10 things you might not know about Edward VI

by Kyra Kramer

Chapter 3 : Abduction

Fact 3: King Edward VI was kidnapped by his uncle

As I explain in my book, Edward VI in a Nutshell, Edward Seymour tried to take maximum advantage of his relationship to the boy king:

There were some serious shenanigans surrounding the death of King Henry VIII and the execution of his will. Men who were powerful enough, or influential enough, to sway the king to appoint a singular regent, or who were high-ranking enough to be that singular regent, were kept away from the dying king … Although Henry’s will called for a council to collectively act as regent, the boy-king’s uncle, Edward Seymour, managed to get himself named lord protector of the realm and governor of the king’s person, most likely in exchange for the lavish gifts the old king’s will was mysteriously found to authorise ...  Edward Seymour … became the Duke of Somerset and inducted himself into the Order of the Garter.

However, Somerset was not the awesome shadow-king he thought he would be. He bungled things so badly that by the autumn of 1549 the Privy Council was ready to be done with his ham-fisted reign. So how did Somerset deal with the news he wasn’t going to be the de facto monarch anymore? Not well:

Panicked, Somerset grabbed the king and ran for it. You have to consider how frightening this all was for Edward, who still trusted his uncle implicitly. The king would later write in his diary how he was rushed away from Hampton Court to Windsor Castle late on the evening of 7 October, and observers reported that Edward had carried a drawn sword as he rode through the night, declaring, “My vassals will you help me against those who want to kill me!” Once at Windsor, the king wrote a letter to the lords of the privy council claiming that he knew, “what opinion you have conceived of our dearest uncle the Lord Protector … we do lament our present estate being in such and imminent dangers … we pray you, good cousins and councilors … in nowise counsel us to proceed to extremities against him, for fear of any respect that might particularly seem hereafter to touch any of you” …

The councillors arranged to have a private letter smuggled in to Edward, assuring him that they only wanted to depose Somerset because he was abusing his position and taking advantage of his nephew, but the king was unmoved by their assurance and remained certain that Somerset was only trying to protect them both. When the duke was arrested via a coup at Windsor on 11 October, the king’s first reaction to his liberators was profound alarm. He had been told so often and so urgently that his councillors meant to kill him that he had no doubt that was what they intended to do. Happily for Edward, he “was soon afterwards disabused; and when he went from there to Hampton Court and dismounted, he thanked all the company for having rid him of such fear and peril” (CPS, Spain, 17 October, 1549).

Assured of his safety, he complained about his time at Windsor, where he had been “much troubled with a great rheum” and where he felt as though he was “in prision” because there were “no galleries nor gardens to walk in”...

King Edward rode triumphantly back into London on 17 October, trusting his privy council once more, but with enough good feeling towards Somerset that he demanded to see his uncle. Under Edward’s protection and due to the king’s intervention, the former protector was able to pay a fine and be released from the Tower with the king’s pardon on 6 February, 1550. By May of that same year Somerset’s lands were restored to him and he had been was elevated once again to a Gentleman of the privy chamber ….

Of course Somerset couldn’t just be grateful for the king’s continued favour. Nope. Edward Seymour had to plot to overthrow the Privy Council and wound up getting himself beheaded (with his nephew’s blessing) on 22 January, 1552. The King, once an ardent partisan supporter of his uncle, merely noted that:

The duke of Somerset had his head cat of apon Towre hill betwene eight and nine a cloke in the morning.”