To many, the shadows of King Henry VIII and his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, blotted out everything else regarding England’s Tudor Dynasty. Curtis Skidmore, author of Edward VI: The Lost King of England, sheds light onto one of the more mysterious rulers in English history.
When his mother, Jane Seymour, died two weeks after giving birth to him, the young Prince Edward was practically locked away to prevent him from getting sick and dying, as he was the only male heir King Henry had. Since Henry had already cast aside one wife (Catherine of Aragorn) and beheaded another (Anne Boleyn), it made the young prince’s health and well-being the utmost priority in the kingdom. Henry wanted to consolidate the Tudor power, which meant an heir. A living, breathing, reproducing heir.
However, Henry VIII died before Prince Edward had fully matured, leaving the young King in charge of a nation balanced precariously on religious civil war. The Protestants had made massive inroads to banishing Catholicism throughout England, and King Edward was a huge fan and believer of the Reformation, which put him at odds with his older sister Mary (only child from Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragorn). It was unknown at the time which way his other sister, Elizabeth, followed, though later it would appear that she was a mild Reformer as well.
Kind Edward did more for the Protestant Reformation in England than even his own father had accomplished, despite having only a few short years before the young king’s untimely death. Edward believed in the Reformation, whereas his father believed in a reformed Catholic church. Much of his Reformation dreams went unfinished, though, when his sister Mary became the queen. She reinstituted the strict Catholic laws she followed, which caused more violence and turbulence in the kingdom. “Peace”, as it were, would not be seen in England again until Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne after Mary’s death.
The author’s portrayal of Edward and the court that seemed to dominate him (his uncle, Edward Seymour, named himself Lord Protector of England and guided the young king in the majority of his decisions) is spot-on. Court intrigue had grown very powerful since the days of Anne Boleyn, and Edward (kept away from court for the majority of his young life) seems to have been unprepared for it when he became king. The young king was a means to an end for many power brokers of England, and not a king to be followed and loved.
One of the pieces I enjoyed was how Edward seemed to be coming into his own shortly after his fourteenth birthday. He began to stand up to his “handlers” and began to have more day to day dealings within the court and with ruling his kingdom. His tragic death before he could have a child of his own brought about the end of the Tudor’s, though it wouldn’t be fully realized until Elizabeth’s death fifty years later. As Henry VIII believed, much rested on his only son.
The journals that Edward kept, first as prince and later, as king, are mentioned and used throughout. They helped the author paint a very intriguing picture of England’s lost Tudor king, one that has yet to be seen by the general public.
Highly recommended for anyone studying the Tudor Dynasty, or who has a love of English history.
–Reviewed by Jason