For too long, King Edward VI has been pushed to the very edges of Tudor history – overlooked in favour of some of the more vibrant personalities of his family members, such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Known as the ‘boy king’ of the Tudor dynasty, he is often remembered for little more than the ambitious councillors who governed England during his minority. His reign, however, and the significant religious changes that took place as he furthered the Protestant Reformation in England, had great influence over the remaining decades of the Tudor period and even modern Britain as we know it today.
‘Boy king’ though he may have been, Edward VI and his government were more significant to the history of England than he is often given credit for, and it is long past time for careful and thoughtful study of his life and reign. Edward VI: Henry VIII’s Overshadowed Son aims to reopen the pages of his story, arguing that however brief it may have been, Edward VI’s reign had lasting impacts on the religious landscape in England, and is certainly a Tudor reign worth remembering.
Edward VI: Henry VIII’s Overshadowed Son (Amazon US) (Amazon UK)
I’ve read quite a bit about Tudor England, and it’s true that very little of it focuses on Henry VIII’s son. I realized as I read this book that I’d only seen two paintings of the young king, and both were when he was quite young; I had no idea what the teenage king looked like.
One of the things Kline dispels is the myth that Edward was a sickly boy. In reality, he was quite healthy and enjoyed all the pursuits his father had, like riding and hunting. He only fell ill once or twice during his short life, although his final illness lasted approximately 9 months. In all respects, he was a normal boy.
Since he became king at age 6, Edward’s father appointed 16 men as councilors to help advise the young king. Of course, much of the history of Edward VI’s life is the machinations of various advisors and their attempt to control the king. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, sometimes there was internal fighting amongst the advisors. Men were accused and found guilty of treason, their executions guaranteed. There were times when the life of Edward is overshadowed by men like Somerset or Northumberland, but that’s to be expected given the number of source materials available.
Though Edward’s reign was a mere six years, it was still longer than his half-sister Mary’s, and just as consequential. He was a fervent Protestant and issued all sorts of orders to make sure Catholicism was wiped from existence in England. He pushed the agenda further than his father did, and while Queen Mary undid many of those changes, it lay a blueprint for his sister, Elizabeth, who was much more tolerant while making sure England got back on the path to Protestantism.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and Pen & Sword History in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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