10 things you might not know about Edward VI

by Kyra Kramer

Chapter 7 : The Betrothal

Fact 7: Edward was engaged to marry Elizabeth of Valois, the eldest daughter of King Henry II of France

Edward was young, but had already made one of the most important decisions a monarch could make; whom to marry. Marriages between royals were strategic alliances, and Edward was determined to get the maximum benefit from a union. His goals were to enrich the impoverished English coffers and to retaliate against Emperor Charles V’s interference in English domestic affairs. With that in mind, Edward sent the Marquess of Northampton to France to bestow the Order of the Garter on King Henri II and to negotiate a potential marriage:

Edward knew that Emperor Charles V would attempt to prevent a match between England and France if he could. Thus, the attempt was top secret, and Northampton was the man for the job because he was one of the people Edward trusted the most, calling his former step-mother’s brother his “honest uncle”.

Northampton first attempted to get Mary, Queen of Scots, back from the French. Unsurprisingly, the French refused, “saying both they had taken too much pain and spent too many lives for her”. That is probably no more than Northampton expected, but it did put the French in the position to be placating rather than placated. Henri II then suggested that his eldest daughter, Elizabeth of Valois, would be a good wife for the king. Elizabeth was pretty, sweet-natured, shy, and since she was only six, the young couple would have time to grow up together before the marriage would really begin. Northampton reported this offer back to his king, and after some struggle to obtain the best possible dowry, Edward agreed.

With both countries still keeping the new marriage arrangement under their hats in an official manner, the French sent envoys in July to give Edward the Order of Saint-Michel and to finalize some aspects of the treaty. London was overcome with another round of the sweating sickness, so the ambassadors were lodged at Richmond and entertained at Hampton Court. Of course, news of the impending marriage leaked out, and was known all over the English court. The imperial ambassador wrote, “People are talking quite openly, and as if of a settled matter, of the marriage between the King of England and the daughter of France” (CPS Spain, 25 July 1551). Nothing in statecraft could remain hidden for long.

After Edward’s death, Elizabeth of Valois was eventually betrothed to King Philip II of Spain after his second wife, Edward’s sister, Mary, passed away. Apparently Philip fell deeply in love with his bride. Considering how well-liked she was, I’d like to think Edward would have also have loved her and been as contended in marriage as his famous ancestors Edward I and Edward III.