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1537–1553
King of England

Edward VI, the only son of England's king Henry VIII, succeeded his father on the throne at the age of nine. Edward's reign was cut short by his death from tuberculosis six years later. During his reign the Protestant Reformation* took root in England, but Edward himself played little part in national politics.

The young king received a thorough humanist* education that reflected the influence of the Renaissance in England. His studies were based on the curriculum designed for undergraduates at Cambridge University. He learned ancient history, Latin and Greek, geography, mathematics, astronomy, music, and a variety of other subjects. He also received a thorough grounding in Protestant beliefs from his tutors and from preachers at the royal court. Edward's guardians were fervent Protestants who sought to instill in him the principles of "true religion."

Edward's uncle Edward Seymour, duke of Somerset, acted as the young king's protector and assumed political power in his place. Somerset abolished the Roman Catholic Mass and Catholic symbols such as candles and shrines. He also suppressed traditional religious practices such as maypoles and mystery plays*. However, a costly war with France and a peasant rebellion at home led a group of royal advisers to put an end to Somerset's protectorate in 1549. John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, took control of the government for the remainder of Edward's reign. Before his death, Edward tried to prevent his Catholic sister Mary (Mary I) from succeeding him.

Renaissance styles reached England during Edward's reign. Under the patronage* of the Duke of Somerset, artists from the Netherlands and Italy brought new French styles to England. Somerset's house in London, built in 1550, marked the arrival of Renaissance architecture in England. The English artist John Shute went to Italy in the same year to study the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. His descriptions and engravings of the ancient structures were the first to be published in England.

(See alsoArt in Britain; England. )

* Protestant Reformation

religious movement that began in the 1500s as a protest against certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church and eventually led to the establishment of a variety of Protestant churches

* humanist

referring to a Renaissance cultural movement promoting the study of the humanities (the languages, literature, and history of ancient Greece and Rome) as a guide to living

* mystery play

early form of drama based on biblical stories

* patronage

support or financial sponsorship

Edward IV 1537–1553 King of England

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