History portrays Edward VI as the feeble and ultimately doomed son of Henry VIII, but the truth is so much darker than that. Far from a weakling, even as a boy, Edward proved nearly as twisted as his rotund father—and his gruesome end was likely a blessing for England. Don't believe us? Dive in and find out for yourself.
1. He Was Beautiful
The birth of Edward VI was probably the greatest moment in Henry VIII's life. The rotund king desperately wanted a son, but it took 28 years, two daughters, and three wives to finally make it happen. To say people were excited would be an understatement. One chronicler described the infant Edward as "the most beautiful boy that ever was seen."
However, England couldn't celebrate for long; tragedy soon marred the joyous occasion.
2. He Never Knew His Mother
Queen Jane Seymour couldn't take part in the celebrations along with everyone else. It soon became clear that the birth had taken a serious toll on her. Within days, she was hanging by a thread. Seymour fought for a little over a week before succumbing to her illness. Edward VI never got to meet his mother—and let's just say, the boy definitely needed all the motherly guidance he could get.
3. His Father Abandoned Him
Edward VI grew up without a mother, but here's the thing: He basically grew up without a father too. Sure, Henry VIII was over the moon that he finally had a son. That doesn't mean he was actually going to spend any time with the boy, god forbid. Henry sent Edward away pretty much from the moment he was born, and aside from one brief visit when Edward was one, he almost never saw the boy for the first several years of his life.
And that means that Henry wasn't there to support Edward as the boy was fighting for his life.
4. He Caught A Sudden Fever
Most reports claim that Edward VI was a hale and hearty child, but that could have just been people trying to avoid Henry VIII's wrath for giving him bad news about his boy. Either way, there's one thing we know for sure: When Edward was four, he caught the deadly quartan fever. I'm sure all of England held their breath—who knows how dark Henry VIII would get if the son he'd waited so many years for suddenly passed.
But in the end, Edward recovered—and got to grow up to become one of the biggest spoiled brats the world has ever seen.
5. He Was The MOST Spoiled
Sure, Henry didn't actually spend any time around Edward, but he still spoiled the heck out of the kid. He called his son "this whole realm's most precious jewel" and had his attendants treat him accordingly. Edward's apartments had to be kept spotless at all times, they had insane levels of security, and of course, they included all the finest toys and luxuries money could buy. Edward even had his own personal minstrel troupe for crying out loud.
Now I know what you're thinking: Spoiling a kid rotten rarely turns out well. Well, Edward was no different. The boy was quickly growing into a little terror.
6. His Whole Life Changed Overnight
Edward VI's entire life changed when he turned six. Why? Because, believe it or not, the Tudors believed that a child became an adult at age six. You read that right. That meant that Edward finally got to move in with his axe-happy father—and their relationship quickly took a turn for the weird.
7. His Dad Was Totally Creepy
Henry VIII ordered some...renovations when his son moved in with him. He had workers completely remodel Edward's rooms so they looked exactly like his. And somehow, that's not even the strangest part. Henry also had Edward's entire wardrobe replaced with smaller versions of his own clothes. I guess Henry hoped that with the same rooms and the same clothes, Edward would turn out like him.
Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened—Edward ended up just about as messed up as Henry.
8. He Took Fancy To Another Level
Give the Tudors credit for one thing: They really knew how to spoil a kid. Sure, Henry made Edward study like any other boy, but he made sure his son studied in style. Edward's schoolbooks were completely covered in gold and set with sapphires, rubies, and diamonds. I guess Henry VIII had never heard the phrase, "Don't judge a book by its cover."
And when Edward took lunch breaks? He ate with jewel-encrusted cutlery and napkins threaded with pure gold and silver thread. Yeah, calling Edward "spoiled" doesn't quite cover it—and like a lot of rich kids, Edward got up to some disturbing hobbies.
9. He Had Sinister Hobby
Edward had plenty to keep him busy, with intensive studies along with the manly fencing and horseback riding that Henry insisted upon. But between all that, Edward still found time to pick up a dark pastime: Sorcery. Among Edward's mountains of toys, he kept a sinister red box filled with "tools of sorcery." He and his older sister Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth I) both had a strange obsession with magic and astrology, and lord knows what they got up to with those "tools."
