On August 8, 1553, Edward VI was finally buried. It took over a month after his death on July 6 and while it was normal to take some time to prepare, it wasn’t normal to take this long. It was because of Edward’s final attempt to remove his half-sister Mary I from the line of succession that caused the delay. Why did Edward VI decide that his sister wasn’t fit to be Queen of England? Are these the events that led to Mary I becoming one of the most feared and hated monarchs in history?
Edward VI Died Without Issue
Edward VI knew before his death that he wouldn’t have children. As a King of England, he had the duty to name his heir and at first, as with all Kings, any male children he had were named first. However, when looking at the document he wrote, there are a lot of crossings out and pieces added in as he realised that he was going to die without issue. He had to think his strategy again.
He knew that he didn’t want his sister Mary to become Queen of England. He didn’t want his half-sister Elizabeth to be named Queen of England either. He wanted a male but soon realised that there wasn’t a male in the line, except in the Scottish line through his aunt, Margaret Tudor. Henry VIII had already made it clear that the Scottish line was not to get the English throne and Edward followed that ruling.
Women Could Not Rule Efficiently
In 16th century England, it was believed that women could not rule efficiently. Catherine of Aragon and Katherine Parr had proven that they could rule as Queen Regent but not in their own right. Edward VI didn’t want to put the theory to the test by allowing a Queen after him. Unfortunately, he had no choice.
If he didn’t have issue, he wanted to place the next male in line of succession on the throne and this meant looking at the line of his second aunt, Mary Tudor. Unfortunately, Mary didn’t have issue with her first husband, Louis XII and she only had girls survive with her second husband, Charles Brandon. The eldest of those girls, Francis, only had daughters too! Edward VI was clearly not going to get the outcome that he desired.
He decided that the best thing to do was skip three women and place Lady Jane Grey on the throne. She was the youngest and married to Guilford Dudley. She would likely have children and hopefully males. It would only be a few years for England to suffer a woman on the throne.
Edward VI Didn’t Want a Catholic Country
Edward VI was raised as a protestant and definitely did not want the country to go back to being a Catholic one. Mary was a devout Catholic and had always refused to reform, despite being bullied and threatened by Edward. He knew that she would turn the country back into its old ways and he was scared that it would start a civil war in England. They had already suffered enough!
He had to get around his half-sister somehow. Elizabeth Tudor had been raised a Protestant but that still led to the problem of having a female on the throne. There was another problem. Elizabeth and Mary were both deemed illegitimate.
Illegitimate Children Could Not Have the Crown
Henry VIII had annulled his marriages to both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn—Mary and Elizabeth’s mothers. It made both girls illegitimate. They were stripped of their titles of Princess and styled Ladies instead.
At the time, illegitimate children could not be monarchs. This had been a major problem for Henry VII who was technically illegitimate as he was from the line of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford through his mother’s side. Katherine was John’s mistress when she gave birth to John Beaufort, Henry VII’s great-grandfather. While John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford eventually married and Henry IV eventually declared his half-siblings legitimate, they were still barred from the throne.
Likewise, between Edward IV’s death and Richard III’s coronation, Edward IV’s children with Elizabeth Woodville were declared illegitimate. It took an act by Henry VII to declare them legitimate to help strengthen his claim to the throne by marrying Edward IV’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth of York.
While Henry VIII had placed his two daughters in line of succession, they were never legitimised and it led to some viewing them as not worthy of the throne. The War of the Roses may have been a distant memory but they didn’t want it to happen again. The English people didn’t need a war to remove either Mary or Elizabeth from the throne. Edward VI needed someone who the English people would accept as legitimate and the rightful heir. He believed Lady Jane Grey was that person.
What Do You Think?
Edward VI Failed to Think About the English People’s Wants
Unfortunately for Edward, his actions caused problems and temporary uncertainty. First of all, Lady Jane Grey was reluctant in becoming Queen of England. She believed Mary Tudor was the next in line for the throne. Second of all, Edward failed to really think about what the English people wanted. He failed to think about who they viewed as the next monarch.
They wanted Mary Tudor. They loved her mother and many, even the Protestants, viewed her as the next in line for the throne. Mary and Elizabeth Tudor rode through England to London gathering supporters along the way and were ready when it came for Mary to publicly declare that she was the rightful Queen of England.
Documentary of Edward VI and Mary I
The Delay to Edward VI’s Burial
Because of Edward, the government and country as a whole were more focused on who would take the crown. Would it be Lady Jane Grey who Edward had named or would it be Mary Tudor who Henry VIII had already declared in an Act of Parliament. It took 13 days between his death and Mary I to depose Lady Jane Grey as Queen.
It was then time to start preparing for Edward VI’s funeral. That, as usual, took time. He was buried with Roman Catholic rites, as ordered by Mary I. Maybe that was her way of getting back at her brother for the times that he bullied and threatened her. Surprisingly, the rites were performed by Thomas Cranmer, despite him being a Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury.
Mary I later found that her burial would take a long time after her death; longer than normal. She was buried on December 14, 1558 after dying on November 17!
Edward VI’s final resting place is Henry VII Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey. This is the same chapel as his grandmother, Elizabeth of York, his grandfather, Henry VII. It later became the resting place for his half-sisters, along with Mary, Queen of Scots, James I and Charles II.
Chetan Jariwala from San Jose on August 08, 2013:
nice collection of information. Learned a few things about history. thanks and keep up the good job.