Edward VI was just nine years old when his father died and he became King. His father had made provision for a Regency government comprised of 16 trusted men. However, Edward’s uncle, Edward Seymour, seized the regency for himself and the title ‘Protector of all the realms and dominions of the King’s majesty.’ Seymour placed Edward firmly under his control by removing him from his home and forbidding contact with his stepmother or sisters. He also gave himself the title Duke of Somerset.
Due to the break with Rome effected by Henry VIII, Edward had been educated by Protestant tutors, consequently he was a confirmed Protestant. Edward Seymour was also a Protestant and he encouraged Edward to make sweeping changes to the Church.
The changes began immediately with the dissolving of the Chantries and the seizing of the money for the Crown. The dissolving of the Chantries was an attack on the Catholic belief in Purgatory and the saying of prayers for the dead.
It was announced that priests would be allowed to marry. The Catholic religion demanded that priests remain celibate and forbade marriage.
A new Prayer Book was introduced that included the following:
Altars were abolished and replaced by simple tables.
Priests were not to wear elaborate vestments.
The Mass was abolished and replaced with Holy Communion – the difference being that the bread and wine now only represented Christ and did not become Christ.
Predestination – the belief that it was already decided if you were bound for heaven or hell – was accepted. It was not possible to buy a place in heaven through good works, donating money to the church or saying prayers.
These changes meant that many Protestants from Europe came to England.
Death and Succession
Edward VI died in 1553 at the age of 15. By the terms of Henry VIII’s will, his eldest daughter, Mary, was next in line of succession. However, Edward’s Regent at the time, Sir John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, wanted to prevent the accession of a Catholic monarch. It was therefore announced that as both Mary and Elizabeth were illegitimate they would not be able to take the throne. Chosen to be successor was Lady Jane Grey, grandaughter of Henry VIII’s youngest sister, Mary. In order to maintain his control, Northumberland married Jane to his son, Guildford. Jane became Queen of England, but only reigned for nine days. Mary raised her standard against Northumberland and, with the people on her side, claimed her rightful place on the throne on 19th July 1553. Northumberland, his son Guildford and Jane Grey were executed for treason.
Lady Jane Grey
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