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Reign of Edward VI


Hertford is made Duke of Somerset and Protector - His War with Scotland - The Battle of Pinkie - Innovations in the Church-Gardiner imprisoned - The Ministers help themselves to Titles and Charity Lands - Sir Thomas Seymour, the Lord-Admiral, marries Queen Catherine Parr - Endeavours to secure the Person of the Young King - Catherine Parr dies - Seymour aspires to the Hand of the Princess Elizabeth - Is arrested and beheaded by order of his brother the Protector - "War in Scotland - Queen Mary carried to France, and married to the Dauphin - Insurrections at Home - Ket, the Farmer, of Norfolk - Insurgents put down - France declares War - Party of Sir John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, against the Protector - Ambition of Somerset - Sent to the Tower, but released - Deprivation of Bonner and Gardiner - The Princess Mary harassed on account of her Religion - Joan Bouchier and Van Paris put to death as Heretics - Duke of Somerset again arrested, condemned and executed, with four of his alleged Accomplices - Warwick in the Ascendant - Made Duke of Northumberland - Marries his Son to Lady Jane Grey, and induces the King to nominate her his Heir to the Crown - Death of the King.
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The country was doomed once more to experience the inconveniences of a regal minority, of that evil so forcibly enunciated by the sacred Scriptures: "Woe to the country whose king is a child." It was doomed once more to witness the struggles, incapacities, and manifold mischiefs of ambitious nobles, whilst the hand of the king was too feeble to keep them in restraint. The execution of Surrey, and the imprisonment and attainder of the great Duke of Norfolk, left the Seymours completely in the ascendant; and having recently risen into note and power, they very soon showed all the inflated ambition of such parvenus. The Earl of Hertford, as uncle of the king, was in reality the man now in the possession of the chief power. The king was but a few months more than nine years of age; and Henry, his father, acting on the discretion given him by an Act of Parliament of the twenty-eighth year of his reign, had by will settled the crown on his son, and had appointed sixteen individuals as his executors, who should constitute also the Privy Council, and exercise the authority of the Crown till the young monarch was eighteen years of age. To enable these executors, or rather, to enable Hertford to secure the person of the king, and take other measures for the establishment of their position, the death of Henry was kept secret for four days. He died on the morning of Friday, the 28th of January, and Parliament, which was virtually dissolved by his death, according to the then existing laws, met on the 29th, and proceeded to business as usual, so that any Acts passed under these circumstances would have clearly become null.

On the 31st of the month, the Chancellor Wriothesley announced to the assembled Parliament of both Houses, the decease of the king, and the appointment of the council to conduct the Government, in the name of the young Sovereign, Edward VI. The members of both Houses professed to be overwhelmed with grief at the news of their loss. It might have been supposed that Henry VIII., of blessed memory, had been one of the most mild and endearing men that ever lived. The Romanists and the Protestants, whom he chastised and tyrannised over with a pretty equal hand, were, according to their own account, sunk in sorrow, and the tender-hearted Wriothesley, who had never before shown any feeling except for himself, was so choked by his tears as scarcely to be able to announce the sad event. In fact, the servility of the Ministry and Parliament during the king's life, were only equalled by their hypocrisy at his death.

The boy king, however, soon engrossed all their powers of political joy and flattery. He was represented as the greatest prodigy of learning and virtue that ever lived. William Thomas, who became one of the clerks of the council - as who can wonder - in a work called the "Pilgrim," thus describes him: "If ye knew the towardness of that young prince, your hearts would melt to hear him named, and your stomach abhor the malice of them that would him ill; the beautifullest creature that liveth under the sun; the wittiest, the most amiable, and the gentlest thing of all the world. Such a spirit of capacity, learning the things taught him by his schoolmaster, that it is a wonder to hear say. And finally, he hath such a grace of posture and gesture in gravity, when he comes into a presence, that it should seem he were already a father, and passeth he not the age of ten years. A thing undoubtedly much rather to be seen than believed."

