Tuesday, April 23, 2013

King Edward VI

King Edward VI
October 12th 1537 – July 6th, 1553
Portrait of Edward, Prince of Wales, painted by Hans Holbein the Younger – circa 1539. Edward VI holds a golden rattle that resembles a scepter and the Latin inscription urges him to equal or surpass his father. This portrait of Edward VI, according to Dr. Naomi Yavneh Klos, is primarily about the father, Henry VIII. - Come hear Dr. Klos speak on the Mini-Majesty: Dynasty and Succession in the Portraiture of Henry VIII and Edward VI, at the Anatomy Museum, King’s College London, Strand, WC2R 2LS, Friday 15th November 2013, 11.00-18.00 and Saturday 16th November 2013, 09.00-15.00.  

King Edward VI: His Life and Character
 By Sir Clements Robert Markham

The reign of King Edward VI in our histories is the reign of Somerset and the reign of Northumberland, not the reign of Edward, who is left in the background, quite overshadowed by less noteworthy personages. The result of my studies has been the conviction that the young King was by no means a cypher. He early began to use his great learning, to show his clear insight into affairs, and before the close of his life he was making his influence felt.

Any account of those times must needs give much space to the proceedings of Seymours and Dudleys, and of their colleagues. But Edward ought to be the principal character in this history, for he had become so, or was rapidly becoming so in reality. In the following attempt to give an appreciation of his place in history, chapters are devoted to his performance of the duties of the kingly office, to his regal receptions, to his  religious reforms, to his study of affairs of State, to his study of geography and promotion of commerce, to his captaincy of games, to his  progress through Hampshire and Wiltshire, and to his last illness.

His sister Elizabeth was destined to build the fair edifice for which Edward had laid the foundations. The purified national Church, the most catholic and most tolerant of all attempts to approach the divine original, was the inception of Edward and his advisers. The maritime expeditions, which were the direct causes of England's commercial and colonial greatness, date from the encouragement given by Edward and his friend Sydney to Sir Hugh Willoughby's enterprise. The influence of the founder may be traced in other departments of State, and was certainly appreciated by Elizabeth.

Everything that relates to Edward VI and his writings has already been collected and arranged in the exhaustive volumes printed for the Roxburghe  Club by Mr. J. G. Nichols in 1857. It is a splendid monograph. I have thought that a brief narrative might induce some who may read it to turn to  that fuller supply of information, when I feel sure that they will concur in my conclusions, and that all readers will be led to appreciate more  highly the fine character of young King Edward.


The story of the cutting short of a young life, in which high and well-founded hopes centered, must needs be a sad story. Yet there must be much in it which makes it worthy of record. Our young King Edward, the friend of Sydney, and Prince Henry Stuart, the friend of Raleigh, were alike in something more than their early deaths. With both bright hopes for the future came to an end. Both worked diligently and had lofty aims for the good of their country. Both showed strong individuality far in excess of any inherited qualities. Above all, both were born geographers and ardent lovers of exploring enterprise. Under the auspices of Edward, the Russian trade by the White Sea was opened. Under the auspices of Henry, Hudson’s Bay was explored.

 Historians are pleased to call young Edward precocious in a deprecatory sense, as if there was something unnatural in what is told of him. But all that is recorded is perfectly natural. He was as fond of games and of fun as any other boy of his age. But he was placed in a position of great responsibility and extreme difficulty. In such circumstances he rose to the occasion. He was surrounded by unprincipled self-seeking politicians, and he saw through them. There is nothing precocious in that. Any educated, intelligent, and well-conditioned lad would have done the same. In such a position youth has a great advantage over age. The latter has experience, but often of a baneful kind. The former has clearer judgment, higher aims, and an intuition of the truth, qualities which are not precocious, but which were worth all the artful scheming and experience of the whole  of his unprincipled Council put together.

Queen Jane Seymour was married on May 20, 1536, and Edward was born on October 12, 1537. The newborn prince was of legitimate royal descent on the mother’s side.  The christening took place in great state on October 15. The Prince's titles were declared by Garter: ' Duke of Cornwall and Earl of  Chester.' The Marchioness of Exeter carried the child under a canopy, Mrs. Jackson, the nurse, keeping close behind. Little sister Elizabeth, borne  in the arms of Edward Seymour, held the chrysm. The font, which was of solid silver, was kept by Sir J. Russell, Sir F. Bryan, Sir A. Carew, and Sir A. Browne, with aprons and towels. The Godfathers were the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Duke of Norfolk, and the Duke of Suffolk. The Godmother was the child's half-sister Mary. It was Mary who held the child at the font. [1]

On October 24 Queen Jane died. The funeral took place on November 13 at Windsor, Mary Tudor and Frances Brandon being the chief mourners. Little Edward became motherless when he was twelve days old. The infant prince passed his first years at the royal manor near Romford in Essex, called Havering-atte-Bower; and later at Hunsdon in Hertfordshire. His head nurse was Sybill Penne, a young widow, daughter of Sir Hugh Pagenham, and sister-in-law of William Sydney. The second nurse was Mrs. Jackson. Edward always called her 'Mother Jack.' Her portrait by Holbein gives us the idea of a handsome woman, with a pleasant expression. There were four rockers or nursery maids, who all had pensions while Edward was alive. Dr. G.  Owen had the post of physician, retaining it until Edward's death.

The child inherited his mother's beauty, her blue eyes and perfect features. In his very early years he found a second mother in his step-mother, Catherine Parr. This Queen had been a Westmorland beauty in her youth. She had been married to Lord Burgh, then to Lord Latimer, but was childless; and on July 12, 1543, she became the sixth wife of Henry VIII. By her wise and judicious conduct she kept her head on her shoulders during the four and a half years of her married life. She was a very charming lady, kind-hearted and accomplished, and most anxious to befriend her husband’s motherless children. Little Edward, with his sister Elizabeth, paid pleasant visits to her at Hampton Court, and one at Oking in 1544.

