On the morning of King Henry's (VIII) death, his son Edward (VI) was hastened off to be brought up in Hertfordshire with the Princess Elizabeth, and in the afternoon of Monday, the 31st, he arrived at the Tower. The Council was already in session and Hertford was appointed protector during the minority of Edward. Thus the reforming Protestant party was in full power. Cranmer set the willing example and the other prelates consented, or were compelled to imitate him, in an acknowledgment that all jurisdiction, ecclesiastical as well as secular, within the realm only emanated from the sovereign. In February it was ordered in council that Hertford should be duke of Somerset and that his brother, Sir Thomas Seymour, should be Lord Seymour of Sudleye; Lord Parr was to be marquis of Northampton; Lord Wriothesley, the chancellor, earl of Southampton; and Viscount Lisle was to be earl of Warwick. The duke of Somerset was the young king's uncle, and the real power was at once in his hands. But if he was ambitious, it was only-as he persuaded himself-to do good.
UNDER Somerset's rule the spirit of iconoclasm spread fast and the reformation proceeded to completion. Churches were cleared of images and crucifixes were melted into coin. He gave the popular movement the formal sanction of the government. Injunctions were issued for the general purification of the churches. The Book of Homilies was issued as a guide to doctrine, care was taken that copies of the Bible were accessible in the parish churches and translations of Erasmus's Paraphrase of the New Testament were provided as a commentary.
Somerset was a brave general as well as a great statesman. He invaded Scotland during the first year of his protectorate, on account of the refusal of the Scottish government to ratify the contract entered into with Henry VIII, by which it was agreed that Mary Queen of Scots should marry Edward. At the memorable battle of Pinkie, on September 10, 1547, the Scots were completely beaten. But Somerset was hastily summoned southward. Intrigue was rife. His brother, Lord Seymour, had been caballing against him and was arrested, tried and beheaded on Tower Hill, on March 20, 1549.
But the fall of the protector himself was not long delayed, for under his administration of three years his policy gradually excited wide discontent. In various parts of the country insurrections had to be suppressed. The French king had taken away the young Scottish queen, the king's majesty's espouse, by which marriage the realms of England and Scotland should have been united in perpetual peace. Money had been wasted on the royal household. The alliance with Charles V had been trifled away. The princely name and princely splendour which Somerset affected, the vast fortune which he amassed amidst the ruin of the national finances and the palace-now known as Somerset House, London-which was rising before the eyes of the world amidst the national defeats and misfortunes, combined to embitter the irritation with which the council regarded him.
His great rival, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, by constant insinuations both in and out of parliament, excited the national feeling against him to such a degree that at length the young king was constrained to sign his deposition. He seems to have entertained no strong attachment to his uncle. On December 1, 1551, he was tried before the lords for high treason and condemned. He was beheaded on Tower Hill on January 22, 1552.
The English public, often wildly wrong on general questions, are good judges, for the most part, of personal character; and so passionately was Somerset loved that those who were nearest the scaffold started forward to dip their handkerchiefs in his blood.
BEFORE this event, Dudley, by whose cruel treachery the tragedy had been brought about, had been created duke of Northumberland. The great aim of this nobleman was to secure the succession to the throne for his own family. With this purpose in view he married his son, Lord Guildford Dudley, to Lady Jane Grey, daughter of the duchess of Suffolk, to whom, by the will of Henry VIII, the crown would pass, in default of issue by Edward, Mary, or Elizabeth.
In April 1553, Edward, who had been removed to Greenwich in consequence of illness, grew rapidly worse. By the end of the month he was spitting blood and the country was felt to be on the eve of a new reign. The accession of Mary, who was personally popular, was looked forward to by the people as a matter of course. The ambitious Northumberland, however, worked on the mind of the feeble and dying king and succeeded in persuading him to declare both his sisters incapable of succeeding to the crown, as being illegitimate. The king died on July 6. The last male child of the Tudor race had ceased to suffer.
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