But while Edward and Elizabeth liked to cast spells together, that was nothing compared to Edward's relationship with his other sister; the infamous Bloody Mary.
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10. He Adored His Sister (At First)
Edward absolutely adored his eldest sister Mary, once writing "I love you the most" to her when he was nine years old. It makes sense: Mary was over two decades older, and with no mother and an absent father, she was the closest thing to a parental figure Edward had. But just like his father, Edward's moods could change quickly—and before long, Edward and Bloody Mary would become bitter enemies.
11. He Softened His Father
Give Edward VI credit for one thing: He was the only person on Earth who seemed capable of making Henry VIII act like a decent human being. Henry had long since disinherited both of his daughters (and divorced/beheaded their moms), but having a son softened him. In 1543, he invited all three of his kids to spend Christmas with him. For most families that seems pretty normal, but for the Tudors, it was completely unheard of.
Life in the Tudor family seemed downright normal for maybe the first time ever—but of course, it couldn't last long.
12. He Got Engaged At Five Years Old
That pleasant Christmas dinner took place at a high point in Henry VIII's life. Not only was his son everything he'd dreamed of, but Edward had even solved one of Henry's biggest problems: Henry brokered a deal with Scotland for Edward to marry the seven-month-old Mary, Queen of Scots. With that deal, Henry set himself up to finally get Scotland under English rule after centuries of conflict.
A son and Scotland?! It seemed like nothing could go wrong for Henry VIII—so of course, that's when everything went wrong.
13. The Scots Betrayed Him
Ironically, right around the time Henry, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth all enjoyed their nice Christmas dinner together, the Scots backed out of the marriage treaty. To say Henry was furious doesn't quite cover it. He flew into a wild rage and sent Edward's uncle, Edward Seymour, north to teach the Scots a lesson. His instructions were utterly horrifying.
14. His Father Got His Revenge
Henry VIII told Seymour to "put all to fire and sword, burn Edinburgh town, so razed and defaced when you have sacked and gotten what ye can of it, as there may remain forever a perpetual memory of the vengeance of God lightened upon [them] for their falsehood and disloyalty." Seymour did Henry proud and set about on an utterly vicious campaign in Scotland.
Who knows how history would have turned out if Edward VI had married Mary, Queen of Scots, but it didn't happen. Honestly? I'd consider Mary lucky—I wouldn't exactly call Edward "marriage material."
15. He Drank The Kool-Aid
Henry VIII created his own religion just so he could get a divorce, and he made sure he brainwashed his son about his new faith. At just 12 years old, Edward was a complete religious fanatic. He even wrote a treatise saying that the pope was the "very son of the devil, and Antichrist, and an abominable tyrant."
So let's add this up: He had a wild temper, he played with sorcery, and he wrote propaganda, all before he was a teenager. Do you think it sounds like this kid is going to make a good king?
16. He Wasn't Ready To Be King
Whether or not anyone thought Edward would make a good king doesn't change the facts: Henry VIII kicked the bucket in 1547, and the nine-year-old Edward became king. After the absolute circus of Henry's reign, no doubt the people of England hoped they might finally get to take a breather. Nope. Edward's reign would be just as chaotic as his dad's—but don't worry, it would be cut short before Edward could do too much damage. There's a reason we call him doomed...
17. He Got A Special Crown
If you thought becoming king might make people stop treating Edward like a spoiled child, you'd be wrong. Attendants worried that the Imperial Crown of England might be too heavy for the precious prince's head, so they made him a smaller, lighter crown to wear instead. And, since they were worried that little Eddie might get bored, they actually cut the whole coronation short so he could go back to sorcery or killing birds or whatever else it was he was up to.
But just because Edward was a little kid, that doesn't mean he wasn't capable of doing some serious damage.
18. He Was A Child Tyrant
Even as a boy, Edward VI had a cruel streak—he was his father's son, after all. Remember how Henry made sure to brainwash Edward in the new Church of England? Well, by the time he became king, Edward was a full-on fanatic, and he spent most of his time rewriting England's laws so that Catholics were heavily oppressed. If he'd lived longer, who knows how brutal life for English Catholics would have become.