In the same year, at the age of six, Edward was taken from the care of women, and a household was appointed for him, with tutors and young  companions. His first Chamberlain was William Sydney, his nurse's brother-in-law. His first Steward was Sir John Cornwallis, who died at Ashridge, while in attendance, on August 23, 1544. His Cofferer was John Ryder.

Edward's homes, as a boy, were at Tyttenhanger, Hunsdon, Ashridge, Hatfield, and Hertford in Hertfordshire, and Ampthill in Bedfordshire.

Sir Anthony Cooke was the Director of Instruction. The senior tutor was Dr. Richard Cox, a native of Buckinghamshire, of low extraction. Cox was educated at Eton, and was afterwards Head Master there. It is said that the boys profited much from his diligent instruction. He was very learned and a convinced Protestant, helping Cranmer with the liturgy. Dr. Cox was Archdeacon of Ely, and in 1546 he became Dean of Christ Church. He taught  the Prince religion and manners.

Dr. John Cheke was born at Cambridge in 1514. His family came originally from the Isle of Wight. He became Greek Professor, and introduced the system of pronunciation which has since prevailed. In 1544 he came to Court, and was appointed Tutor to the Prince for classics and mathematics. He was made Provost of King's. Dr. Cheke also taught the Princess Elizabeth, brother and sister working together at Ampthill, and afterwards at Hatfield. Dr. Cheke read Aristotle's 'Ethics ' in Greek with them. The brother and sister passed many happy days together, and Edward called Elizabeth 'his sweet sister Temperance.' [2]

Dr. Cheke first gave Edward his love for geography, and advised him to keep a diary of all occurrences of weight, advice which bore rich fruit.  Roger Ascham taught the Prince to write, and Jean Belmaine was his tutor for the French language.

The Prince was very fond of music, and had good instructors. Dr. Tye, a well-known composer in those days, was one. Dr. Sternhold, author of a metrical version of the Psalms, was another. Philip van Wilder taught the Prince to play on the lute, at which he became proficient.

Young Edward was exceedingly fond of his studies, and showed grasp and quickness of perception which were remarkable in one so young. Several of his letters, written at this time, have been preserved. There are three to his stepmother, one in English, one in Latin, one in French, all written  in 1546. There is one in Latin to Cranmer, a second Latin letter to Catherine Parr in 1547, letters to his sisters Mary and Elizabeth in Latin, and one to Henry VIII. in Latin, thanking him for presents of chains, rings, and seals.

Young Edward had several schoolfellows who lived with him at different times, and joined in his studies and his sports. The nearest and dearest was Barnaby Fitzpatrick, son and heir of the Lord of Upper Ossory. He was born in 1535, and was thus two years older than Edward. Young Barnaby was sent to the English Court, at an early age, as a pledge of his father's loyalty, and we first hear of him as taking a part in the funeral of Henry VIII. He was one of the nine boys, in black cloaks, hooded, and well mounted, who rode in the procession carrying the banners of Brutus, Belinus,  Cadwallader, Arthur, Athelstan, Edmund, St. Edward, Edward exile, and England single. They were followed in the procession by Sir F. Bryan, Master of the Henchmen,[3] Sir Anthony Wingfield, Captain of the Guard, and Sir John Markham, who carried the banner of Lancaster.

Barnaby was Edward's companion in his studies and at his sports. An affection grew up between them which was stronger than ordinary friendship, and which lasted until they were parted by death.[4]

Other companions of Edward were Henry Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and his brother Charles. They were not relations, but sons of his uncle-in-law, the Duke of Suffolk, by another mother, Lady Willoughby d'Eresby. They were very beautiful and most charming boys; but their mother took them away to send them to Cambridge when they were still very young. Lord Charles Brandon was just Edward's age. The Prince had several other companions at one time or another. These were his cousin Edward Seymour, Lord Talbot (son of the Earl of Shrewsbury), Lord Fitzwarine (son of the Earl of Bath), Lord  Maltravers (son of the Earl of Arundel), young Giles Paulet, Lord Lumley, Lord Thomas Howard, Lord Fitzwalter (son of the Earl of Sussex), the Earl  of Ormonde, Lord Mount of and Lord Strange (son of the Earl of Derby), who was not so desirable a comrade as the others.[5]

If Edward was diligent at his studies, he was also a thorough young sportsman, and was for ever getting up matches among his comrades, and among the servants. He also amused himself very well indoors. We have a glimpse of his playing at cards with Jane Dormer,[6] and dancing with her.

The young heir to the throne was not very fortunate as regards relations. His kind stepmother was the most beneficial to him, and he had occasionally stayed with her, but she died in 1548. His grandmother, Lady Seymour, was alive, and kept house for her son, Thomas Lord Sudeley, after his wife's death. His two aunts were married to Gregory Lord Cromwell, and to Sir Clement Smith. The Prince never felt much affection for his uncle Edward. Child as he was, he could see that this uncle was unreliable and self-seeking. Edward Seymour's wife was an awful woman with violent dislikes, a shrewish temper, malignant and rapacious. Thomas Seymour was the Prince's favorite uncle, accomplished, good-natured, and always striving to make things pleasant for his nephew. His half-sister Elizabeth was his chosen companion before his accession, and he was also intimate with his young cousin, Jane Grey, who was his own age. Mary was over twenty years his senior. She was a narrow-minded bigot, though willing to recant and conceal her real opinions for the sake of a better position during her father's life. The warmhearted brother seems to have had affectionate feelings towards her. A Latin letter from Edward to Mary has been preserved, dated from Hunsdon on May 8, 1546.

Edward saw his cousins occasionally, the Countess of Lennox, the Countess of Cumberland, and the Marchioness of Dorset - mother of Jane Grey. But these ladies were many years his seniors. His Seymour and Wentworth cousins were nearer his own age, and the elder Seymour boys enjoyed his intimacy.

