Edward was king of England for only a few years, and died at 15, but his short reign saw the full-scale introduction of Protestantism.
Edward was born on 12 October 1537 at Hampton Court Palace, the only legitimate son of Henry VIII. Henry's desperation for a son had led him to divorce two wives, but Edward's mother, Henry's third wife Jane Seymour, died a few days after his birth. Edward was given a rigorous education and was intellectually precocious, although his health was never strong.
Edward became king at the age of nine, when his father died in January 1547. His father had arranged that a council of regency should rule on his behalf, but Edward's uncle, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, took power and established himself as protector. Somerset and the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, were intent on making England a truly Protestant state, supported by the young king. An English Prayer Book was issued in 1549 with an Act of Uniformity to enforce it.
In the summer of 1549, peasants in the West Country revolted in protest against the Prayer Book. Kett's Rebellion in Norfolk was focused on economic and social injustices. At the same time, the French declared war on England. The Norfolk rebellion was suppressed by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick. In the atmosphere of uncertainty, Dudley exploited his success by bringing about the downfall of Somerset, who was arrested and later executed. Although Dudley, later duke of Northumberland, never took the title of protector, this is the role he now assumed. Protestant reform was stepped up - the new Prayer Book of 1552 was avowedly Protestant. Altars were turned into tables, religious imagery destroyed and religious orthodoxy was enforced by a new and more stringent Act of Uniformity.
It soon became clear that Edward was suffering from tuberculosis and would not live long. Northumberland was determined that his religious reforms should not be undone, so he persuaded Edward to approve a new order of succession. This declared Mary illegitimate and passed the throne to Northumberland's daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, who was a more distant descendant of Henry VIII. Edward died on 6 July 1553. However, Jane was only queen for a few days until, with overwhelming popular support, Mary took the throne.
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