10 things you might not know about Edward VI

by Kyra Kramer

Chapter 4 : Budding Soldier

Fact 4: Edward was training to be a warrior and was as military-minded as his progenitors

People tend to think that Edward was a frail and sickly little guy, in part because he died as a teenager and in part because he was nowhere near his father’s gigantic size. In reality, Edward was a normal and healthy youngster and was adept at the martial arts of his time. Once Edward had been freed from Somerset’s cloying authority he began working with John Dudley, the Earl of Warwick, who:

“changed the King's studies accordingly, and had him taught to ride and handle his weapons, and to go through other similar exercises, so that his Majesty soon commenced arming and tilting, managing horses, and delighting in every sort of exercise, drawing the bow, playing rackets, hunting, and so forth, indefatigably, though he never neglected his studies.” (CSP, Viennese, August 1554.)

Moreover, the imperial ambassador, Jehan Scheyfve, reported in June of 1550 that, “a water-pageant was held at Greenwich. Four or five boats took a certain castle, and the King was very much pleased and amused by it. They say he has a natural liking and taste for all sorts of warlike sports” (CPS, Spain). The following summer, Scheyfve would write again how King Edward, “practises the use of arms every day on horseback, and enjoys it greatly …

On May 3rd, at Greenwich, they tilted at the buckler and joined in sword-play, and the King tried his skill five or six times with the other young lords. The French ambassador, who had been summoned, spoke in public with the King, and said his Majesty had borne himself right well, and shown great dexterity. The King replied that it was a small beginning, and as time passed he hoped to do his duty better” (CPS, Spain).

The king also gave a great deal of thought to improving fortifications and shoring up England’s military weaknesses, and kept a detailed record of his ideas and plans in his diary. Edward enthusiastically supported the council’s ideas of refitting and strengthening the navy under the newly appointed lord high admiral, Baron Edward Clinton. The royal treasury paid out money for timber and coal, as well as money to “shipwrights, caulkers, sawyers, labourers, captains, masters, mariners, and gunners serving His Highness in the wars … and also for the charges of transportation of His Highness’s ships from Portsmouth to Gillingham … [and] the provisions of certain munitions for the furniture of sundry His Highness’s ships appointed to serve by sea” (Knighton and Loades, 2013).

The king was a frequent visitor at Deptford, the first Royal Navy Dockyard, to see that the royal money was being put to good use. In fact, Edward went to the docks so often that the High Street had to be paved, because it was “so noisome and full of fylth that the Kynges Maiestie might not pass to and fro to se the building of his Highnes shippes”.

Edward may not have been as enamoured of warfare and chivalry as his sire, but he was well aware that a kingdom that could not defend itself was doomed. He was also aware that he might be called to personally fight upon a battlefield someday, and was dedicated to training himself for such an occasion.