But while keeping Catholics down was high on Edward's to-do list, he couldn't do everything himself. He had advisors to do most of the ruling for him—but these men were as power-hungry and heartless as his father was.
19. His Uncle Took Over
One man dominated much of Edward's reign: His uncle, Edward Seymour. This was the same guy Henry VIII sent north to ravage Scotland. Ever since his sister Jane married Henry VIII, Seymour had his eyes set on power—and now it was within his grasp. With his nephew as the king, Seymour quickly proved he'd do anything to increase his influence. As soon as Henry croaked, Seymour started bribing everyone in the court.
Greasing palms worked, and Seymour became Lord Protector of England within days—and he set about ruling the country with an iron fist.
20. Uncle Wanted The Whole Pie
Edward Seymour was no loving uncle. He wasn't just looking after the kingdom until Edward VI came of age—he wanted the whole pie for himself. As one source from the court put it, he wanted to become "The King of the King." It took a particularly ruthless man to claim that power in the Tudor court—and when a rival reared his head, Seymour quickly proved up to the challenge.
21. His Uncles Vied For Power
There was one person who stood between Edward Seymour and the power he craved: His own brother, Thomas. Edward had paid off the king's other advisors, but Thomas went straight for the king himself. Thomas started whispering in young Edward VI's ear, secretly giving him money and claiming that his brother sought to make a beggar out of him.
But poisoning Edward VI's mind was just part one of Thomas Seymour's plan to get power—the next part was even darker.
22. Uncle Thomas Had Dark Plans For Him
Thomas Seymour came up with a plot that would have completely altered the course of history. In the chaos after Henry VIII's demise, Seymour planned to marry Princess Elizabeth, then kidnap Edward VI and force him to abdicate to his sister, effectively making Thomas Seymour the King of England. Honestly, it was a pretty good plan—but the night he tried to make it all happen, everything went terribly wrong.
23. He Screwed Up
One night, guards caught Thomas Seymour trying to break into the new King Edward VI's rooms. He'd been trying to sneak in unnoticed, but a dog noticed Seymour and started barking. In a move that was equally cruel and idiotic, Seymour silenced the pooch...by shooting it. If the barking hadn't gotten the guards' attention, the gunfire definitely did. They quickly set upon Seymour and sent him to the Tower of London.
By this point, Thomas Seymour was well and truly screwed. He likely hoped that his brother would save him—but he didn't realize just how heartless Edward Seymour was.
24. One Uncle Executed The Other
Edward Seymour's heart was made of ice. He didn't even flinch when he had his brother executed for treason and tightened his grip on the king. For the next several years, Seymour did his best to keep King Edward VI distracted while he ran England into the ground with nearly unchecked power. However, Seymour made countless enemies as the King of the King—and it was only a matter of time before someone came for his head.
25. His Uncle Lost The Game Of Thrones
The longer Edward Seymour held power, the more arrogant and careless he became. Finally, in 1549, he slipped. Seymour's one-time ally, John Dudley, convinced King Edward VI that Seymour planned to usurp his power, and that was all it took. Seymour was subsequently executed for treason, and Dudley took over as Lord Protector.
So, do you think King Edward shed any tears for the uncle whom he doomed to a grisly fate? Nope. Edward's reaction was ice cold.
26. His Reaction Was Heartless
Edward was nothing if not precocious, and when he became king, he started keeping a diary of his innermost thoughts and desires. So, what did he write on the day that he had his own uncle beheaded? "The Duke of Somerset had his head cut off upon Tower Hill between eight and nine o’clock in the morning." Cutting off his uncle's head warranted little more notice than a haircut.
But Edward's diary revealed more than just his cold reaction to his uncle's execution.
27. He Had Almost No Emotion
Edward VI's diary provides insight into the kind of man he was becoming—and it doesn't look good. The entries paint a picture of a cold, unfeeling boy with next to no emotion whatsoever. We shudder to think what might have been if this little psychopath had grown up into a man with complete control over one of the most powerful nations on Earth. Thankfully, we don't have to think about that.