Edward appears, indeed, to have been a very amiable and clever lad, but probably suffered severely in his health by the over-working of his brain whilst so young, a circumstance which is supposed also to have injured the constitution and cheerfulness of temper of his sister Mary. He kept a journal, which still remains, in his own hand, in the British Museum, and in this he tells us many things of his life and short reign. From this we learn that till he was six years old he was brought up much "amongst the women." We know that his stepmother, Catherine Parr, bestowed much pains on the education of both himself and his sisters Mary and Elizabeth. He was next placed under the tuition of Sir Anthony Cook, "famous for his five learned daughters," of Mr. Cheke, and Dr. Cox. These gentlemen were to educate him in "learning of tongues, of the Scripture, of philosophy, and all liberal sciences." Cox, in particular, was "to be his preceptor for his manners, and the knowledge of philosophy and divinity; the other for the tongues and mathematics." He had masters for French and other accomplishments; and Bishop Burnet says that "he was so forward in his learning, that before he was eight years old, he wrote Latin letters to his father, who was a prince of that stern severity that one can hardly think that those about his son durst cheat him by making letters for him."

Henry VIII., in fact, does not seem to have examined very closely into what was going on in the education of his son; the queen appears to have had that very much left to her, and she had contrived so that all who were about him were of the reformed opinions; indeed, of such opinions, that, had Henry known it, he would sooner have had them at the stake than at the teaching of his heir. These men most thoroughly imbued him with their own views, and he showed himself through his brief life a steadfast maintainer of the new faith. Had he been allowed more play and exercise during his early boyhood, instead of being drilled so unremittingly in his educational labour, he might have lived longer, and proved none the less accomplished in the end.

At the time of his father's death he was residing at Hertford, in the house of his uncle, the Earl of Hertford. Thither Hertford and Sir Anthony Browne, the master of the horse, proceeded, and, bringing him as far as Enfield, where his sister Elizabeth was, they first announced to them the death of their father, by which they are said by Hayward to have been greatly affected. On the 31st of January, the same day the announcement had been made to Parliament of Henry's decease, and whilst this and his own accession was being proclaimed in London, Edward, escorted by Hertford, Sir Anthony Browne, and a body of horse, entered the capital, and was conducted straightway to the Tower, amidst a vast concourse of applauding people. At his approach to that ancient bastile, where young princes had before been led by their uncles, with results which might have made the little king shrink, "there was," says Strype, "great shooting of ordnance in all parts thereabouts, as well from the houses as from the ships, whereat the king took great pleasure. Being there arrived, he was welcomed by the nobles, and conducted by them to his lodging within the Tower, being richly hung and garnished with rich cloth of Arras, and cloth of estate agreeable to such a Royal guest. And so were all his nobles lodged and placed, some in the Tower and some in the City. His council lodged for the most part about his highness, who every day kept the council-chamber, for determination of main causes, as well about the interment of the king's father, as for the expedition of his own coronation."

On the day after his arrival at the Tower, that is, on February 1st, 1547, the greater part of the nobility and the prelates were summoned, and assembled there about three o'clock in the afternoon, in the presence-chamber, where they all successively knelt and kissed his majesty's hand, saying every one of them, " God save your grace!" Then Wriothesley, the chancellor, produced the king's will, and announced from it that the following sixteen persons were appointed to be his late majesty's executors, and to hold the office of governors of the present king and of the kingdom till he was eighteen years of age: - Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury; Thomas Wriothesley, the Lord Chancellor; William Paulet, Baron St. John, Master of the Household; John Russell, Baron Russell, Lord Privy Seal; Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, Lord Great Chamberlain; John Dudley, Viscount Lisle, Lord Admiral; Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of Durham; Sir Anthony Browne, Master of the Horse; Sir William Paget, Secretary of State; Sir Edward North, Chancellor of the Court of Augmentations; Sir Edward Montague, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas; Thomas Bromley, one of the Justices of the King's Bench; Sir Anthony Denny and Sir John Herbert, Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber; Sir Edward Wotton, Treasurer of Calais; and Dr. Nicholas Wotton, Dean of Canterbury. To these were added twelve others, who were to aid them in any case of difficulty by their advice: - Henry Fitzallan, Earl of Arundel; William Parr, Earl of Essex; Sir Thomas Cheney, Treasurer of the Household; Sir John Gage, Comptroller; Sir Anthony Wingfield, Vice-Chamberlain; Sir William Petre, Secretary of State; Sir Richard Rich, Sir John Baker, Sir Ralph Sadler, Sir Thomas Seymour, Sir Richard Southwell, and Sir Edmund Peckham. Yet, although these formed a second council, it was totally destitute of any real authority, and could only tender advice when asked.

