The Young King
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The Young King
Traditionally, the period from 1547-1558 has been termed a period of crisis by historians. The Whig historians of the nineteenth century are to blame for this, with their obsession for looking at history in terms of the people who shaped it. Consequently, the reign of a 'sickly minor' followed by a woman could only lead to crisis in the eyes of the Victorian historians. They loved the myth of a 'boy-king'. This judgement stuck for a long time, especially the image of Edward as a sickly Protestant boy waiting to be ushered out of this Earthly existence.
Recently, historians have reversed their thinking on Edward. Historians like Elton, Russel, Sharpe, and more recently, Loach, Haigh, Duffy, Bernard, Williams, Tittler and Hoak, believe that there was far more to this boy than the traditional image would suggest. Jennifer Loach, in a recent article went back to original sources to demonstrate that Edward was not always a sickly child, and indeed, at times not much like a boy at all (but very much his father's son).
Edward had a keen interest in sports. He wrote in his diary frequently about the fights and jousts he had attended, and sometimes fought in. He was also concerned about military matters. He would voice worries about the state of fortifications on the south coast and he wrote lengthy accounts of the battles in Scotland. His warrior heroes were Henry VI, Sir Andrew Dudley, and the Earl of Warwick himself.
The King was not sick until the year before his death, in the months that he was overwhelmed by the chest infection that was to kill him.
There are doubts as to his devotion to the 'reforming cause'. He was certainly educated by Cambridge's finest reformers, and he chastised his sister Mary for following the old Popish was. But as Jennifer Loach rightly points out, "And if as he grew older, he clearly associated himself with what we might call the protestant cause, notably in seeking to exclude Mary from the throne, that perhaps reflects an adolescent's attachment to what he grew up with, to what for him would have been familiar institutions and well-loved pastors, notably Archbishop Cranmer."
To quell the anxiety of having a boy-king, Edward's advisors were under pressure right from the start to create a positive image of Edward. The image that they chose was that of Solomon, son of David. Henry VIII was, therefore, David, who had started to rebuild the temple, but died before its completion. It was up to the son, Solomon, Edward, to finish the task. The parallel with reforming the church was too much for these 'spin doctors' to resist. Edward would complete the reforms that had begun under his father.
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