It is frequently a misfortune to have very brilliant men in charge of affairs. They expect too much of ordinary men. — Thucydides

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

A Boy King

Edward VI. was only nine years old when he was crowned King of England. His father, Henry VIII., had decided that until he was old enough to reign alone, the government should be in the hands of Cranmer and a council. But as soon as the king was dead, the Duke of Somerset was named Protector of England.

The little king was a gentle, lovable, and studious child. He had been brought up in the new religious ideas, and liked nothing better than to study theology or to listen to long sermons. As he was very delicate and needed a great deal of fresh air, his favourite preacher, the reformer Latimer, had a pulpit placed out in the garden under a tree, so that Edward could enjoy sermons out of doors.

All the little king's teachers were Protestants, and they said he was a remarkably studious lad. They must have been right; for some of his Latin exercises have been kept, and they are unusually good for a boy of his age.

Although Cranmer was not allowed to govern, he was given authority to make any changes he thought desirable in the religion of the country. He therefore, in accordance with his Protestant ideas, stopped all Latin services, and arranged a Book of Common Prayer, almost the same as that still in use to-day in the Church of England and in the Episcopal Church in America.

Although the king was so kind that he hated to pain any one, and shed tears whenever he was forced to sign a death-warrant, he became very angry with his sister Mary, because she would not change her religion. He forbade her to hear mass in public. But in spite of all he said, Mary continued firm and would never consent to listen to any of his favourite sermons.

While King Edward VI. was busy with his books and studies, the Duke of Somerset governed the kingdom; and as he was a zealous Protestant, he took the pictures and statues out of the churches, closed up many monasteries and convents, and told the monks and nuns to go out into the world and earn their living. The money he took from the religious houses was used to found schools and hospitals, or given to new lords.

Most of the monks and nuns had been so good to the poor people near them, that the latter grumbled sorely when they saw these holy men and women in need. Twice during Edward's short reign the peasants revolted, and twice they had to be put down by force.

But in spite of this resistance, the Protestant movement went on; and while under Henry VIII. the people had practised the Catholic religion, without a pope, they now had a distinctly Protestant form of worship. All had to worship as the king wished, or suffer punishment. Two important persons refused to obey; but while one of them, Bishop Gardiner, was imprisoned, the other, the king's sister, was allowed to hear mass in her own room.

The Duke of Somerset soon thought it time that the marriage between the young king and Mary, Queen of Scots, should take place. But as most of the Scotch were still good Catholics, they did not want their sovereign to marry a Protestant. Somerset decided to force them to obey; and, using the pretext that some of the border men had fought against the English, he invaded Scotland.

The English army marched almost to Edinburgh, where it met a very large Scotch force. Somerset, frightened, offered peace; but the Scotchmen felt so sure of victory that they would not accept it. To their surprise, they were completely beaten, at Pinkie, and lost ten thousand men, while the English lost only three hundred.

Among the prisoners taken during the fight was a Scotch nobleman. Somerset asked him why he objected to the match between the English king and the Scotch queen, and he answered quickly: "I dislike not the match, but I hate the manner of the wooing."

Trouble having arisen in England, Somerset made peace with Scotland. But the little queen was sent over to France, so as to be out of reach of the English, and to be brought up in a Roman Catholic country. In time she became Queen of France, for she married Francis II.

On coming back to England, Somerset discovered that his own brother had been plotting against him. Influenced by the bad advice of a son of the lawyer Dudley (who before long was made Duke of Northumberland), Somerset accused his brother of treason, and had him arrested, tried, condemned, and executed. Soon after this, Northumberland, taking advantage of the discontent among the poor, who were grumbling because the protector was building a new palace, accused Somerset of high treason. It was he who was now arrested, tried, sentenced, and executed, just as his brother had been.

Edward was only thirteen at the time, so the power was placed in the hands of Northumberland. The latter soon noticed that the king would probably not live long, and he became anxious that the crown should pass into his own family. With this purpose in view, he told the little king that he ought to make a will.

You know that Parliament had decreed, during the reign of Henry, that neither Mary nor Elizabeth should reign; but later on the same body had said that Henry could leave the throne to any one he wished. Henry had therefore said that the crown should pass in turn to Edward, Mary, Elizabeth, and then to the Suffolks if all his children died childless. To induce Edward to make a will, Northumberland said that if Mary became queen the Catholic religion would again be introduced. He added that if Mary were set aside Elizabeth must be also, although she was a Protestant, and coaxed Edward to make a will in favour of Lady Jane Grey, one of the Suffolks, who had married Northumberland's son Dudley.

Edward VI., who was failing fast, yielded to these entreaties, and made a will which was witnessed by Cranmer. Shortly after that, the doctors having vainly tried to cure him, Northumberland placed him under the care of an ignorant old woman, who vowed she could make him well. But instead of gaining strength, Edward soon died, praying that the reformed religion might continue in England. Some people believe that he was the victim of consumption; but others, who hated Northumberland, began to whisper that the latter had poisoned the prince, so that Dudley might reign.


Front Matter

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee