On the Death of Edward VI

Claudia Dyball, Dickson College, 2011


The following empathetic response was written as part of the Blood, Lust & Persecution unit at Dickson College, Semester 2, 2011. It was written in response to the following task. "You are Elizabeth and you have just been told of Edward VI's death (1553). Write a diary entry which demonstrates Elizabeth's grief and why his death would cause such an outpouring of emotions on her behalf."

Task
July 10th 1553

Dear Diary,

I am unsure how to begin to properly express my feelings, except to say that I feel more grieved then I ever thought possible. News arrived not two days ago that my darling brother, and King, Edward had finally succumbed to illness[1], and passed into the care of God. I had though Edward was getting better, I had exchanged letters with him not so long ago[2] in which it seemed he was feeling much improved. Had I have known his condition was so poor I would have insisted on travelling to be with him sooner. As it were that blasted Northumberland kept the severity of my dear Brother's consumption[3] from me until the very last moment. By this point there was not enough time for me to make arrangement to assure my safety on the journey.[4] I know Northumberland[5] for the sneak that he is, and I am almost certain that had I have rushed unprepared to London I would surely have soon found myself locked in the Tower. I am told, that because I could not go to him, that my baby brother died without a single family member near him, and this knowledge near breaks my heart. I was startled by how strongly the sorrow of his death gripped me. I thought I knew all the levels of misery that existed; having been raised without a mother, having a father who despised me, and living with the guilt that I was cause of my mother’s death.[6] On reflecting I realise that I am more saddened by Edward’s passing than my mother’s because I knew Edward, and Edward knew me. We had grown up together, we had learnt lessons together, and played together, we had loved each other. In this time of great misery I find myself reflecting on the time I spent with Edward, both good and bad.[7] I am particularly finding myself reminiscing about our time of childish innocence; as these were some of our happiest. I feel that it is important to write these down, because with Edward now gone I fear the memories I have of him might distort or slip away without his face to remind me of them.

Even though I did not see much of him when he was a baby[8] I still always thought of him as a beloved brother. It was not until our father married Katherine[9], that Edward and I were reunited as siblings in the proper respect of the word.[10] I do still remember the first time that I saw Edward. It was at his christening in Hampton Court, I would have been only four years old but I can still see it quite clearly. Edward was such a beautiful baby, although unusually small.[11] His mother was there, the Lady Seymour, she was sweating profusely, at the time I presumed because of her close positioning to the fire; of course now I know this would have been the fever, it was the last time I saw her alive.[12] Maybe it was that we had both lost our mothers, at such young ages that we have no recollection of them, which bonded Edward and I so deeply. I know for certain that Edward gave comfort, and reassurance, to me where my mother could not, and my father would not. I feel I was comfort to him also, in that I did not look on him with such expectant eyes as our father did.[13] I would not have minded if he were not king, of course I knew he would be and I respected his superiority as such. I know quite well the trials that Edward was put through in his preparations for becoming king, as I received lessons with him. Together we learnt classical lessons from John Cheke and French from Jean Balmain. I remember the hours spent each day struggling to master hexameter and pentameters, or leaning over studies of Plato, Cicero and Erasmus.[14] I never complained, because I knew that it was a great honour that I was allowed to be educated to the same standard of a future King, but it was awfully challenging. It still amazes me that Edward, four years my junior, was able to comprehend such knowledge. He was truly a boy of great intelligence. It is a sorry fate indeed that the world has been robbed so soon of his mind. We used to write to each other when we were apart. I still have the letters. Tiny, little, scraps of notes they are; usually in Latin, sometimes in French.[15] They say nothing of any particular importance, but they are of great sentiment to me; especially now that he is gone.

It has been announced that Edward has named our cousin Jane Grey as his successor.[16] I have no doubt in my mind that this was in an attempt to prevent our Catholic sister from taking the throne. I do not believe that this will last long. I know my sister well enough[17] to know that she will not let this go unchecked. I worry that this attempted aversion of Mary’s reign might actually do more harm than good for the Protestant faith.[18] Edward and Mary never saw eye to eye on anything to do with religion, and they often argued about their faiths.[19] I suppose if Jane being Queen was my brother’s last wish then I should support it, but still I sense that this choice was a mistake. For the time being I shall try to put these worries from my mind, and instead focus on seeing to it that arrangements are made for Edward’s funeral. I imagine they shall be with in the month, and that they shall be a most magnificent demonstration of a Protestant burial.[20]

I hope that when I next have a chance to write in this diary (as this will not be for a while) that it is on a less subdued note. I shall finish now by saying that; Edward was a great brother, a great King, and a great friend. I shall miss him dearly, but will endeavour to keep him in my heart for as long as I shall live.

E.



