Edward VI: boy king and religious zealot

He may have ruled for just six years but, as Ralph Houlbrooke explains, Edward VI found ample time to steer England towards Protestantism...

A portrait of Edward VI. The young monarch’s support for a trade venture through the North-East Passage laid the foundations for the Elizabethan age of exploration. (Photo by GeorgiosArt/Getty Images)

At Edward VI’s Westminster Abbey coronation in February 1547, archbishop Thomas Cranmer supposedly urged the nine-year-old supreme head of the church to follow the example of Josiah, the young king of ancient Judah, in seeing God truly worshipped and idolatry destroyed.

Cranmer’s exhortation was a sign of things to come: far from reversing Henry VIII’s break with Rome, Edward would go on to quicken the pace of his father’s religious reforms. The result was that England would, for the first time, become an officially Protestant country during the six-year reign of the boy king.

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