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Edward VI Names Lady Jane Grey as His Successor

Updated on July 4, 2013
Edward VI was not the sickly prince he is often made out to be
Edward VI was not the sickly prince he is often made out to be

On June 12, 1553, Edward VI finally declared that his cousin, Lady Jane Grey, would become the next holder of the crown. It would pass over his half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, and even over Jane’s mother. This was not just an attempt to stop the crown passing into Catholic hands but also to stop a line of women taking the crown.

Some historians believe that Edward VI was coaxed into this decision by his Lord Protector and Jane’s father-in-law, John Dudley. However, Edward was a smart boy and even at the age of 15-years-old, he knew what he wanted for the people of England.

Edward VI: The Sickly Prince

There is a lot in history about Edward VI being a sickly boy. This isn’t actually true. While he will have had the odd illness, this was commonplace in Tudor England. In fact, catching the odd cold and fever is normal for any child now! It wasn’t until the last couple of years of his life that Edward was ill regularly.

Edward VI grew up with Protestant beliefs, despite both of his parents being Catholic. His mother, Jane Seymour, died when he was just 12 days old and had no influence over him. His father, Henry VIII, was the reason that the religious reformation came to England in the first place but he could never truly move into the full Protestant way of the church. That only started under Edward VI’s reign.

Catherine Parr ensured that Edward VI would be raised in the way of the reformers. She was a reformer herself and believed that this was the best for the country – and she had a lot of control over the lessons her step-children would gain. Before Catherine, Edward was taught with many of the Catholic views but they obviously didn’t make much of an impression!

Books About King Edward VI of England

Edward VI Becomes King

Henry VIII died when Edward was just nine-years-old. He suddenly found himself with the weight of the world on his shoulders. His council ran everything for him, with his uncle, Edward Seymour, as his Lord Protector. However, Edward was beheaded for treason just a few years later after trying to abduct the King of England.

Edward now found that John Dudley was his Lord Protector. By this age, Edward had views of his own and wanted to see them happen. He didn’t just do whatever his government told him. He was a very smart young boy, learning Spanish, Latin and French from a young age, along with economics to help him during his reign.

Thomas Cranmer supported the religious reformation
Thomas Cranmer supported the religious reformation

The Dislike of Mary Tudor’s Religious Views

Edward VI did not like his half-sister, Mary Tudor’s, religious views. She was belittled in public often and threatened to be burned as a heretic. This would not have helped Mary when she came to the throne. In fact, Edward was so mean that he made her cry – this was a princess who had been praised for the fact that she never cried when she was younger!

However, Edward did love his half-sisters. He wrote to Mary in 1546 stating that he loved her the most, which is strange considering their different upbringings. He was also close to Catherine Parr growing up, often referring to her as his dear mother. This is not as surprising considering he had never known his biological mother and Catherine was the first of Henry VIII’s Queens to take the children seriously and help with their education.

Edward had the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, to continue the country with the religious reformation. Cranmer was a reformer and wanted to see more of the evangelical teachings come in. This was much easier with a king who had not been raised with Catholic views. While Henry VIII tried, he could not completely break away from everything he knew.

A Scene Between Henry VIII and Edward VI on The Tudors

Learn More About Lady Jane Grey

Edward VI Listens to John Dudley

When Edward Seymour attempted to kidnap King Edward and put his life in danger, his titles were removed. He was not originally tried for treason but John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, was given the title of Lord Protector in 1550. Incidentally, Edward Seymour was executed two years later.

John Dudley quickly rose in the ranks with the title of Duke of Northumberland. With the power he hand, he became rich thanks to the crown. As Edward became ill in 1553, Dudley realised that there was something he could do to give him more power. Edward was worried about Mary turning the country back into the Catholic one that it once was and he didn’t believe that women could rule the country.

There was also the question about the legitimacy of Mary and Elizabeth. While Henry VIII agreed that they were back in the line of succession, they were never declared legitimate and illegitimate children could not hold the throne. Edward started looking at those in line to the throne after his half-sisters, the Grey family.

Lady Jane Grey was Queen for just nine days
Lady Jane Grey was Queen for just nine days

Lady Jane Grey Named Successor

John Dudley realised that he could gain more power by arranging a marriage between his youngest son and Lady Jane Grey, who was fourth in line to the throne. Once this marriage happened, he spoke to Edward about removing Mary, Elizabeth and Jane’s mother from the throne. It is unclear why Jane’s mother was removed but it is probably due to the fact that Edward wanted to prevent more women from holding the crown. Jane’s mother was not young enough to have any more children and there were no males in the family. Being the eldest daughter, Jane did have the chance to provide a male heir.

The Third Succession Act 1543, which was made by Henry VIII, was brought in for questioning. King Henry allowed his daughters to take the crown if Edward did not have any heirs and the English people would accept that. In fact, Mary was very much loved by the English people (as was seen nine days into Lady Jane Grey’s reign). Edward VI was adamant that his sisters would be removed though. While it is possible that he wanted this, it is also possible that John Dudley helped to orchestrate to get his own son on the throne.

While Jane was name successor around June 12, it took until June 21, 1553, to finalise the details. Edward VI needed the high ranking judges to sign documents so that letters were passed in the parliament. Dudley also made sure that those who refused to sign would be seen as traitors. Edward was on his death bed while all this was happening.

Edward VI died on July 6, 1553 and Lady Jane Grey was crowned Queen of England the day after. Her reign was short-lived – just nine days later she was deposed and Mary Tudor took the crown that she and the English people believed was rightfully hers.

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