Edward increased in years and learning, surrounded by some near relations and many friends, for all who knew the generous princely boy could not fail to love him. Never was there brighter promise for England. Alas! for the disappointment.

William Thomas, afterwards Clerk of the Council, described young Edward at this time.

'He is the beautifullest creature that liveth under the sun, the wittiest, the most amiable, and the gentlest thing of all the world. Such a capacity for learning that it is a wonder to hear say. Finally he  hath such a grace of feature and gesture that it would seem he were already a father, and yet passeth he not the age of ten years.'


The inheritance of young Edward, if he had ever entered upon it, would have been one surrounded by difficulties which it would have required a prince of no ordinary ability to overcome. Edward had studied and understood them. He had prepared himself, when of full age, to apply remedies; and all that we know of his life history justifies the belief that he would have succeeded in the great and patriotic work that was before him.

The country's difficulties had been caused by a usurpation followed by over sixty years of misgovernment. In 1485 the last Plantagenet king was slain in battle through the treachery of the Stanleys. Richard III sought the good of his people, and was making this duty the main object of his  reign. After his death Henry Tydder, or Tudor,[7] seized the throne, but the Welsh adventurer had no other claim than the precarious one of conquest. He ordered the evidence of the illegitimacy of the children of Edward IV[8] to be destroyed, and, after long hesitation, he  married the eldest daughter. This gave no legitimate title to his heir, although the pretense of legitimacy was maintained and enforced, all who knew to the contrary being threatened with imprisonment and ruin if they were not silent.

This usurpation was the originating cause of misgovernment. All the abilities of the usurpers were devoted to measures, often cruel and lawless measures, for the maintenance of their position. For the same reason it was so also in the case of Henry IV, although he was at least a member of the royal family. Henry Bolingbroke murdered King Richard II, his half-brothers, and his most faithful servants. The usurper had to maintain his position by civil wars involving the slaughter of high and low. He had to secure the support of the clergy by passing cruel laws for the extirpation of heresy. His son, to divert the attention of the people from their own affairs, plunged the country into an unprincipled and disastrous war with France; and finally the misgovernment became intolerable, the usurping dynasty was rejected after another civil war, and the country gave its allegiance to the rightful heir. Such were the results of the Lancastrian usurpation.

The Tudor usurpation had to follow a similar course. The main object of the fortunate adventurer was to establish his position by the destruction of possible rivals. There were civil wars, disappearances in prison, and judicial murders. What Henry VII began, his son continued. Henry VIII.  lost no opportunity of destroying descendants of the old royal family: Suffolk, Buckingham, Montague, Courtenay, the venerable Princess Margaret  (last of the Plantagenets), and the accomplished Surrey. The Duke of Norfolk would have followed if the merciless executioner had not been called  to his account.

These cruelties were bad enough in themselves, but the supposed exigencies which caused them also led to the neglect of those measures for the good of the people which would have received attention from legitimate sovereigns. The legislation of Henry VIII was mainly directed to the establishment of his own despotic power. His Parliaments were not representative of the people. Practically the members were chosen by the Sheriffs under instructions, and formed base and subservient assemblies. Treason Laws were enacted, making capital offences of words alleged by one witness to have been spoken. The Parliaments were ready to pass Acts of Attainder when required, and many victims were put to death without trial; indeed, it was extremely difficult for public men with any self-respect or independence to keep their heads on their shoulders. Henry's proclamations were given the force of Acts of Parliament, a measure which practically ensured him despotic power. In this shameful legislation difficulties were growing up for a successor who was resolved to rule justly and wisely. The subservient Parliament even made a law empowering Henry to settle the succession by will.

Henry VIII had been taught all the learning of those days, he was a scholar and a theologian, as a young man expert in the use of arms, and in  later life industrious and methodical. He was endowed by nature with great abilities, was a good administrator, and a practical expert on some points, able to look into details himself. This was especially shown in his administration of the navy, of its civil departments, and even in his essays to form a system of naval tactics.

But here his merits end. He thought of nothing but himself. Utterly devoid of affection for others, he was callous to suffering, and shamefully ungrateful. He never showed mercy. In his youth his life was dissolute and immoral, and he certainly had other illegitimate children besides the Duke of Richmond. To one he granted Kelston and Bath Easton, property of the Church, and married her to John Harington. He was extravagant and a bad financier. His personal courage may well be questioned. He never exposed his person in his wars, and he fled like a craven from infectious diseases. Like his father he ever tried to shield himself, in his lawless acts, by forms of law and sanctions of packed Parliaments.

Henry's treatment of his Ministers was matchless in its injustice and ingratitude. His father was the only English sovereign who descended to practices of which the most pettifogging attorney would be ashamed. Sir Edmund Dudley was a member of the usurper's Council, and was supposed to have suggested many pretexts for extorting bribes and fines which were approved by Henry. The result was a full treasury. The son succeeded to this rich inheritance, and spent the money on himself. There was no question of restoring any of it to those who were supposed to have been robbed; no question of respecting his father's memory, for if Dudley deserved to be beheaded, Henry VII deserved to be hanged. But Dudley was loaded with all the blame, and Henry VIII thought he would gain popularity by his execution. He had committed no capital crime. It would appear that no charge  could be formulated; so Dudley was condemned on the absurd ground that, on hearing of the death of Henry VII, he asked his friends to come armed  to his house in Seething Lane as a precaution in case of a riot. This step was neither treasonable nor criminal. Dudley's execution was the first essay of Henry VIII in judicial murders, the worst of all murders, as Lord Russell truly said. The execution of the Earl of Suffolk, a baser and more iniquitous murder, quickly followed.

Henry's treatment of Cardinal Wolsey was more revolting in its cruelty and ingratitude. Wolsey was a great statesman. His splendid talent threw lustra on a long period of Henry's reign. He was devoted to the interests of his master, and exerted all his abilities to further that master’s wishes; but he failed where success was impossible. Henry disgraced him, robbed him of his possessions, and was having the old statesman brought from Yorkshire to be slaughtered, when kindly death interposed, and robbed the tyrant of his victim.