The announcement of these names excited much animadversion and some censure. It was remarked that the greater part of them were new men; and the chief council consisted of those who had been about him in his last illness. But what next was disclosed was still more extraordinary. The executors, when assembled in the Tower on the day of the young king's proclamation, declared that "they were resolved not only to stand to and maintain the last will and testament of their master, the late king, and every part and parcel of the same, to the uttermost of their powers, wits, and cunning, but also that every one of them present should take a corporal oath upon a book, for the more assured and effectual accomplishment of the same." But now it was announced that the Privy Council, for the better dispatch of business, had resolved to place the Earl of Hertford at their head. This was so directly in opposition to the will, which had invested every member of the council with equal power, that it was received with no little wonder. The fact was that Hertford, who, before the old king's death, had determined to seize the supreme power during the minority of his nephew, had secured a majority in the council, who, as we shall soon find, had their object to attain. Wriothesley was the only one who stood out. He assured them that such an act invalidated the whole will. But he argued in vain, and, finding it useless, he gave way; and thus Hertford was now proclaimed protector of the realm and guardian of the king's person, with the understood but empty condition, that he should attempt nothing which had not the assent of a majority of the council.

However much astonished or chagrined, the courtiers expressed their unanimous approbation; the new Protector expressed his gratitude, and Edward, pulling off his cap, said, "We thank you heartily, my lords all; and hereafter in all that you shall have to do with us for any suit or causes, ye shall be heartily welcome." Thereupon the lords expressed their entire content, and the public announcement of the appointment of Hertford was received with transports of joy by all who were attached to the new doctrines, or who sought to improve their fortunes at the expense of the Church.

And now came the next remarkable development, that which had made so many of the council ready to support the pretensions of Hertford. There was a clause in the king's will requiring the council to ratify every gift and | perform every promise which he had made before his death. When the meaning of this clause was inquired into, it was asserted that Paget, Herbert, and Denny were in the king's confidence on the subject; and, on being interrogated, as of course it was arranged, they stated that the king had not only had this clause inserted in his will, but that he had solemnly reiterated this injunction to those in attendance upon him, while he lay on his death-bed. By a letter of Paget's, which is preserved in Strype, we perceive that Hertford had, before the king's death, promised him, and no doubt others, their proper rewards for assisting his intentions on the protectorate. "Remember what you promised me in the gallery at Westminster," he says, writing to Hertford, "before the breath was out of the body of the king that dead is; remember what you promised me immediately after, devising with me about the place which you now occupy."

Accordingly, when Paget, Denny, and Herbert were interrogated, they stated that the clause related to certain honours and rewards that Henry intended to bestow on these worthy executors. Paget declared that when the evidence appeared against the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Surrey, the king, who used oft to talk in private with him alone, told him that he intended to bestow their lands liberally; and since, by attainder and other ways, the nobility were much decayed, he intended to create some peers, and ordered him to write a book of such as he thought merited. Paget said that he himself then proposed to Henry that the Earl of Hertford should be made a duke, and that several other persons whom he named should be ennobled, and that others who were peers should be raised to a higher rank. He added, that he suggested that they should divide amongst them the lands of the Duke of Norfolk, but that the king liked it not, but made Mr. Gates bring him the books of that estate, which being done, he ordered Paget "to tot upon the Earl of Hertford," as he expressed it, 1,000 marks; on the Lords Lisle, St. John, and Russell, 200 a year; to the Lord Wriothesley, 100; and to Sir Thomas Seymour, 300 a year, which Paget said was too little, and reminded the king of Denny; but that the king, saying nothing of Denny, ordered 200 for him (Paget), and 400 for Sir William Herbert, and remembered some others.

Of the persons mentioned for promotion, Paget said, some, on being spoken to, desired to remain in their present estate, the land which the king proposed to give being insufficient for the rank to be attached to them. After many consultations, the king had settled it thus: - "The Earl of Hertford was to be created earl marshal and lord treasurer, to be Duke of Somerset, Exeter, or Hertford, and his son to be Earl of Wiltshire, with 800 a year in lands, and 300 a year out of the next bishop's lands that fell void. The Earl of Essex was to be Marquis of Essex; the Viscount Lisle to be Earl of Coventry; the Lord Wriothesley, Earl of Winchester; Sir Thomas Seymour, a baron and lord admiral; Sir Richard Rich, Sir John St. Leger, Sir William Willoughby, Sir Edward Sheffield, and Sir Christopher Danby, to be barons; with yearly revenues to Anne and several other persons. And having at the suit of Sir Edward North promised to give the Earl of Hertford six of the best prebends that should fall in any cathedral, except deaneries and treasurerships, at his, the duke's suit, he, the king, agreed that a deanery and a treasurerships should be instead of two of the six prebends."

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