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Edward VI

King of England. Son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, he reigned for six years and was only sixteen when he died. Physically frail, intelligent, and sincere, he was naive and inevitably became the tool of counselors, notably the earl of Northumberland, whose motivation was by no means religious. With a serious ferocity now difficult to imagine, the Europe of his time argued with words and tortures the mystery of the sacrament. England under Henry VIII had rejected papal authority, but retained medieval dogma. Edward’s reign saw decisive moves in a Protestant direction. Most legislation against heresy was repealed, and England became a sanctuary for the persecuted. English Bibles were freely printed. The 1552 Prayer Book, going further than the already strongly Protestant version of 1549, set forth the sacrament as essentially an act of remembrance. The Forty-Two Articles* of 1553 codified in irenic terms these and other changes.

Despite his inevitable limitations, Edward was sincerely Christian. His reign saw few executions. Mary, his half sister, said her Mass and had her chaplain. The Roman Catholic bishop, Stephen Gardiner, though imprisoned and deprived of his see, was able to write six volumes of theological controversy.

See C.R. Markham, King Edward VI (1907); J.D. Mackie, The Earlier Tudors, 1485-1558 (1952).