Henry's treatment of Cromwell was, in some respects, still more revolting as showing the utter absence of generous feeling and gratitude towards a faithful and devoted servant. Cromwell was without principle or scruple, and stuck at nothing to secure his master's ends. A more honorable minister would never have been in power under Henry for ten years. Like Dudley and Henry VII., Cromwell and Henry VIII were congenial spirits.  Cromwell undertook and completed the great work of suppressing the monasteries and placing vast wealth in the hands of his master to be misused and squandered. He was a man of extraordinary ability, broad views, and almost superhuman powers of work. Cromwell's foreign policy was to form a league with the Protestant princes of Germany. In furtherance of it Henry arranged to marry a sister of the Duke of Cleves. But he took a dislike to the lady when he saw her, and, with a total disregard of anything but his own selfish whim, he ordered a divorce and turned against his faithful minister. Cromwell's execution followed, condemned without a trial, and on frivolous charges which were childish in their absurdity. As in the case of Dudley, if Cromwell deserved to be beheaded, Henry deserved to be hanged, for he had initiated or approved every act of Cromwell. Such was his treatment of Wolsey and Cromwell, great statesmen who served him ably and faithfully, with single-minded zeal. However unjust and cruel they may have been to others, to Henry they were ever faithful and true. When he tired of them his return was the axe. He never found another statesman of the same caliber to serve him. Surrounded by inferior agents, self-seeking and rapacious, he committed almost every blunder that a ruler could be guilty of, leaving an inheritance of difficulties and troubles for his successor.

Henry's coarse and ungracious treatment of Anne of Cleves reminds us of his complete absence of courtesy and chivalrous feeling towards women. The sovereigns of the Tudor Dynasty stand alone as the executioners of women for political offences; but Henry went far beyond his daughters. He burnt a lady alive on a charge of being concerned in a rebellion, and he had Anne Askew tortured in the hope of making her accuse others, before she was burnt. His charges against Anne Boleyn were only confirmed by one witness, after torture; and the weight of such evidence as exists is against her guilt. Before execution she was induced by fear or by a faint hope of mercy to state that she was betrothed to the Earl of Northumberland secretly, before she married Henry. The Earl positively denied it. But on the strength of Anne's statement it was declared that there had never been any marriage with Henry. The only object in forcing a trip, to make the statement was that Henry might bastardize his little daughter. One thing is certain. If there was no marriage there was no treason, and Anne's execution was a deliberate murder.

The abolition of the Pope's usurped power in England was a most beneficial measure for the good of the people. But this was not Henry's object. He was tired of his wife, the Pope refused to grant a divorce, so Henry declared himself Supreme Head of the Church, and caused the divorce to be pronounced by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Although Henry had, up to that moment, acknowledged and upheld the Pope's supremacy, he now declared it to be a capital offence to assert this very dogma. There fell by the axe, on this account, the venerable Bishop Fisher, and the accomplished and virtuous Sir Thomas More, while the Carthusians and other conscientious men were tortured and hanged. Meanwhile the marriage with Catherine of Aragon was declared to have been, by God's law, incestuous and unlawful. This statement, as well as that respecting the nullity of the marriage with Anne Boleyn, was confirmed by Act of Parliament. Thus this precious father bastardized both his own daughters on grounds which he himself knew to be untenable. He brutally forced his eldest daughter to declare herself a bastard.

The suppression of the monasteries was a great measure which brought into the treasury an enormous amount of wealth chiefly in land, and Cromwell formed a special department for its administration, called the Court of Augmentations. If this wealth had been retained for the use of the State, by the endowment of colleges, hospitals, and similar institutions, and if the magnificent buildings all over England had been kept in repair and utilized, incalculable good would have accrued to the country. But Henry had no such intention. To save appearances he used a mere fraction to create new bishoprics,[9] endow some colleges, and to build two or three useless defensive towers along the coast. He either squandered all the rest on himself, or granted it, in the form of lands, to his agents and dependents. Not the least of the evils caused by this shameless confiscation of the property of the State was the demoralization of politicians, who thus had their appetites whetted for robbery and spoliation.

The neglect of the duty incumbent on the Government to establish an efficient working substitute for the charitable duties of the monasteries led to very serious difficulties. An alarming increase of vagrancy and mendicancy was the inevitable consequence. Henry's only remedy was to mutilate and hang the outcasts. Here again his rapacity and misgovernment left a sad inheritance for his successor.

Henry's legislation giving him powers for cruel religious persecution was another baneful inheritance. He had cast off the papal usurpation, but he still held all the popish dogmas and tenets to which Protestants objected, including transubstantiation. Before Cromwell's death, the tyrant caused the Act of Six Articles to be passed, making it a capital offence, with death by burning, for anyone not to believe in the dogmas which Henry approved. This was one of the most infamous instruments of tyranny in the annals of persecution. Nor was it a dead letter. Upwards of twenty persons were burnt under the Six Articles Act. Three suffered in the Canons' Slopes at Windsor: Pearson a clergyman, Testwood a singer in the choir at St. George's, and Filmar, a tailor. Bonner caused a boy to be burnt, who had not reached his sixteenth year. The most atrocious case was that of Anne Askew, a young lady of blameless life but unswerving resolution, who was savagely tortured, but in vain, to make her accuse others, before she was burnt at the stake. This persecuting legislation was another horrible legacy which the tyrant left for his successor to deal with. Henry allowed the Bible to be printed in English, but he placed restrictions on its being read, and on its being printed.