Edward was getting closer to claiming his birthright for real, but at this point, his gruesome end wasn't far off.
28. His Next Regent Was No Better
Edward Seymour is a black stain on King Edward VI's legacy. Sure, it's not like the child-king could have done a lot to stop him, but Seymour threw England into chaos with his absolute fiasco of a rule. When the next guy, John Dudley took over, things got a little bit better—but let's not go crazy here. Dudley was still a brutal tyrant who wielded absolute power in a mockery of the actual king, but at least he didn't screw up quite as bad or as often as Seymour had.
Dudley even managed to find Edward VI a bride-to-be—though of course, this love story was doomed from the start.
29. He Got Engaged To Stop A War
Back in the Middle Ages, England and France were pretty much constantly fighting, and that goes the same for Edward VI's reign. When Dudley took over as Lord Protector, the French proceeded to kick his butt on the battlefield. Dudley realized that he'd quickly bankrupt England if he kept on fighting, so he desperately looked for a way out.
His salvation came in the form of a marriage contract. After all, Edward VI was a full-blown teenager by now; it long past time for him to have a wife.
30. The Engagement Was An Embarrassment
France forced John Dudley to sign one of the most humiliating peace treaties in English history. He had to withdraw his men, not just from French territory, but from Scotland as well, finally putting an end to the conflict that started all those years earlier when the Scots backed out of Edward VI and Mary, Queen of Scots' marriage contract.
To make the treaty official, Dudley and the French king also agreed to have Edward VI marry Princess Elisabeth of Valois. God help poor Elisabeth if that marriage had ever come to be, but it didn't. Edward VI might have seemed healthy, but dark clouds were on the horizon.
31. England Started Falling Apart
Turns out, having a spoiled teenager as king isn't exactly ideal. Edward's advisors were all too busy struggling against each other for power to actually run the country, and England fell into a dark era. By 1552, chaos ruled the land, and the country begged for a king to rise of and restore order—but Edward VI could not be that king. Just as things were reaching a fever pitch, Edward suffered a devastating blow.
32. He Got Sick
In April 1552, Edward VI caught the measles. The disease ravaged the young king's body, but after a few agonizing weeks, he managed to recover. It seemed like the crisis had passed, but the measles was just the beginning. He may not have realized it, but Edward's clock was ticking—and much more pain was on the horizon.
33. The Disease Weakened Him
Edward may have recovered from the measles, but the damage was done. The disease completely crippled his immune system, so when the next sickness came, Edward had nothing left to fight it off with. It all began when Edward started coughing in January 1553. Then came the fever. What may have seemed like a passing flu quickly grew worse and worse, until the boy king was a disturbing sight to behold.
34. He Was In Horrible Pain
An ambassador for Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, saw Edward VI during this illness, and their account of the king was chilling. In a letter to the emperor, they wrote of Edward's agony, how he struggled even to breathe as he slowly grew worse and worse. Just a few months before, the 15-year-old Edward VI had seemed a picture of health, and just like that, he started wasting away.
Then, in a cruel twist of fate, it seemed like he might get better—but in reality, there was no hope for him now.
35. He Got False Hope
Edward suffered in excruciating pain for months, but by April, he appeared to recover. He felt well enough to leave his rooms and enjoy some fresh air in a Westminster Park. By May, Edward seemed well enough that his royal doctors all believed he'd recover in a matter of days. Londoners reported seeing him sitting by his window, watching the ships on the Thames, and it really seemed like this health scare had finally passed.
It had not. In fact, the most gruesome part was yet to come.
36. He Coughed Up Vile Liquid
Edward's cough came back with a vengeance, this time even worse than it had ever been before. Charles V's ambassador sent another report, even darker than the last: "The matter he ejects from his mouth is sometimes colored a greenish-yellow and black, sometimes pink, like the color of blood."
I'm no doctor, but that does not sound good—and that was just the tip of the iceberg.
