6 July 1553 – King Edward VI Dies

Edward VI Scrots LouvreAt sometime between 8pm and 9pm on 6th July 1553 fifteen year-old King Edward VI, the son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, died at Greenwich Palace. He died in the arms of Sir Henry Sidney, one of the Chief Gentleman of his Privy Chamber, and his last words were “I am faint; Lord have mercy upon me, and take my spirit”. He had been ill on and off since January 1553, so his death was not unexpected.

While he was dying, Edward wrote his “Devise for the succession”, in which he removed his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth from the succession. The original draft stipulated that the Crown would descend through the male heirs of Frances, Duchess of Suffolk, and the male heirs of her children, if Edward died childless. The problem was that there were no male heirs yet, so when Edward made a turn for the worse he decided to change the Device to read “To the Lady Fraunceses heirs males, if she have any such issue before my death to the Lady Jane and her heirs males.” Edward had decided on Lady Jane Grey as his heir if she or her mother did nor produce a male heir in time. This devise would, ultimately, cost Lady Jane Grey her life.

Jane was proclaimed queen on 10th July 1553 but lost the throne to Mary I on 19th July 1553.

You can read more about Edward VI in the following articles:


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11 thoughts on “6 July 1553 – King Edward VI Dies”
  1. Poor Edward. His final illness was absolutely awful. Amazing to think it was probably something that could have been cleared up with some strong antibiotics today. I’ve often wondered what would have happened had his betrothal to Mary Stuart had gone through and Edward had lived. Things would have been very different. I imagine Mary Tudor might have actually left for Spain and who knows what would have become of Elizabeth. Married off somewhere? Jane Grey would have kept her head too.

    Still at the same time it’s hard to imagine England developing as it did in the next few centuries without the cultural/social impact of the Elizabethan era.

  2. Henry bequeathed a very divided family from his numerous marriages…….divided particularly on matters of interpretation of the Christian faith……

    1. Henry basically ‘shook things up,’ and was treading a fine line after he broke with the Papacy and dissolved the monasteries. He was so very egotistical, and left a mark on history in many ways.

  3. It all seems a bit odd to me.His passing over Elizabeth for Frances children.Why not legitimize Elizabeth if he thought it might come down to a female anyway?

    1. Well, if you read his supposed reasoning, Edward does seem to really believe that both his sisters are illegitimate and, therefore, should not be in the line of succession. Despite what his father had wrote in his will. Plus, I suppose it would be a bit messy if he barred Mary from the throne via saying she was illegitimate because of her parent’s divorce. But, at the same time legitimized Elizabeth. That wouldn’t have really made sense. There would not be a law that barred Catholics from the throne until after Queen Anne’s reign. So, they couldn’t disinherit Mary on the grounds of her religion either. So, it had to be on grounds of illegitimacy . So, on that basis if Mary was a bastard, so was Elizabeth.

      What puzzles me more is why Frances Brandon herself was passed over in favour of her daughter. She was a closer relation to Henry. I believe the original plan had actually been for Frances to rule as a kind of Lord Protector until a male heir born from either herself or her daughters came of age. This was then changed to make Jane queen. Some have speculated that Northumberland pushed this through as some kind of power grab after Jane’s marriage to his son. But, if anyone who knows more about this particular incident wants to correct me on any of that, feel free.

      Elizabeth was probably lucky that Edward didn’t decide to pass the crown to her, she very well may have ended up like Jane Grey if he had. She’d, of course, become queen in five years anyway.

      1. Excellent Gwen. I had never thought about Frances Brandon. Obviously Northumberland was behind it .. What did he gain in the end.. Both lost their lives.. His own son.

      2. If Mary and Elizabeth were legally unable to inherit, due to their illegitimacy, then strictly the line of Margaret Tudor, as Henry VIII’s eldest sister, should have been in the mix. Henry, of course, had ruled that line out in his will, but Edward could have put them back in..
        It was still believed at that time that a woman could not govern a country successfully, hence the original draft of Edward’s devise stipulating that the crown would descend through the male heirs of Frances, Duchess of Suffolk, and the male heirs of her children, if Edward died childless. When it became clear just how ill Edward was, the devise was changed to read “To the Lady Fraunceses heirs males, if she have any such issue before my death to the Lady Jane and her heirs males.” It was unlikely that Frances would have a male heir, so passing it on to Jane and then her male heirs meant that a woman would only be on the throne temporarily before it would pass to her son on her death. Jane was young, she was more likely to have sons and she had just married Guildford Dudley, son of the Duke of Northumberland, and her father was Henry Grey, so she had plenty of men around her to help her govern. She was likely to have children soon.
        I think it was really about making sure the country stayed Protestant and that a man would be in charge as soon as possible. I don’t believe that it was a power grab by Northumberland, I think that Edward had shown that he had his own mind and could make his own decisions. I think it was simply down to practicalities. Frances was nearly 36 and her last daughter, Mary, had been born in 1545, so the teenaged newly married Jane was a better bet for producing a male heir.
        Just my opinion though!

  4. He could have had her declared her legitimate after his death so then it wouldn’t have effected his rule.Just wanted to add that.

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