Another evil inheritance was the question of enclosures. As wool and hides brought large profits, the owners of land began to form parks, and to enclose large tracts, committing injustice on the yeomen and poorer people, driving them from their holdings, and pulling down their houses. The  evil began to be felt as far back as the time of Richard III., and that King would have applied a remedy. His Chancellor, at the opening of the Parliament in 1484, referred to the matter in his speech. 'This body' (politic ?), he said, 'falleth into decay, as we daily see it, both by  closures and emparking, by driving away of tenants, and battering down of tenantries.' But after the death of King Richard nothing was done until Wolsey, who in many respects was an enlightened statesman, appointed a Commission to report on the rapidly growing evil, in 1517. The result was that proceedings were taken to restore tenements, and reconvert pasture into arable land, and there was a decree for pulling down all enclosures made since King Richard's death in 1485. But after Wolsey's fall, Henry, indifferent to all but his own selfish ends, allowed the evil to grow unchecked.

Old Latimer remembered the Plantagenet rule of his boyhood, and lived to deplore the Tudor misgovernment in his old age. 'Where there were a great many householders and inhabitants,' he said,' there is now a shepherd and his dog. The enclosers intend plainly to make the yeomen slaves, and the clergy slaves. We of the clergy had too much, but that is taken away, and now we have too little. My Father was a yeoman and had no land of his  own, but rented a farm of 3  or 4   a year, and hereupon he tilled so much as kept half a dozen men. He had walk for a hundred sheep, and my mother milked thirty nine. He kept hospitality for his poor neighbors and gave to the poor.'

That was in Plantagenet times. 'He that now has the farm pays 16 a year rent, and he is not able to do anything for his prince, for himself, or his children, or to give a cup of drink to the poor.  Thus all the enhancing goes to private wealth.' This long neglect of the enclosure question was a terrible inheritance for Henry's successor.

Towards the end of the reign the misgovernment became worse and worse. In spite of all the exceptional sources of wealth, the accumulations of his father, the robbery of monasteries, the fines and confiscations, Henry died leaving heavy debts. Finally he proceeded to rob the people by debasing the coinage.

An Act of Parliament empowered Henry to settle the succession by Will.(F1 - 8 Henry VIII. c. 27 and 35 Henry VITI. c. 21.) Edward was declared to be heir to the crown, then his heirs general, then the two daughters Henry had bastardized - Mary and her heirs, Elizabeth and her heirs. Passing over the descendants of his sister, the Queen of Scotland, he made the daughters of his sister Mary Duchess of Suffolk the next heirs. Edward was to be of full age when he reached eighteen years. Meanwhile Henry's Council was to govern, sixteen as executors, and twelve as assistants to the executors.

The very worst inheritance left by Henry was the body of second-rate politicians with which he had surrounded himself, after the death of Cromwell.  Some were men of ordinary ability, fitted to serve with efficiency in subordinate posts. Some were as ruthless as their master. Very few were honest men, for nearly all were insatiable robbers of the State.

The merciless tyrant was at last called to his account on January 28, 1547. 'Tyrannus est enim qui imperat invitis, qui armis reipublicae  libertatem opprimit, qui non populi utilitati praecipue servit, sed suum emolumentum et arrepti imperil amplificationem respicit.[10]


Edward and Thomas Seymour were the sons of Sir John Seymour of Wolf Hall, near Savernake Forest in Wiltshire, a country gentleman of an old family which had been enriched by marriages with the heiress of Beauchamp of Hache, and the heiress of Sturmy of Wolf Hall. Their mother was Margery, daughter of Sir Henry Wentworth. Sir John Seymour had seen some service. Their children were Edward, Thomas and Henry, Jane, Dorothy and Elizabeth.

Edward was born in 1505, and came to Court at a very early age, for he was an 'Enfant d'Honneur' to Mary Tudor on her marriage with Louis XII in 1514. When he was eighteen he served in the French campaign, and was knighted by the Duke of Suffolk on November 1, 1523. Next he became Master of the Horse to the Duke of Richmond, and he formed part of the retinue of Cardinal Wolsey's embassy to France in 1527. On his return he was appointed  a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber. In 1536 Henry VIII visited Wolf Hall, and, on his marriage with Jane Seymour, her brother Edward was created  Viscount Beauchamp of Hache, and granted several manors, including Maiden Bradley. He was appointed to the Council, made Governor of Jersey, Chancellor of North Wales, and six days after the birth of Prince Edward he was created Earl of Hertford. His sister Elizabeth married Gregory, son of the powerful Minister Cromwell, and his youngest sister Dorothy married Sir Clement Smith of Baddon in Essex.

The Earl of Hertford was married to Catherine Fillol and had a son Edward. Hertford had been a courtier since he was nine years old, had accepted every change of his master, and was unprincipled and rapacious. But unlike Henry VIII., his brother-in-law was naturally weak and yielding, and not prone to harsh measures. He had good abilities, and was a fairly efficient military commander. He retained the favor of his capricious master, who created for him the new office of Lord Great Chamberlain. In 1540 he became a Knight of the Garter, and in 1542 he was appointed Warden of the Scottish Marches.

In May 1544 Henry VIII sent the Earl of Hertford to Leith, with a fleet and army, Lord Ewer coming by land with 4000 horse. On that occasion Edinburgh was taken and pillaged. In August Hertford joined Henry at Boulogne, and in January 1545 he was left in command there; when he surprised and routed a French force. Lord Ewer remained on the Scottish Marches, and he had been surprised and routed at Ancrum Moor, he himself being among  the slain. Hertford was then recalled from Boulogne to avenge this disaster. Under orders from his ruthless master, Hertford devastated the Scottish Border during September 1545, burning castles and monasteries as a mere act of revenge. In January 1546 he was again sent to Boulogne, and peace was signed with France in the following July.

After the death of his first wife the Earl of Hertford married Anne, daughter of Sir Edward Stanhope of Shelford in Nottinghamshire. Her mother was a daughter of Fulk Bourchier, Lord Fitzwarine, great-grandson of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, the youngest son of Edward III. Of this descent she was inordinately proud. She was an arrogant, grasping, malignant woman, and Hertford's wrongful acts and his misfortunes were due to the evil influence she maintained over him. He perpetrated one shameful piece of injustice by disinheriting his son by the first marriage, and even securing his deprivation of succession to the titles.[11] By Anne  Stanhope the Earl of Hertford had two sons and six daughters.

