Friday, April 04, 2008

Question from Joyce - Edward VI's death and burial

I have read that Edward V1's death was concealed by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland so that he could first apprehend the Lady Mary. As it was July the body began to stink and he was forced to substitute another corpse for the funeral in Westminster Abbey. Does anyone know if this is true?


Anonymous said...

Where did you read this? Although Edward's death was kept quiet for a couple of days I would be surprised if the body was not actually Edward's.


PhD Historian said...

It simply is not true. Edward died on 6 July 1553. His death was concealed from many of those in government until 9 July and from the public until 10 July. The concealment was not done in order to give Dudley time to apprehend Mary. Rather, the death was kept secret until Edward's heir under his own last will and letters patent, Jane Grey Dudley, could be informed of her accession and moved from Richmond to London. Such delays were common enough, Edward himself having remained unaware of the death of his father, Henry VIII, until two days after the event. Edward's funeral did not take place until early August, largely because of the problems associated with Mary's accession and her lengthy delay in coming to London (she was proclaimed queen on 19 July but did not arrive in London until the first week of August). There was also a question of the ritual form of the funeral. Should it follow Edward's religon, Protestantism, and his new Book of Common Prayer (1552) or should it follow the rituals of the new queen's church, traditional Roman Catholicism? The decision was Mary's alone to make, and she did not make it until August. In the interim, Edward's body had been sealed inside a coffin entirely lined with a thin sheet of lead, which could be soldered shut and prevent odors from escaping. This too was common practice for the wealthy in that era.

Anonymous said...

phd historian,

What was the outcome; was it a Catholic or Protestant funeral?

PhD Historian said...

Mary allowed the actual burial, which was private, to be conducted using the Protestant Book of Common Prayer. But Mary had public Roman Catholic requiem masses said for Edward. There was no "state funeral" in the modern sense.

Rebekah said...

Wow-I did not realize that Edward VI named Jane Grey as his successor. Where can I find this information? Book, on line..?

PhD Historian said...

If I may be so bold, have a look at my own website,, under the Bibliography section. There are numerous books listed there, each of which discusses Edward's "Devise for the Succession" in greater or lesser detail. And watch for my own biography of Jane Grey, due in 2009, in which I cast the whole succession issue in a new light.

Lilibet said...

PhD Historian,

I shall certainly be looking for your biography of Jane Grey!
I ready anything I can get my hands on about her.

I'm really enjoying reading your responses to all the questions!
They really have inspired me to further my education in history.
So I think it will be a joy to read your book!

Congratulations and best of luck!


linkboy862 said...

Interesting comments re: Edward VI
I have always been fascinated with this little regarded period in British history. Stormy to say the least!
Some years ago when I was an undergrad at the University of Massachusetts I came upon a large, handsomely bound book published c. 1900 entitled "Westminster Memorials". The book was in the archives & could not be checked out as it was for research only. Needless to say I visited this book many times & was fascinated with it's contents. One subject was that of the late 19th century documentation of Edward VI final resting place in the Henry VII chapel.
At the time there were concerns that some of the royal burial vaults underneath the abbey were deteriorating & compromising the structural integrity of the abbey. With permission from Queen Victoria, several of the vaults were opened & examined. According to this book Edward's vault was discovered quite by accident. As there was only one lead lined coffin in the chamber, it was deemed worthy of examination. The coffin was in poor condition. Age & moisture damage was noted throughout. The lead lining appeared to be the only adhesive holding the container together. Without disturbing the actual contents it was noted that the skeletal remains were visible & that the remains had the remnants of a skull cap. The coffin lid had an inscribed plate from which a faithful sketch was made. The inscription was in latin & later translated to state that the mortal remains within were that of Edward VI. The plate is illustrated in "Westminster Memorials". I strongly recommend to those interested in the history of the British Monarchy to locate & view this book!

linkboy862 said...

The earlier question concerning the possibility that the Duke of Northumberland substituted the remains of the late king with that of a murdered youth is mentioned in Alison Weir's "The Children of Henry VIII". Ms. Weir suggests that Edward's cause of death & the secrecy & lack of ceremony with his funeral leads to inevitable conspiracy theories to this day. Recent scholarship suggests that Edward was not the sickly boy-king described by centuries of historians. I admire Alison Weir as a writer very much as her books are "hard to put down". She has the unique gift of a storyteller yet dealing with mostly historic fact. She draws her readers in & brings a rich tapestry of history to us. The late British historian Jennifer Loach completed a biography on Edward VI that delves deeply into his health & what she believes was the illness that killed him. I recommend her work highly. Scholarly yet very readable!

Anonymous said...

I just heard Edward was completely forgotten about after he died. How evil just pure evil, He was their king for heavens sake! I keep a spot for him in my heart and so should others. Yes he has been dead for 4 hundred years but if you really cared you would never forget the people that made a change and a ripple in time. Even if it was slight, Edwards fight and endeavour I will never forget for the rest of my life until I take my last breath myself... LOVE YOU EDDY!!

Anonymous said...

Alison weir innocent traitor page 305 describes Edwards body being buried in the great park and another body taking his place. I am shocked! But how are we to know if this is true. I pray his true body was burried along with others at Westminster. God rest his soul.

Andrew Booth said...

I read that in 'Innocent Traitor' too. Alison Weir writes that the Duke of Northumberland arranged for Edward's body to be secretly buried in Greenwich Park by two henchmen while two others went out and murdered a 15 year-old apprentice whose body substituted for Edward. That gave Northumberland time to seize Mary Tudor before announcing Lady Jane as queen. The apprentice was then buried in Edward's tomb in the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey.

I've never heard of these events from any other source though. 'Innocent Traitor' is a very good book indeed but as I've never heard of this secret burial and the substitution from any other source so I took them with a pinch of salt.