8th August 1553 – Burial of Edward VI at Westminster Abbey

Edward VIOn this day in 1553, King Edward VI was buried in a white marble vault beneath the altar of Henry VII’s Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey. Merchant-taylor Henry Machyn recorded the funeral procession in his diary:

“The viij day of August was bered the nobull kyng Edward the vj, and vij yere of ys rayne; and at ys bere[ing was] the grettest mone mad for hym of ys deth [as ever] was hard or sene, boyth of all sorts of pepull, wepyng and lamentyng; and furst of alle whent a grett company of chylderyn in ther surples, and clarkes syngyng, and then ys father(‘s) bedmen, and then ij harolds, and then a standard with a dragon, and then a grett nombur of ys servants in blake, and then anodur standard with a whyt greyhond, and then after a grett nombur of ys of[ficers,] and after them comys mo harolds, and then a standard with the hed offesars of ys howse; and then harolds, Norey bare the elmett and the crest on horsbake, and then ys grett baner of armes in-brobery, and with dyvers odur baners, and then cam rydyng maister Clarensshuws with ys target, with ys garter, and ys sword, gorgyusly and ryche, and after Garter with ys cotte armur in brodery, and then mor [harolds] of armes; and then cam the charett with grett horsses trapyd with velvet to the grond, and hevere horse havyng [a man] on ys bake in blake, and ever on beyryng a banar-roll [of] dyvers kynges armes, and with schochyon(s) on ther horses, and then the charett kovered with cloth of gold, and on the [charett] lay on a pycture lyeng recheussly with a crown of gold, and a grett coler, and ys septur in ys hand, lyheng in ys robes [and the garter about his leg, and a coat in embroidery of gold; about the corps were borne four banners, a banner of the order, another of the red rose, another of queen Jane (Seymour), another of the queen’s mother. After him went a goodly horse, covered with cloth of gold unto the ground, and the master of the horse, with a man of arms in armour, which] was offered, boyth the man and the horsse. [There was set up a go]odly hersse in Westmynster abbay with banar [-rolls] and pensells, and honge with velvet a-bowt.”1

The funeral service was performed by Thomas Cranmer, in keeping with Edward VI’s Protestant faith, so Mary I did not attend and, instead, had requiem masses sung at the Tower of London for three days beginning on 8th August at Vespers.2 3 Edward VI’s funeral was the first monarch’s funeral to follow the Protestant rites from the Book of Common Prayer.

Edward’s grave was unmarked until 1966 but his coffin was seen in the 19th century and it was labelled with a Latin inscription which, when translated, read:

“Edward the sixth by the Grace of God King of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith and on earth under Christ supreme head of the churches of England and Ireland and he migrated from this life on the 6th day of July in the evening at the 8th hour in the year of our Lord 1553 and in the 7th year of his reign and in the 16th year of his age.”4

In 1966, a stone was placed in front of the altar of the chapel, marking his burial site and inscribed with the following memorial:


You can see a photo of the stone at www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/royals/burials/edward-vi

Also on this day in history…

  • 1503 – The formal wedding of Margaret Tudor and James IV of Scotland in the chapel of Holyroodhouse. The couple had been married by proxy on 15th January 1503 with Patrick Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell and Lord High Admiral of Scotland, standing in for James. Bothwell was the great-grandfather of James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, husband of Mary, Queen of Scots.
  • 1588 – Elizabeth I decided to accept the Earl of Leicester’s invitation and visit the troops he had gathered near Tilbury Fort to defend England against the forces of the Spanish Armada.

Notes and Sources

  1. ed. Nichols, J.G. (1848) The Diary of Henry Machyn: Citizen and Merchant-Taylor of London (1550-1563), p 34-50, which can be read online at www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45512
  2. The Ambassadors in England to the Emperor, 2nd August 1553, Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11: 1553, p127-150
  3. The Ambassadors in England to the Emperor, 8th August 1553, Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11: 1553, p150-162
  4. http://www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/royals/burials/edward-vi
  5. Ibid.

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9 thoughts on “8th August 1553 – Burial of Edward VI at Westminster Abbey”
  1. Good grief a month and two days before they buried the King! Even allowing for arranging a sudden funeral and the lying in this is a long time. I know they had to have the ceremonial laying in state; get the great and the good together and arrange the requium Mass or in his case the Prayer Book Burial Service and then take the body from here and there, but a month? This is the longest delay I have heard off for a royal person other than an Egyptian Pharaoh; certainly for an English monarch or prince or queen. Just what did they do with the body: put it on ice? It must have smelt something rotton by the time he was laid in the ground. Even with the preservation and making the body look well preserved methods of the Tudor times; his bones and skin would have began to decay. Just what where they doing with Edward for one month? It is no wonder the faction around Jane Grey were able to move in and seize power!

  2. A requiem mass for the Catholics and a different service for the Protestants … sounds like Mary started things off well by allowing both religions to worship as they see fit. Pity it couldn’t last that way.

    1. Catholics what are they really? Were Catholics back then powerful? Do catholics excist because of Henry VII? What was the fallout of Henry VIII breaking from the Vatican? Did it make monumental difference ?

      1. Most of the changes Henry made were still proto Catholic and he remained traditional in his personal religion. He merely made himself head of the Church in England instead of the Holy Father. Yes, of course Catholics exist. Henry and Elizabeth did not succeed in exterminating all of us. In fact in England and Wales there are some 7/8 million Catholics today and in Scotland and Northern Ireland another 3 million. There are about 11 million in the U.K in total. There are of course billions of Catholics in the rest of the world. The break with Rome, though did make a great deal of differenc in that it split the country and people had to call the King or Queen head and not the Pope. It was death if you did not. Many people did so as they were not willing to die, others for personal reasons, others political and others as they were Protestants. It is too short a time now to go into all of the changes it made as it changed the country in so many ways. Some very important people could not accept Henry as Head of the Church, like Sir Thomas More his old friend and a friend of Queen Catherine Father John Fisher. There were several martyrs because of these changes. Henry’s son Edward was only a boy but raised by sincere Protestants and he had a hand in the changes himself. His government saw Archbishop Thomas Cramner as the chief reformer and he introduced more Protestant reforms and completed the breach with Rome. Mary came to the throne for a short period and reversed the reforms. The country was willingly reconciled to the Catholic Church but the extreme campaign by Mary to destroy Protestantism and its heretical followers led to her being unpopular although it was more successful than previously believed. Elizabeth was a Protestant and re-introduced the reforms, mixed with some Catholic traditions and tried a middle way. It did not please either the Catholics or the Puritans and they were also forbidden from having a priest or the Mass and had to call her Supreme Govenor of the Church of England. When she started to execute Catholics the Pope excommunicated her, and she persecuted people even more. She finalised the break with Rome, but Catholics remained strong and grew in number over the years. Now we have freedom of worship and both faiths can worship as they please and we do not have to call the queen anything if we do not want to. Protestants still call her by the name inherited from Henry VIII, ironically in defense of the Catholic Church Defender of the Faith and Supreme Govenor, inherited from the first Elizabeth.

        It is all very complicated but yes the changes were very dramatic but you cannot put it all in a short post. You can get some very good books on the reformation and on the Catholic Church that explain all the answers to your very good questions. Hope my very brief answer helped.

        1. Thanks fOr the reply at least now I know that now I guess we can thank Ann Boleyn for changing Henry VIII. Kind reGards. Maritzal

  3. Wow even today it is still remembered the king Edward VI I would have liked to have lived back then but then again it wasn’t all as it seemed since back then young girls were married within family and when it came down to who would be king it was a very dangerous time the thought that Henry VIII at the end went mad or came close to it its still interesting Because right now things are bad here in the states and we have government who tells us. What to do back then it was just one Ruler but at the end of the day he had to do what was right to him maybe things didn’t go as planned but it was what it was it was Destiny who knows what wouldve happened if he were a different man if only he’s insecurities didn’t overtake him I feel for he’s many wives he had that had to go through all the drama maybe just maybe he wished to be different to do things differently but then Elizabeth would not have ruled either way they are forever remembered as long as we live and keep there memories alive

  4. Hi Claire! I just wanted to thank you for all the information you have posted on the Anne Boleyn files. I’ve been reading this blog for way over a year now and you have given me so many things to think about with your blog posts. I think you have some really great insight and theories and I appreciate. I hope you are forever successful!

  5. Mary ! did not successfully turn England around from Protestants to Catholics hence her nickname Bloody Mary she burned many people at the stake men women and children even old people were not safe from her wrath many people left England to get away from her and Elizabeth at least allowed Catholics to worship privately she did not burn them at the stake for their religion nor did she torture them it was kind of live and let live that is why she was hurt over the revolt by the Catholics for Mary Queen of Scots don’t I leave them alone I don’t force them to worship my way she is supposed to have said something like that in one of the many books I have read

  6. I may be mistaken but I believe history records Queen Elizabeth I condemning to death many more Catholics than her sister, Queen Mary (aka “bloody Mary”) condemning to death, Protestants. Admittedly Elizabeth had far greater time than her sister Mary to rule and condemn. It should be remembered the Tudors relied heavily on propaganda to create or support self-serving conceptions–some of which remain effective; for example–the maligned posterity of King Richard III appears to have been fostered by the Tudors who had selfish motive to cast the repute of the last Plantagenet king in bad light.

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