37. He Schemed To The End
Between his scorching fever and hacking cough, Edward's once vital body quickly started wasting away. Before long, his entire body swelled like an overripe fruit, and painful ulcers opened up all across his skin. But though his body failed him, Edward VI's mind stayed sharp. Knowing that his time was short, Edward had one thing on his mind: Make sure his sisters never, ever saw the throne.
38. He Turned On His Sisters
Edward had a close relationship with his sisters Mary and Elizabeth when he was a boy. Apparently, that soured as he grew up. The fact that Mary was a Catholic explains why a fanatical Protestant like Edward might have turned on her. But what about his other sister, the very Protestant Elizabeth? Why did Edward suddenly decide he hated Elizabeth as much as Mary?
Regardless of the why, in his final, agonizing days, Edward did everything in his power to rip his sisters' birthright away from them.
39. He Took Their Birthright Away
Before Henry VIII passed, he declared that Mary and Elizabeth, respectively, were next in line for the throne after Edward VI. Now, Edward was a daddy's boy through and through, but apparently, the years had changed him. As he neared the end, Edward shocked all of England by signing a last-minute proclamation. Against his father's wishes, this document completely disinherited his sisters and made a distant-relation named Lady Jane Grey his rightful successor.
If you think something stinks in all of this, you'd be right—there was some serious foul play afoot.
40. He Didn't Work Alone
Did you forget about John Dudley, the tyrant who ruled England behind the scenes? Well, with Edward barely clinging to life, Dudley realized he was never going to get a better chance to secure his power. He turned the ailing Edward against his own sisters and convinced the boy-king to disinherit them. And that Lady Jane Grey? She just so happened to be Dudley's own daughter-in-law.
Honestly, it all seemed like a pretty good plan—but Dudley was playing a dangerous game, and it would cost him dearly in the end.
41. He Was A Disturbing Sight
On July 1, 1553, Edward VI made his final public appearance. Crowds waited by his window to catch a glimpse of their ailing king—but when he finally arrived, the onlookers were utterly horrified. Edward, who had always been so healthy and vital, had completely wasted away. At that point, the crowd realized what Edward's attendants had probably known for weeks.
King Edward VI was about to die.
42. He Could Barely Move
King Edward VI's end was not quick. He clung to life for many long months, but by July 1553, he simply ran out of the strength to resist any longer. His legs swelled so large that he couldn't even sit up, let alone stand. That meant he had to spend all of his days lying in bed. But even with every comfort, Edward couldn't find relief.
He couldn't keep any food down, and the pain of his sores and his cough was constant. Then, Edward finally reached rock bottom.
43. He Gave Up
One day in early July, a feeble Edward pulled one of his terrified attendants close and whispered a devastating confession: "I am glad to die." Thankfully, after fighting for six long months, Edward wouldn't have to suffer much longer.
44. The People Held Out Hope
Despite the horrors of Edward's appearance at the window on July 1, crowds still showed up again the next day, to no avail. They came again the day after that, too. The people hoped to catch another brief glimpse of their king, but Edward never appeared. On July 3, an attendant told the crowd that it was "too chilly" for the king to risk showing himself at the window again.
I doubt anyone bothered to point out that it was July and not particularly chilly—the truth was clear. No one would ever see the king alive again.
45. His End Was Heartbreaking
Edward VI's final moments were heartbreakingly tender. As one of his attendants cradled the king's withered body in their arms, he looked up at them and whispered, "I am faint." Then he weakly cried, "Lord have mercy upon me, and take my spirit." With that, King Edward VI was no more. He was just 15 years old.
Next, as always happened when a monarch passed, dark rumors about the circumstances of the king's demise began to swirl.
46. Some Didn't Believe It Was Natural
For some, it seemed too hard to believe that Edward fell so violently ill so suddenly. One day, he was the picture of health, the next he was wasting away. These skeptics pointed to a much darker cause of death: Poison. Some claimed John Dudley was behind it, the scheming tyrant who wanted power all to himself. Others pointed the finger at Catholics, or perhaps Edward's own sister Mary, who Edward had so viciously persecuted. In reality, it's far more likely that Edward's end was tuberculosis or some similar affliction, but no one can ever say for sure.
