This Day In History: Henry VIII’s Son Is Made King Of England & Ireland (1547)

This Day In History: Henry VIII’s Son Is Made King Of England & Ireland (1547)

Jeanette Lamb - February 20, 2017

February 20, 1547, just four days after watching his father’s burial, Edward VI was crowned the King of England and Ireland. The nine-year-old was the son of the often controversial, Henry VIII. This made Edward the first monarch to be raised purely as a Protestant. During his six-year stint as king, he made impressive strides to forge the transformation the monarchy was undergoing since his father’s brazen decision to cut ties with Rome and with that, Catholicism. The Catholic religion had provided more than tradition for the Church of England, it shaped England’s identity. Edward VI was faced by the monumental task of imposing a protestant mask upon England’s face. He began by severing clerical celibacy and mass.

This Day In History: Henry VIII’s Son Is Made King Of England & Ireland (1547)
Edward VI and the Pope: An Allegory of the Reformation, Public Domain

Given his age, Edward VI was not allowed to govern without some assistance. He was met with complex, sizable tasks due to the disarray left by his father’s legacy. These could not be surmounted even by a full grown man. let alone a prepubescent child. Helping him out were his uncle; until it was suspected his uncles advice was misleading. John Dudley replaced Edward’s uncle and the two did well together.

Dudley’s son, Gilford was married to Lady Jane Grey, who had a reputation for her graceful disposition and broad education. The monarch suffered economic problems. More than that, the citizens over whom Edward ruled were noisy about their unhappiness. Gatherings exploded from riots and riots into rebellions. England was fighting an expensive war with Scotland. It was worth the cost when England was winning battle after battle. However, when fighting and loosing, the war was just an expense from which no one took pleasure. The magnitude of this paled in comparison to other problems the monarchy would soon be facing. Their young king’s health way in decline. At 15 years old, Edward VI was dying.
This Day In History: Henry VIII’s Son Is Made King Of England & Ireland (1547)
Prince Edward in 1539, by Hans Holbein the Younger. He holds a golden rattle that resembles a sceptre; and the Latin inscription urges him to equal or surpass his father, CC Public Domain

No one could have guessed that Edward would not live past the age of 15 — his father was often heard bragging about his son’s vigor and health. As a baby, Edward VI grew rapidly. He has been described as tall and jovial. It is ironic, that a baby in such noticeably strong heath would face not living past the age of fifteen. Given this, researchers began looking more closely for clues about Edward’s youth. At the age of four, he suffered a life threatening fever. Along with that, his vision was nothing to brag about. Otherwise, he was health until six months before his death.

Following in the footsteps of his father, he carved out calamity and controversy before dying. He announced Lady Jane Grey as his successor. Had it not been for his half-sisters, who were seething with envy and outrage, Edward’s decision would have gone beautifully well. In Jane, he made a miraculous choice. The brother’s move confirmed his sister’s insecure sense of belonging within the monarch’s realm. Early in Edward’s life, his father cast his daughters shamefully outside the castle walls; disinheriting and bastardizing them both. The sister’s clung to their brother’s affections.

When Edward was on his death bed, the decision about who should take his place was motivated by an overarching concern to protect the kingdom from falling back into Catholicism. This, more than anything shaped why he could not appoint his half-sister, Mary. She was Catholic. When considering his half-sister Elizabeth, this logic falls apart. He notes, succession to be legitimate must go to a man, then choose his first cousin, once removed, Lady Jane Grey.

The decision to overstep his sister’s set the stage for revenge. Elizabeth and Mary plotted against Lady Jane; not long after Jane was crowned, the council turned against her. She was placed in the Tower of London. Both she and her husband were executed. Mary took possession of the crown and soon after tried to undo protestant reforms created while her brother was in power in an effort to reunite England with Rome.