10 things you might not know about Edward VI

by Kyra Kramer

Chapter 1: Edward's Baptism

Fact 1: The infant Prince Edward was carried by Gertrude Blount Courtenay at his baptism on 15 October 1537

Why is this significant? Because her husband was Henry Courtenay, 1st Marquess of Exeter, the first and only surviving son of William Courtenay, 1st Earl of Devon, and Princess Catherine of York. Catherine was Elizabeth of York’s younger sister. Thus, Henry Courtenay was Henry VIII’s maternal first cousin and potentially a rival heir to the throne as the grandson of King Edward IV.

Gertrude and Henry Courtenay also had a son named Edward, who was around 10 years old at the time. Edward Courtenay was, therefore, the direct descendant of King Edward IV and theoretically as legitimate an heir to the throne as newborn Prince Edward. Just a little more than a year later Henry VIII, egged on by Cromwell (who was a political enemy of Henry Courtenay), arrested his cousin -- along with Courtenay’s wife Gertrude and son Edward -- and threw all three into the Tower of London. Henry Courtenay was found guilty of trumped-up bogus charges and legally murdered a few weeks afterwards. Gertrude was released in 1540 at the behest of Henry VIII’s daughter, Mary Tudor, and allowed to serve in Mary’s household.

Edward Courtenay, however, wouldn’t be freed until Mary became queen in 1553. This means Gertrude’s son spent from age eleven to twenty-four locked up in the Tower and under constant threat of death. He was understandably a bit … odd … when he was finally released. In hindsight, Gertrude would have been justified if she had dropped baby Prince Edward on the way to the baptismal font!