Skidmore, Chris 1981-
Skidmore, Chris 1981-
Born 1981, in Bristol, England. Education: Christ Church, Oxford, England, received degree, 2002.
Journalist and historian. Reporter, Western Daily Press (Bristol, England) and People magazine; reviewer, Living History magazine. Advisor and researcher for city of Bristol, European Capital City of Culture 2008 competition; research assistant to Robert Lacey for "Great Tales of English History" series. Advisor, David Willetts, Member of Parliament (MP), shadow secretary for education.
Gibbs Prize, Christ Church, Oxford, England, 2002.
Chris Skidmore's Edward VI: The Lost King of England is a biography of the only legitimate son of Henry VIII. Skidmore, a former journalist who studied history at Oxford University, pursued Edward VI's story in part because of the contrast between the reigns of his father and those of his two sisters, Mary I and Elizabeth I. In the popular imagination, stated Hilary Mantel in the London Guardian, "Henry VII is a desiccated calculating machine, his son a syphilitic roaring boy. Mary is a hysterical sadist; Elizabeth is a minx who ages into a pantomime dame. Between them, like a trick of the light, slides the spindly form of Edward, king at nine, dead at 16."
Historians have always found Edward to be a bit of an enigma among the other, more colorful members of the Tudor dynasty. This can partly be attributed to his youth; he was under the supervision of his tutor Sir John Cheke for much of the time he was nominally ruling England, and the actual business of governing was left to his uncle Edward Seymour, the Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset, and members of the regency council. "But Edward brought something of his own to the Tudor family business," Mantel continued. "He had a sombre, highly developed sense of duty and what seems like an impersonal coolness in his dealings with other people; possibly ideas excited him more." By drawing on primary sources for Edward's reign—including the boy king's own diary and his correspondence with his two sisters and his stepmother—Skidmore recreates the tensions and conflicts that characterized Edward's six-year reign as king of England.
Just as dramatic as his description of the boy king's short reign is Skidmore's account of the conflict between the individuals who sought to control him—and, through Edward, the future of the realm of England. The key figure in the struggle is Edward's eldest uncle, Somerset. Functioning as Lord Protector, the officer who exercised royal authority in the name of the underage king, Somerset selected the major servants of the crown while exercising personal control in other areas of Edward's kingship. Among other policy decisions, Somerset allowed his younger brother Thomas Seymour, Lord of Sudeley, to marry Henry VIII's widow, Catherine Parr. When Thomas overreached himself, however, Somerset had him condemned and executed. Soon afterward, Edward had to acquiesce in Somerset's own death, on the grounds that the Lord Protector had embezzled from the king's property. Skidmore arranges "the many attempts at sedition, treachery and treasonous activities (some real, some imagined) that characterized this period of English history, collecting disparate accounts, … to form a slow accretion of detail that provides a highly entertaining read," stated a Kirkus Reviews contributor.
Historians agree that the most significant aspect of Edward's era is the emergence of an independent English church following Henry VIII's break with the papacy. Between 1529 and 1536, Henry VIII's Parliaments passed a series of acts that stripped the Roman Catholic Church of authority in England. The king was given the position and power in the English Church that the pope had previously had, but little else was changed. Under Edward, and with his support, however, reformers like Somerset and his successor, the duke of Northumberland, launched efforts that heavily Protestantized the English Church. Both Somerset and the Duke of Northumberland "worked toward the expansion of Henry [VIII]'s Reformation of the English Church," Stewart Desmond stated in a review for Library Journal. Desmond added that both men were entirely supported by "the maturing, scholarly, … Protestant king." "Young Edward was scholarly, studied theology and left more than 100 essays, one of them denouncing the papacy," explained a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Skidmore "has researched widely and presents as good a case for Edward as he can," concluded a Contemporary Review critic.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 2007, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of Edward VI: The Lost King of England, p. 41.
Contemporary Review, September 22, 2007, review of Edward VI, p. 399.
Guardian (London, England), January 13, 2007, Hilary Mantel, "Reigning in Vain," review of Edward VI.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2007, review of Edward VI.
Library Journal, August 1, 2007, Stewart Desmond, review of Edward VI, p. 97.
Publishers Weekly, September 10, 2007, review of Edward VI, p. 49.
Spectator, January 20, 2007, "All Too Minor to Matter," review of Edward VI.
Times Higher Education Supplement (London, England), March 23, 2007, "Myth and Mirage of England's Boy King," review of Edward VI, p. 26.
Times Literary Supplement (London, England), June 22, 2007, "Unfinished Business," review of Edward VI, p. 26.
Orion Publishing Web site,http://www.orionbooks.co.uk/ (July 24, 2008), author profile.