| Our Island Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|A child's history of England from earliest legendary times delightfully retold. Beginning with the stories of Albion and Brutus, it relates all the interesting legends and hero tales in which the history of England abounds through the end of the reign of Queen Victoria. Ages 9-12 |
EDWARD VI.—THE STORY OF A BOY KING
 HENRY VIII. had three children. They were called Mary,
Elizabeth, and Edward.
Edward was the son of Lady Jane Seymour, Henry's third wife,
and was the youngest of the three. But for several reasons
he was made King.
Edward was only nine years old and his uncle, Lord Somerset,
was made Regent or Protector. Lord Somerset was not a strong
man and did not rule well. He wished to be powerful and
tried to make himself King in all but name. His brother,
Thomas Seymour, also wanted to rule, so there were plots and
quarrels between them and between the other great nobles.
Although Henry VIII. had quarrelled with the Pope he never
became a Protestant, nor did he wish the religion of the
country to be changed. But Lady Jane Seymour had been a
Protestant and so was her brother who was now Protector.
Edward VI. had been brought up in the new religion and
although he had very little power, he wanted the country to
But this was not the wish of the whole people. Many of them
did not like the new English service which the King ordered
to be used in the churches. It was like a Christmas game,
they said, and they asked for the old Latin service called
the Mass to which they were accustomed.
 When Henry VIII. shut up the monasteries he brought great
distress on the poor in many ways. He gave some of the
monastery land to his friends, and these gentlemen, growing
greedy, began now to add to their possessions by enclosing
with fences the common lands, which before had been free to
every one. The poor had been allowed to feed their cows and
sheep on these common lands but now that they were enclosed
by fences, the sheep and cows died from hunger, and the poor
people were worse off than ever.
Those who had been turned out of the monasteries were all
Roman Catholics. They were now homeless and went among the
people telling them that all their sorrows were because of
the change of religion. At last the people rose in
rebellion, many of them hardly knowing why, but only feeling
that they were very unhappy. But the rebellion was soon
crushed and the ringleaders put to death.
It is told how the Provost Marshal wrote to one man, the
Mayor of Bodmin, who was known to have been one of the
leaders, saying that he was coming to dinner. The mayor was
very glad, thinking that he was not to be punished for his
share in the riots. He made ready a splendid dinner and
received the provost and his friends with great politeness.
"Mr. Mayor," said the provost, "I have to hang a man in the
town after dinner. Will you have a gallows set up?"
The mayor gave the order to the hangman and then they sat
down to dinner. They were all very gay and merry and, when
the meal was over, the provost took the mayor by the arm,
saying cheerfully, "Come now, let me see these gallows."
The mayor led him to where they were set up.
 "Do you think they are strong enough?" said the provost.
"Oh yes," replied the mayor, "I can assure your lordship
they are quite strong enough."
"Very well," said the provost, "you shall go up and try, for
you are the man that is to be hanged."
"You do not mean that, my lord, you are joking," said the
"Nay, but I do mean it," said the provost. "Up you get, you
have been a busy rebel and now here is your reward."
And in spite of all he could say the poor mayor was hanged
upon his own gallows.
But the people rose again and again. One of the chief
rebellions was under a man called Ket. He was a tanner. A
great many people gathered round him, and they camped near
Norwich on a plain, in the centre of which stood a great oak
tree. This tree they called the Oak of Reformation, and
under its branches Ket held his Parliament and Court,
deciding quarrels, making laws, and punishing wrong-doers.
Ket encouraged his followers to pull up the hedges, throw
down the fences, and fill up the ditches with which the
common lands had been surrounded. Otherwise they behaved in
a wonderfully orderly manner. They did indeed steal sheep
and cattle from the rich gentlemen round so that they might
have plenty to eat in the camp. But Ket ordered his men not
to hurt any honest or poor people. He called himself the
King's friend, and said he fought only against the wicked
lords who gave him bad advice.
For some time the Protector did nothing and Ket's army grew
larger and larger. Lord Somerset was sorry for the people.
He knew that they were very poor, and
 felt that they were
badly treated. Yet he knew, too, that he ought to do
something to put down the rebellion.
At last a royal herald came. Dressed in his coat embroidered
with the arms of England, he stood under the Oak of
Reformation and blew his trumpet, and, while the people
gathered round to listen, he cried, "All ye good subjects of
King Edward VI. by the grace of God, Defender of the Faith,
King of England, attend." Then he told them that he had been
sent to say that King Edward would pardon them all, if they
would go quietly back to heir homes.
Many of them would have done this but Ket said, "No. Pardon
is for rebels. We are no rebels. We are the true subjects of
the King and only wish to prevent him from being evilly
advised." So he would not go home.
The Protector had gathered an army, intending to make war on
Scotland, and this army he now sent against Ket and his men.
There was a good deal of fighting. Many people on both sides
were killed, the town of Norwich was taken and retaken, but
in the end Ket was defeated. He and his brother were made
prisoners with many of their followers. They were put to
death, and nine of the chief rebels were hanged upon the
branches of the Oak of Reformation.
As time went on, the quarrelling among the nobles grew worse.
The office of Protector was first taken from Somerset, and
he was then beheaded. Many of the common people were sorry
for this, because they believed that Somerset had really
been their friend, and they loved him although the nobles
Lord Somerset was succeeded by the Duke of Northumberland.
The Duke of Northumberland was also a Protestant, and he was
quite as fond of power as
 Somerset had been, and began to
make plans to get the crown of England into his hands.
Edward had never been strong, and Northumberland knew that
he was not likely to live long. The next heir to the throne
was Mary, Edward's elder sister. She was the daughter of
Katherine of Arragon, the first wife of Henry VIII. Princess
Mary was a Roman Catholic. She hated the Protestant religion
as much as Edward loved it. It made Edward sad to think
that, when he was dead, Mary would undo all that he had done
and that England would again become Roman Catholic.
Northumberland knew this, and he persuaded Edward to make a
will leaving the throne to his cousin, Lady Jane Grey. Of
course Edward had no right to do this, but he did do it.
Lady Jane Grey was the great-granddaughter of Henry VII.,
and she was married to the Duke of Northumberland's son. She
was very young, being only about sixteen, and the duke
thought that if she were Queen, he would be able to do just
as he liked. He tried to keep his plan secret, for he knew
that many of the people wished Mary to be Queen. He
succeeded so well that even Lady Jane herself did not know
what he intended to do.
In 1553 A.D., soon after Edward had made his will, leaving
the crown to his cousin, he died. He was a good and gentle
boy, fond of books and learning. During his short reign many
schools were founded. They still exist and are
called King Edward Schools.
Edward was very anxious to do what was right, but like his
father Henry VIII., he was also fond of his own way. Had he
lived to be old enough really to reign, he might have proved
to be a good King. But it is hard to tell, for while he
lived he had little real power.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics