s death warrant, Edward was learned but still only a child and knew not much about people’s ambition, he did not realise Dudley only wished to rule through Jane and his son, to whom he had married, Edward also totally underestimated his sister Mary, he must have heard of her grandmother the warrior queen of Castile, her blood was in her veins as well as her mothers, and Mary was not going to sit back idly and let her young cousin take her throne, but this is where the debate on who was the rightful queen of England continues to this day, was it Mary Tudor or Jane Grey? Edward changed his will without consulting Parliament which he should have because he was still in his minority, yet he was the sovereign and it was his right as the sovereign Lord of his realm to leave his kingdom to whom he wished, within reason of course they had to be blood kin, and in the succession, had he consulted parliament and told them in no uncertain terms he wished Jane to succeed him then they in all likelihood would have agreed with his choice, not being able to do otherwise, although many would have preferred Mary, Edwards dream of a successful and peaceful Protestant nation did not come to fruition till Elizabeth came to the throne, yet there was often unrest in her time because of her Catholic subjects, she had a more balanced view of religion, she was not zealous about her beliefs like her brother and sister had been, and as she herself declared, she did not wish to make windows into men’s souls, as long as they did not trouble her she was content to let the catholics pray in secret, it was only when Mary of Scots sought refuge in her land, then there were uprisings in her name and Elizabeth had them persecuted.

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