During the last year of Henry's life his brother-in-law and Paget, the Secretary of State, were more closely associated with him than anyone else as  regards public affairs, while the two gentlemen of the privy chamber, Herbert and Denny, were in personal attendance. Henry made his Will. There has been much discussion over it, but it can never be known whether it was tampered with or altered. At all events it was signed, Hertford, Paget, Denny, and Herbert being the witnesses. The Will nominated sixteen executors to be a Council to govern during the minority, as equals. But the  breath was scarcely out of Henry's body before Hertford and Paget began to plot against this provision of the Will, with the object of making  Hertford Protector of the Realm and Governor of the King's person with sole power. Thus had the elder brother, with no more than ordinary ability, raised himself, owing to his sister's marriage, to a great position.

Thomas Seymour, the second son, was three years younger than Edward. He was born in 1508, and his first public employment was as a messenger to carry dispatches for Sir Francis Bryan, during his frequent embassies. On the marriage of his sister, Henry made him a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, conferred knighthood on him, and granted him the manor of Holt in Cheshire. In 1538 he was sent with Sir Anthony Browne's embassy to Paris, and afterwards to the Emperor Ferdinand, remaining at Vienna for two years. On his return, in 1543, he sought the hand of Catherine Parr, then the widowed Lady Latimer, but he had to yield her to his master. Thomas Seymour was employed to endeavor to raise troops at Nuremberg, and  afterwards he was with the embassy at Brussels. He was second in command to Wallop, and in 1544 was appointed Master of the Ordnance for life. In October 1544 he received command of the fleet stationed at Dover, and in August 1545 he was ordered to join the main fleet under Lord Lisle.

Thomas Seymour was a remarkably handsome man, skilled in all martial exercises, agreeable as a companion, kind and indulgent to his dependents. But like his brother Edward, his ambition far exceeded his ability, and both brothers were lacking in tact and judgment. Queen Elizabeth said of Thomas that he had much wit but no judgment. When Henry VIII died, Edward Earl of Hertford was forty-two, and Sir Thomas Seymour was thirty-eight years  of age. Thomas was young prince Edward's favorite uncle, from whom he always received affection and kindness.


  • Archbishop of Canterbury—Cranmer.
  • Lord Chancellor—Wriothesley (made Earl of Southampton).
  • Judges—Sir E. Montagu, Sir T. Bromley.
  • Lord Privy Seal—Sir John Eussell, eventually made Earl of Bedford.
  • Bishop of Durham—Tunstall.
  • Witness of the Will—Sir E. Seymour, Earl of Hertford (made Duke of Somerset and Protector).
  • President of the Council—Paulet Lord St. John of Basing (made Earl of Wiltshire, eventually Marquis of Winchester).
  • Lord High Admiral—Viscount Lisle (made Earl of Warwick, eventually Duke of Northumberland).
  • Master of the Horse—Sir Anthony Browne.
  • Secretary of State—Sir William Paget (witness of the Will).
  • Court of Augmentations—Sir Edward North.
  • Chief Gentlemen of Henry's Privy Chamber—Sir Wm. Herbert (eventually made Earl of Pembroke), Sir A. Denny (witnesses of the Will).
  • Treasurer of Calais—Sir E. Wotton.
  • Dean of Canterbury—Dr. Wotton.

  • Earl of Arundel—(No particular religion).
  • Earl of Essex—Parr (made Marquis of Northampton) (no particular religion).
  • Solicitor-General—Eichard Eich (made Baron Eich).
  • Vice-Chancellor—Sir Anthony Wingfield.
  • Household Treasurer—Sir Thomas Cheyney (made Loi-d Warden of the Cinque Ports).
  • Controller—Sir John Gage.
  • Secretary of State—Sir Wm. Petre (Papist).
  • Chancellor of the Exchequer—Sir John Baker (also Speaker of the House of Commons).
  • Ambassador in Scotland—Sir Ealph Sadleir (keen Protestant).
  • Vice-Admiral—Sir Thomas Seymour (made Lord Seymour of Sudeley and Lord High Admiral, no particular religion).
  • A tool of Henry VIII.—Sir Eichard Southwell.
  • Master of the Mint—Sir Edmund Peckham (strong Papist).


Young Edward's worst inheritance was the body of unprincipled second-rate politicians, named in the Will as Henry's sixteen executors and twelve assistants to the executors. They all became members of the Council, and may, therefore, be discussed as one body. There were various degrees of demerit among them.

The careers of the two uncles have already been referred to, and that of Dudley (Viscount Lisle) will be discussed later on, when he became the most powerful member of the Council. For the moment the next most important executor was the Secretary of State, who was conspiring with Hertford to upset the intentions of the Will.

William Paget was born in 1505, at Wednesbury, and educated at St. Paul's School and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was admitted into the household of Dr. Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, who sent him to study in Paris. Afterwards he was sent to France to collect opinions respecting the divorce. In 1532 he became Clerk of the Signet, and in 1534 he went on a mission to the Elector of Saxony. He was knighted in 1537 and received a grant of arms, his family not having previously been entitled to bear coat armor. In 1540 he was Clerk to the Privy Council and was sent as Ambassador to France to explain the death of Catherine Howard. He became Secretary of State in 1543 and a Member of the Council; and in 1546 he negotiated the peace with France. A witness of Henry's will, Sir William Paget was supposed to know the departed tyrant's wishes especially as regards the promotions in the peerage, and this gave him considerable influence at first. Paget is mainly responsible for the protectorate, and he identified himself with the interests of Hertford. He was among the most insatiable robbers of State property, but otherwise an able diplomatist, moderate and humane.

Sir William Herbert was perhaps, after Dudley, the ablest man in the Council. He was an illegitimate son of William Herbert, the last Earl of Pembroke of that name. He married a sister of Queen Catherine Parr, and had been in a position to receive grants of Church property, including Wilton, thus amassing great wealth. He was an able soldier, an unscrupulous intriguer, and a great robber of public property. As esquire of the body to Henry he was a witness to the Will.