What mattered was Edward was gone, and, technically, Lady Jane Grey was now the Queen of England—but not for long.
47. His Sister Wanted The Throne
You don't have to be a brilliant historian to see that Lady Jane Grey's claim to the throne was...sketchy. At the very last minute, Edward, who'd been wasting away for months at this point, cut his sisters out of the succession. Then he just so happened to make the Lord Protector's nobody daughter-in-law his heir. With Grey's grasp on the throne shaky at best, Edward's sister Mary pounced.
They don't call her Bloody Mary for nothing. She made sure everyone who tried to take her rightful crown from her paid a terrible price.
48. His Sister Rallied The People
Bloody Mary was Henry VIII's own daughter. Lady Jane Grey was Henry VIII's...sister's...granddaughter. It doesn't take a genealogy wiz to see who has the stronger claim to the throne. Mary quickly rallied thousands of supporters to her cause. With the people at her back, Mary turned the tables on poor Jane Grey. She was just her father-in-law's puppet anyway, not like you can blame her for it.
Sadly, that didn't save her from her grim fate.
49. His Successor Lasted Nine Days
Mary convinced the Privy Council to depose Lady Jane Grey—forevermore known as the Nine Days Queen—and declare her Queen Mary of England. She subsequently had Jane and her husband tossed in the Tower of London and accused them both of treason. There, Jane rotted away for the better part of a year before Mary finally decided to get rid of her.
Mary had Jane Grey beheaded in February 1554—but in a way, she was lucky. Mary's revenge against Jane's father-in-law, John Dudley, was far more swift and brutal.
50. The Scheming Regent Met A Dark Fate
John Dudley came this close to becoming the undisputed ruler of England, but he just couldn't get over the finish line. Edward's demise ended up sealing Dudley's fate as well. Give John Dudley credit for one thing: His whole plan with Lady Jane Grey was bold. Just a little too bold if you ask me. Dudley didn't count on the fact that the people of England saw right through his plan and turned on him in an instant.
By the time Mary's men dragged Dudley back to London for his execution, he barely even made it to the chopping block. Guards could scarcely hold back a furious crowd who wanted the blood of the man who tried to steal the throne.
51. His Mother Still Cared
When Edward's mother, Jane Seymour, married Henry VIII, she must have known she could have two paths: bear him a son or die. After all, had just beheaded his last wife, Anne Boleyn, for that exact reason. What Seymour likely didn't plan for was doing both. She bore Henry a son and died. That meant she never got to see her son on the throne. Still, she clearly cared for the boy, as a heartbreaking inscription on her grave proves.
52. His Mom's Epitaph Is A Tribute To Him
Jane Seymour's grave bears this inscription: "Here lies Jane, a phoenix / Who died in giving another phoenix birth. / Let her be mourned, for birds like these / Are rare indeed." Sadly, these words proved more prophetic than anyone realized. Jane Seymour burned out tragically young, and her son burned out even younger still.
53. His Father Made A Ruthless Decision
Apparently, the gods really didn't want Henry VIII to have a son. Queen Jane Seymour's labor was particularly brutal, likely because of Edward's position in the womb. Things got so dicey that at one point, the doctors believed it might come down to a terrible choice. Save the baby, or save the queen. According to one report, when attendants asked the king what he wanted to do, his reply was utterly heartless. “If you cannot save both, at least let the child live,” he said.
Twisting the knife, he then added, “For other wives are easily found.” For all he claimed Jane Seymour was his one true love, it doesn't seem like Henry put his money where his mouth was.
54. He Had A Disturbing Temper
The more you learn about Henry, the more you realize how much of a bullet England dodged when he passed so young. Somewhere between sharing clothes with his dad and the jewel-encrusted forks, Edward was a brat to end all brats. And, like all spoiled brats, he had a vicious temper. But most rich kids just throw tantrums and cry—Edward VI's fury was much more disturbing.
According to one contemporary, during one fit of rage, Edward ripped a living falcon into four pieces with his bare hands. Now imagine what that kind of person could have done as a full-fledged king. No, Edward wasn't some tragic innocent figure as history might have you believe. The truth was a whole lot darker than that.