10 things you might not know about Edward VI

by Kyra Kramer

Chapter 8 : The King's 'Devise'

Fact 8: Edward was the one who came up with the idea to make Lady Jane Grey his heir

People still think that Edward was somehow manipulated or bullied into naming Lady Jane Grey his successor, but the historical evidence shows that the plan was Edward’s contrivance and no one else’s:

The king wrote, in his own hand, the first draft of what he called “My Deuise for the Succession”, which named Jane Grey as next in line for the throne. The exact date he started this remarkable document is unknown, but it was possible he was working on it as early as February of 1553 and it had certainly been written by April … Edward’s next step was to make his deuise legally watertight, which he endeavored to do throughout the last few weeks of his life. The young king was badly ailing and in a lot of pain, but his first and foremost concern was making sure Mary did not succeed the throne after him. He summoned more than a dozen of the country’s leading lawyers to draft the best version of his deuise possible …

One of the lawyers, Edward Montagu, would later try to keep his head on his shoulders by telling the newly crowned Queen Mary I that the lawyers didn’t want to write the document making Jane the queen, what with them being such big fans of Mary and all, but Edward made them do it. According to Montagu, the king used “sharp words an angry countenance” on the balking lawyers and “seeing the king so earnest and sharp” that they had no choice but to write up the document and sign it (Ives, 2012:129). Apparently the king’s sharpness was so wickedly sharp that Montagu and all but one of the senior lawyers returned ten days later to sign it again for the benefit of king and privy council ...

King Edward VI had chosen his successor fair and square and in a legally binding manner. The final draft of the document was signed by the king, signed and witnessed by 102 members of his government (including the members of the privy council), and the Great Seal was applied to it. It was as official as official could ever be. Jane was to be queen.

Of course, once Mary overthrew Jane it became cannon that Mary had always been the rightful queen and Jane the “innocent traitor”. This misinformation campaign by Team Mary was wildly successful, and to this day most people don’t know Jane was the lawful queen.