Denny, the other witness of the Will, was Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to Henry. But he did not long survive his master.

John Russell was at first a Gentleman of the Chamber, and afterwards a very busy diplomatist. He was at Tournay with Henry, and was sent to negotiate at Rome and with Charles V., being present at the battle of Pavia. He was appointed Controller of the Household in 1538 and Lord Privy Seal in 1543. He obtained grants of Tavistock, and much other Church property, and by right of his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Guy Sapcote, he got Chenies in Buckinghamshire. Russell was an able diplomatist, a very astute time-server, ruthless and cruel when such conduct served his ends, and as great a robber as the others.

Lord Parr of Kendal was the brother of Catherine Parr. He was called Earl of Essex by right of his wife, the heiress of the Bourchiers, Earls of Essex, whom he was trying to divorce. He was a selfish, unprincipled man of no ability, who always followed a leader, first Thomas Seymour then Dudley.

Paulet, Lord St. John of Basing, was a greater time-server than Russell, and contrived to hold office through four reigns. His wretched motto was ‘ Ortus sum ex salice non ex quercu.'[12]

The Earl of Arundel was the only member of the old nobility on the Council. But he was a politician with no principles, and no intelligible aims.  He seemed to intrigue without any definite object, and was quite useless as a statesman. As a time-server he was a rival to Russell or Paulet.

The Chancellor was Thomas Wriothesley, grandson of John Wrythe, the Garter King of Arms to Richard III., and son of the York Herald. He had been a diplomatist and secretary of State, and in 1544 was created Lord Wriothesley of Titchfield. He was Knight of the Garter, and Lord Chancellor. He had been gorged with Church property in Hampshire, including Titchfield Abbey, and was a man after Henry's own heart, cruel, unscrupulous, and subservient. Although himself a papist, he induced Mary to sign a recantation declaring the Pope a usurper, and herself a bastard. He tortured Anne Askew with his own hands, who always followed a leader, first Thomas Seymour then Dudley.

Paulet, Lord St. John of Basing, was a greater time-server than Russell, and contrived to hold office through four reigns. His wretched motto was Ortus sum ex salice non ex quercu.[13]

The Earl of Arundel was the only member of the old nobility on the Council. But he was a politician with no principles, and no intelligible aims.  He seemed to intrigue without any definite object, and was quite useless as a statesman. As a time-server he was a rival to Russell or Paulet.

The Chancellor was Thomas Wriothesley, grandson of John Wrythe, the Garter King of Arms to Richard III., and son of the York Herald. He had been a diplomatist and secretary of State, and in 1544 was created Lord Wriothesley of Titchfield. He was Knight of the Garter, and Lord Chancellor. He had been gorged with Church property in Hampshire, including Titchfield Abbey, and was a man after Henry's own heart, cruel, unscrupulous, and subservient. Although himself a papist, he induced Mary to sign a recantation declaring the Pope a usurper, and herself a bastard. He tortured Anne Askew with his own hands, after the Lieutenant of the Tower had refused, in disgust, to take part in the business.

Richard Rich was such a man as Wriothesley. Nothing worse can be said. The founder of his family was a London tradesman of the same name. He was married to the daughter of a grocer named Jenks. Rich was Solicitor-General. He inveigled Sir Thomas More into a private conversation, and then produced what he had said as evidence against him at his trial. He helped Wriothesley to torture Anne Askew.

Richard Southwell was another such base, treacherous wretch. His grandfather was Sir Richard Southwell of Barham Hall in Suffolk. His father, Sir Francis, was Auditor of the Exchequer. Richard succeeded to great wealth, and was brought up with the Earl of Surrey. In 1631 he got a pardon for being concerned in a murder, being fined wool.  He was active in the proceedings against monasteries under Cromwell, and in 1538 he became Receiver  to the Court of Augmentations. He was knighted in 1542, and became a base tool of Henry VIII. In that capacity he came forward as a false witness against his friend the Earl of Surrey, to whom he owed much. He shared in the plunder of the Howards.

Sir Anthony Wingfield, of a good Suffolk family, had held offices in Henry's household, yet, comparatively speaking, he was an honest man. The same may be said of Sir Thomas Cheyney, Treasurer of the Household, and of Sir John Gage, the Controller.

Sir Anthony Browne, Master of the Horse, was descended from a knight of the same names, who was created K.B. at the coronation of Richard II. He married Alice, daughter of Sir John Gage, and died in 1548, leaving a son with the same names as owner of his fine house at Cowdray in Hampshire.  Sir Anthony was a papist, but he supported Hertford in his measures to obtain the protectorate.

Sir Ralph Sadleir was born in 1507, and owed his rise to Cromwell, into whose household he was received. He was also a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber; and employed on missions to Scotland, which he conducted with sound judgment and ability. In 1542 he was knighted, and became Secretary of State. Sir Ralph was a trustworthy politician, a good writer, and a valiant soldier; quite an exception among the officials employed by Henry VIII.
Edmund Peckham had been admitted, when quite young, as a clerk in the King's counting-house, and in 1524 was appointed Cofferer of the Household, in 1526 Clerk of the Green Cloth. In 1542 he was knighted, and in 1546 became Master of the Mint, with a house in Blackfriars. He also had a house and estate at Denham in Buckinghamshire. Peckham was a strong papist, but comparatively an honest official.
The Church was represented on the Council by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Durham.

Cranmer, with all his faults, was a very lovable character. He was weak and vacillating, and unduly subservient or he never could have worked so long with Henry. He acquiesced in the cruel acts of persecution, and even sent men to the stake for their beliefs, with his own still unformed. He seldom ventured to remonstrate, and when he did, as in the case of Cromwell, his intervention was feeble and deferential. Now his work was before him. He was about to undertake and complete labors of such value to posterity that they have rendered the reign of Edward VI illustrious for all time.

