On this day in history, 6th July 1553, between 8 and 9 o'clock in the evening, fifteen-year-old King Edward VI died in the arms of Sir Henry Sidney, one of the Chief Gentleman of his Privy Chamber, at Greenwich Palace. His last words were reported to be "I am faint; Lord have mercy upon me, and take my spirit".
Edward VI had been ill for several months and on 21st June 1553 his "Devise for the Succession" had been issued as "Letters Patent for the Limitation of the Crown". In his devise, Edward VI stipulated that his crown was to be passed on to "the eldest SONNE OF THE BODYE OF THE SAID LADY FRAUNCIS [Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk], LAWFULLY BEGOTTONE, beinge borne into the world in our lyfetyme" and failing that the crown would pass on to Frances' daughter, Lady Jane Grey, and her heirs male. When Edward died in July 1553, Frances did not have a son and so Jane became queen, being officially proclaimed such on 10th July 1553.
Jane did not find out she was queen until 9th July 1553. When she was informed of Edward VI's death and the fact that the king had nominated her as his successor, Jane was said to have collapsed weeping and declared "The crown is not my right and pleases me not. The Lady Mary is the rightful heir." However, once the Duke of Northumberland and her parents had explained Edward's wishes to her, it appears that Jane then the crown as her duty and destiny. She later told Mary I:
"Declaring to them my insufficiency, I greatly bewailed myself for the death of so noble a prince, and at the same time, turned myself to God, humbly praying and beseeching him, that if what was given to me was rightly and lawfully mine, his divine Majesty would grant me such grace and spirit that I might govern it to his glory and service and to the advantage of this realm."1
Her reign, though, was to be just thirteen days for Edward's eldest half-sister, Mary, rallied support and was proclaimed queen on 19th July 1553. Lady Jane Grey, the former Queen Jane, was executed on 12th February 1554, following her father's involvement in Wyatt's Rebellion.
You can find out more about Edward VI and Queen Jane/Lady Jane Grey with the following resources:
- Edward VI e-book
- 6 July 1553 - The death of Edward VI
- July 2016 Tudor Life Magazine: Edward VI special
- Edward VI articles
- Edward VI Quiz
- Edward VI Primary Sources
- Researching Edward VI - Claire Chats video.
- Lady Jane Grey e-book
- Lady Jane Grey primary sources
- Queen Jane or Lady Jane Grey - Claire Chats video.
- The Executions of Lady Jane Grey and Lord Guildford Dudley: A Primary Source Account
- Tudor Life February 2015 – Lady Jane Grey Special
- Lady Jane Grey Quiz
Today is also the anniversary of the execution of Sir Thomas More on 6th July 1535 for high treason for denying the King's supremacy. Here are some resources for Thomas More:
- St Thomas More expert talk by Stephanie Man
- Thomas More Quiz
- The Real Wolf Hall: Who was Thomas More?
Notes and Sources
- L’historia ecclesiastica della rivolvzion d’Inghilterra, Girolamo Pollini, quoted on p.187 of Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery by Eric Ives.