Edward VI,third king of England of the Tudor dynasty, born Oct. 12, 1537, ascended the throne in 1547, and died July 6, 1553. The son of Henry VIII. and Jane Seymour, he was little cared for by the three stepmothers whom he had in quick succession; but at the age of six years, being intrusted to the learned masters Anthony Cooke and John Cheke, he made progress in philosophy, divinity, Greek, and Latin. Henry VIII. appointed in his will a council of executors to exercise the royal authority during the minority of his son, who at their first meeting, fearing that the government would lose its dignity for want of some head to represent the royal majesty, bestowed upon Edward Seymour, now created duke of Somerset, or allowed him to assume, the titles of governor of his majesty, lord protector of all his realms, and lieutenant general of all his armies. Sir Thomas Seymour, the brother of Somerset, was created Baron Seymour of Sudley, and appointed lord high admiral. The government was almost entirely Protestant, and its first object was to complete the religious revolution and establish a church independent of the see of Rome. The statute of the six articles was repealed, prisoners under it were released, and exiles were recalled.
Preaching, which had been rare in Catholic times, was enforced by visitors despatched throughout the kingdom, who were authorized to require that four sermons be preached every year in every church against the papacy. Images, which Luther had tolerated as aids to devotion, and of which Cranmer vindicated a moderate use, became objects of dislike, and were torn down in places where they had been honored by pilgrimages and offerings. The English Bible, with Erasmus's commentary on the gospels, was placed in every church for the use of the people. In the first parliament the statutes of Richard II. and Henry IV. against the Lollards were repealed, together with all the acts in matters of religion passed under Henry VIII., except those directed against the papal supremacy. The uniformity of public worship was established, and all ministers were enjoined to use only the "Book of Common Prayer." The English clergy were emancipated from compulsory celibacy, though it was recommended to them " to live separate from the bond of marriage, for their own estimation, and that they might attend solely to the ministration of the gospel." There were as yet no Protestant nonconformists, but all persons were commanded to attend public worship under pain of ecclesiastical censures, of six months' imprisonment for the first offence, twelve for the second, and confinement for life for the third.
Bonner, bishop of London, Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, and several others, were deprived of their sees because they could not keep pace with the reformatory movement. The first step toward religious liberty was a distinction, recognized practically though not by canon, between what were supposed to be the essential and the unessential parts of Christianity, and only offences against the former were liable to deadly persecution. Thus, no Roman Catholic suffered death for religion in this reign; but Joan Bocher, commonly called Joan of Kent, was burned for an unintelligible heresy, which denied something, though her words vainly struggled to explain what, concerning Christ. Van Parris, a Dutchman, was also burned for denying the divinity of the Saviour. Among civil occurrences in this reign, the first of importance, after the settlement of the government, was the expedition of Somerset into Scotland to compel the marriage of Mary, the young queen of Scots, to Edward, according to a previous treaty. A bloody encounter, begun between the Scottish and English cavalry at Falside, Sept. 9, 1547, was continued the next day between the entire armies at Pinkie, and ended in the victory of the English protector.
But he was quickly called home by machinations against him, and Mary was sent to France. His brother and rival, Lord Seymour, was committed to the tower early in 1549, and a bill attainting him was brought into the house of lords. This bill, by the influence of Somerset, who was present in the house to encourage it, was passed unanimously within three days; and Seymour, without an opportunity to defend himself or to confront his accusers, was beheaded on Tower hill, March 20. During the next summer formidable insurrections broke out in various parts of the kingdom. The depreciation of the cur-rency during the last reign had been followed by an advance in the price of commodities; at the same time the demand for labor had been lessened and wages reduced. The new owners of abbey lands had enclosed many of the fields which had formerly been allotted for the common use of the poor inhabitants, and their rapacity was contrasted with the indulgence of the monks, who had often been the most lenient of landlords. There were armies of insurgents in several counties, the largest and most violent being in Cornwall, where a tanner named Kett encamped near Norwich at the head of 20,000 men. He repulsed the marquis of Northampton, but was at length defeated and hanged with his principal associates.
The protector had incurred odium by what was termed his feeble administration during this rebellion, and also by his lavish expenditures upon his magnificent palace of Somerset house. He had wavered and almost given sanction to the demands of the populace when they were in arms against the royal authority; and had become from a simple knight with a slender fortune the possessor of more than 200 manors and parcels of land. The discontented lords, directed by Dudley, earl of Warwick, gradually withdrew from court and met in London with bodies of their retainers. The protector, as soon as he received intelligence of their movements, took the king with him to Windsor, and called by proclamation on all faithful subjects to join him at Hampton court in arms for the protection of the royal person against a conspiracy. Multitudes of the common people, but scarcely a gentleman, obeyed his summons, and his cause was rendered desperate when the council declared against him. The king was obliged to sanction the vote for his deposition, and he was brought to London and incarcerated in the tower, Oct. 14, 1549. Warwick dissembled for the moment his purpose concerning the prisoner, and was obliged by his position, though a secret Catholic, to favor the cause of the reformation, and, though a rancorous enemy of Somerset, soon to set that nobleman free, and to give his own son in marriage to Somerset's daughter.
But when Warwick had received the office of lord high admiral, had been raised to the dignity of duke of Northumberland, had become the undisputed chief of the government, and had annihilated the power of Somerset, he was able to proceed further against that duke, who was again committed to the tower in 1551, was convicted of felony, and executed on Tower hill, Jan. 22, 1552. Warwick next persuaded Edward to make a new settlement excluding his sisters from the succession to the throne, and giving the nomination to Lady Jane Grey, who had been his playmate and companion in studies. Edward sank rapidly after this, and died in the 16th year of his age and the 7th of his reign. His accomplishments were such as to surprise the famous Italian physician Jerome Cardan, who visited him in his last sickness; and for his diary and other compositions he is included by Walpole in his list of royal authors. He was succeeded by his sister Mary, after Lady Jane Grey's nominal reign of a few days. - The literary remains of Edward VI., edited with historical notices and a biographical memoir by John Gough Nichols, were printed in 1859, for the Rox-burghe club (2 vols., London).