Bibliography


Primary:

Jokinen, Anniina 1996, 'The Princess Elizabeth to Edward VI', Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature, < http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/elizedward6.htm> site accessed November 2011

Jokinen, Anniina 1996, 'The Letters of Queen Elizabeth 1553-1558 to Mary I', Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature, < http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/elizlet4.htm> site accessed November 2011

Hanson, Marliee 1997, '1549-1551 King Edward VI’s Journal', English History Site <http://englishhistory.net/tudor/ed1.html> site accessed November 2011

Secondary:

Crofton, Ian 2006, The Kings and Queens of England, Quercus Publishing Plc, England

Davies, Norman 1999, The Isles a History, Macmillian Publishers Ltd, England

Elton, G.R 1965, England Under the Tudors, The Camerlot Press Ltd, England

Williams, Neville 1967, Elizabeth I Queen of England, Weidenfeld and Nicolson Ltd, England

Eakins, Lara E 2009, Elizabeth I Queen of England, Tudor History Site <http://tudorhistory.org/elizabeth/> accessed November 2011

Eakins, Lara E 2009, 'Jane Seymour; bound to obey and serve', Tudor History, <http://tudorhistory.org/seymour/> accessed November 2011

Hanson, Marilee 1997, 'King Edward VI', English History site <http://englishhistory.net/tudor/monarchs/edward6.html> accessed November 2011

Jokinen, Anniina 1996, 'Edward VI 1537-1553', Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature, <http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/kingedward.htm> accessed November 2011

Jokinen, Anniina 1996, 'Elizabeth 1533-1603', Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature, <http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/elizabio.htm> accessed November 2011



Notes


  1. ^ Edward VI died of illness on the 6th July 1553 – Crofton 2006
  2. ^ ‘The Princes Elizabeth to Edward VI’: Elizabeth wrote a letter to Edward VI in 1550’s, in which she expressed relief at his improving state of health. – Luminarium Encyclopaedia Website
  3. ^ Consumption was the name possibly given to what is now known as Tuberculosis. It could also have been a severe respiratory infection that caused Edward’s death in the end. – Tudor History Website
  4. ^ “The news of his final illness was kept from her by Northumberland, but when he at last ordered her to the boy’s bedside she smelt a rat… Undoubtedly, had she gone to court she would have found herself in the tower” (Williams 1967).
  5. ^ John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, was chief councillor to King Edward VI. Dudley was responsible for plots to ensure that the Catholic Mary never became queen (Elton 1965).
  6. ^ Elizabeth’s mother was Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII second wife. Henry wanted a son, so when Anne bore him a daughter he was extremely disappointed. Henry ended up ordering Anne to be executed in 1536 on charges on adultery and incest. Most historians agree that the charges were most likely made up, so as to save Henry the trouble of getting another divorce (Davis 1999).
  7. ^ The bad times referring to the near two years in which Elizabeth was banned from court by Edward VI after the scandal of her suggested affair with Edward Seymour, second husband of Katherine Parr. The extent of the relations between Elizabeth and Seymour is uncertain, but it was enough to leave Elizabeth in a state of semi-disgrace at court (Williams 1967).
  8. ^ For the first couple of years of Edward’s life, Elizabeth was not welcome in court. Because of this there was very little contact between the siblings until 1543 when Katherine Parr became Queen (Luminarium Encyclopaedia).
  9. ^ Henry VIII married his sixth wife, Katherine Parr, on the 12 July 1543 (Elton 1965).
  10. ^ Katherine Parr was responsible for convincing Henry VIII to welcome his two daughters from his previous marriages, Mary and Elizabeth, back into court (Williams 1967).
  11. ^ Edward was weak, and often ill, from the moment he was born. The pregnancy had been an extremely trying one. The exertion of the difficult birth of Edward soon after claimed his mother’s life, it nearly claimed Edward’s also (Davis 1999).
  12. ^ It is speculated that by forcing his wife to attend their son's christening so soon after the difficult birth, when she was still extremely weak and should have been recovering, Henry contributed to her death. Although it must be noted that during her pregnancy Jane’s every whim was pandered to. She is also the only one of Henry VIII's six wives to be buried with him (Tudor History Website).
  13. ^ Edward was the pride and joy of Henry’s life. Henry had Edward educated by the finest scholars in preparation for Edward’s accession to the throne. Henry wanted his son to be perfect; given that Henry had been married twice before Jane (his third wife) produced Edward, and given he created the Church of England to secure his first divorce in his quest for a son, this is understandable (Luminarium Encyclopaedia).
  14. ^ After Henry’s marriage to Katherine Parr saw Elizabeth and Mary welcomed back to court, Elizabeth (13) and Henry (9) were educated together (Williams 1967).
  15. ^ Information about the classes that Edward and Elizabeth took together can be found in Williams (1967).
  16. ^ Jane Grey was Queen for nine days from the 10th July- 19th July. The plan to make Jane Grey Queen was the work of John Dudley, who was a devout Protestant. He convinced the dying King Edward to alter succession for the good of the Protestant faith, which Edward was more the willing to do given he too was a devout Protestant (Crofton 2006).
  17. ^ Where Elizabeth and Edward were extremely close, neither of them were ever very close to their half-sister Mary. Even when Elizabeth and Mary were welcomed back into court, Mary never became close to her siblings because she was substantially older than them and of a different religion. Mainly though the siblings distance seemed to stem from Mary’s grudge toward them (Luminarium Encyclopaedia Website).
  18. ^ The purpose of placing Jane Grey on the throne was to avoid the 1544 Act of Succession placing the Catholic Mary on the throne. During her reign Mary was often fearful of Protestant rebellions. She was so fearful that she had Elizabeth locked in the tower of London and had Jane Grey executed, so that the English Protestants had no one to rally behind to be a replacement monarch (Davis 1999).
  19. ^ In a journal entry ('1549-1551, King Edward VI’s Journal’) Edward recorded an argument he had with Mary over religion, and her private worship (English History Website).
  20. ^ Edward VI was buried at Westminster Abby on 8th August 1553, a month after his death (Tudor History Website).