THE PROTECTORSHIP AND PROTESTANTISM
The personality and predilections of Edward VI, the last Tudor king, remain an enigma to historians. Protestants and Catholics differ on his abilities, and most historical accounts have concentrated on the two men who advised him--Somerset and Northumberland.
Henry VIII was betrothed to Jane Seymour on May 19, 1536. Their son was born on October 12, 1537, St. Edward's Eve. Except for his bout with quartan fever in 1541, Edward was generally a healthy child. Edward's tutor was the humanist John Cheke, a fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, and a leader of the radical Protestants.
Shortly after Henry's death, his will was altered to replace the sixteen-member executive with a Protectorate led by Edward Seymour, Lord Hertford, who was made the Duke of Somerset. Nine-year old Edward was brought to London to authorize these changes in the government.
Somerset was, in effect, ruler of England. His first parliament repealed all the old heresy laws. Thomas Cranmer was asked to revise the worship service and in January 1549 his Book of Common Prayer was approved by parliament. An Act of Uniformity penalized clergymen who did not use the book, but it did not require laymen to attend church or use it.
Somerset believed the government should carry out policies for the general good or commonweal. A Subsidy Act of 1548 gave up purveyance in return for a tax on sheep and cloth. In June 1548 parliament established a commission to enquire into the progress of the enclosure movement. Encouraged by these government initiatives, peasants throughout England rebelled in the summer of 1549.
The Rebellions marked the end of Somerset's protectorate, and the government fell into the hands of the Earl of Warwick (the Duke of Northumberland after 1551) who told Edward he was old enough to make policy decisions himself. Social reform ended, and religious changes increased. In 1552 Cranmer produced a new, more Protestant Prayer Book; a second Act of Uniformity punished laymen who failed to attend church.
In April 1552 Edward came down with measles, and although he survived the disease, his health never recovered. By the winter of 1553, he was a very sick boy. In June 1553 Northumberland drew up a "Device for the Succession" which replaced Mary and Elizabeth in the succession by their cousin Lady Jane Grey who was forcibly married to Northumberland's son, Guilford. Edward died on July 6, 1553, but until July 10th the news was kept from the public.