Dr. Tunstall, Bishop of Durham, was a good and kind-hearted man, an experienced diplomatist, and though a concealed papist, he took part in editing the English translation of the Bible.

Montagu, the Chief Justice, and Bromley, representing the legal profession, were neutral.

Sir Edward North, of the Court of Augmentations, and Sir John Baker, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, seem to have worked diligently in their departments. Baker was also Speaker of the House of Commons.

Sir E. Wotton, Treasurer of Calais, and Dr. Wotton, Dean of Canterbury, were diplomatists.

The Secretary of State was Sir William Petre, who, by always taking the winning side, kept in favor through four reigns. Son of John Petre of  Turbigan in Devonshire, Petre was born at Exeter, and educated at Exeter College, Oxford. He became a Doctor of Law and was employed by Cromwell on the commission for the visitation of monasteries. As a reward he got a slice of the plunder, and in 1544 was made Secretary of State. When Catherine Parr was Regent, he was one of her Council. In 1546 Petre had special licence to retain twenty men besides menial servants, and to give them liveries and cognizances. He obtained Ingatestone in Essex, and a dozen other manors. His first wife was Gertrude, daughter of Sir John Tyrrel of Worley, his second Anne, daughter of Sir W. Browne, Lord Mayor. Petre was a diligent and valuable public servant.

The other Secretary was Sir Thomas Smith, but he was not yet on the Council. Born at Saffron Walden in 1512, Thomas Smith was of Queens' College, Cambridge, and became a Fellow in 1531. He worked with Cheke at Greek pronunciation, and in 1539 travelled in France and Italy. In 1542 he became Professor of Civil Law, and was tutor to Edward Earl of Oxford. In 1547 he entered Hertford's household, and eventually became Steward of the Stannaries, Provost of Eton, Dean of Carlisle, and Secretary of State. Sir Thomas Smith was a learned and very able statesman, and one of the few thoroughly honorable and fearless public men that the age produced. He married Philippa, daughter of Sir John Hamden, whose jointure was Hill Hall, where he lived.

These were the Councillors who were destined by Henry for the government of England during the minority. Almost all were plunderers of public property; neither honor nor principle could be expected from politicians who were in favor with such a man. Two Bishops, Gardiner and Thirlby, who were on Henry's Council, were omitted in the list of executors, and all the old nobility except Arundel. Grey, Marquis of Dorset, who had married Henry's niece, Frances Brandon, was another notable omission.

Hertford and Paget kept the death secret for two days, while they prepared their measures before summoning the executors, and Sir Anthony Browne, the Master of the Horse, assured Hertford of his support omitted in the list of executors, and all the old nobility except Arundel. Grey, Marquis of Dorset, who had married Henry's niece, Frances Brandon, was another notable omission.

Hertford and Paget kept the death secret for two days, while they prepared their measures before summoning the executors, and Sir Anthony Browne, the Master of the Horse, assured Hertford of his support.

[1] But Edward omitted her name in his Journal. Mary had  been allowed to come to Court again in July 1536, after having signed a solemn declaration that the Pope's pretended authority and jurisdiction in  England were usurped, and that her mother's marriage was, by God's law, incestuous and unlawful
[2] Camden, Introduction to the Annals of Elizabeth. a Ellis, Oriyinal Letters, 1st Series
[3] The names of the other boys were Stonrton, Kelingham, Le Strange, Denny, R. Browne, Armour, J. Browne, and Cotton.
[4] Fuller says that Barnaby was Edward's whipping boy. The term he uses is ' proxy for correction.'  He gives no authority, and the story is not worthy of belief. The idea is very un-Euglish. Fuller wrote in the days of the Stuarts, when it was  known that James Stuart had had such a proxy
[5] Lord Strange swore that he was employed as a spy by Somerset. Somerset swore that he was not. So that he was either a spy or a perjured liar; in either case not a desirable comrade for the Prince. It was in the blood. The treachery of the Stanleys ended the glorious dynasty of Plantagenets, and there was a  Stanley traitor in the days of Elizabeth
[6] Afterwards Duchess of Feria. Her mother was a Sydney, grandchild of young Edward's Chamberlain, Sir William Sydney
[7] He was not Earl of Richmond. His father had been given that title, but had been deprived by act  of attainder. The earldom of Richmond was afterwards granted by Edward IV. to his brother, the Duke of Gloucester. When the Duke became King as  Richard III. the title merged in the crown
[8] They were illegitimate because Edward IV. was married or contracted to  Lady Eleanor Butler at the time that he went through a marriage ceremony with Elizabeth Woodville
[9] Chester, Peterborough, Bristol, Oxford, Westminster
[10] A tyrant is  he who rules against the will of the 'people, who oppresses the liberty of the commonwealth by force, who does not make the people's good his chief  object, but only concerns himself with his own aggrandisement and the security of his usurped power.'—Mariana, El Key, p. 188
[11] Yet this injustice was eventually righted. The male heirs from the Stanhope marriage came to an end. The present Duke of Somerset and Marquis of Hertford are descended from the disinherited son of the first marriage
[12] I was not born out of willow oak
[13] I'm from the east is not from willow oak.'

Book a primary source exhibit and a professional speaker for your next event by contacting Historic.us today. Our Clients include many Fortune 500 companies, associations, non-profits, colleges, universities, national conventions, pr and advertising agencies. As the leading exhibitor of primary sources, many of our clients have benefited from our historic displays that are designed to entertain and educate your target audience. Contact us to learn how you can join our "roster" of satisfied clientele today!


A Non-profit Corporation

Primary Source Exhibits

202-239-1774 | Office

202-239-0037 | Fax

Dr. Naomi and Stanley Yavneh Klos, Principals


Primary Source exhibits are available for display in your community. The costs range from $1,000 to $35,000 depending on length of time on loan and the rarity of artifacts chosen. 

Website: www.Historic.us

Middle and High School Curriculum Supplement

For More Information  Click Here