Edward VI - Queen Mary
Henry died, January 28, 1547, leaving the throne to his only son, a boy of ten years of age, who was immediately proclaimed king under the title of EDWARD VI. The Duke of Somerset, maternal uncle to the young king, became supreme ruler under the title of Protector, and continued to maintain the Protestant doctrines. Tinder this reign, the church of Eng land assumed its present form, and the Book of Common Prayer was composed nearly as it now exists. Somerset being resolved to effect, if possible, the match between Edward VI and Mary of Scotland, invaded that country in the autumn of 1547, and was met at Musselburgh by a large army under the governor, the Earl of Arran. Though the Scotch were anima ted by bitter animosity against the English, against their religion, and against the object of their expedition, they did not fight with their usual resolution, but were defeated, and pursued with great slaughter. Finding them still obstinate in refusing to give up their queen, Somerset laid waste a great part of the country, and then retired. Previous to this period, Cardinal Beaton had been assassinated by private enemies; but the Scotch were encouraged to persevere by the court of France, to which they now sent the young queen for protection.
In the reign of Edward VI the government was conducted mildly, until the Protector Somerset was degraded from his authority by the rising influence of Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, who caused him soon after to be tried and executed. Northumberland, who was secretly a Roman Catholic, was not so mild or popular a ruler. Yet, throughout the whole reign of Edward VI which was terminated by his death on the 6th of July 1553, at the early age of sixteen, no religious party was persecuted, except those who denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion. It would have been well for the honor of a church which has produced many great men, and to which the modern world is indebted for the very existence of Christianity, if it had not been tempted after this period to commence a very different course of action. The crown now belonged by birthright to MARY, the eldest daughter of Henry VIII, who was a zealous Catholic. Northumberland, however, assuming the illegitimacy of that princess and her sister Elizabeth, set up as queen the Lady Jane Grey, who was descended from a younger sister of King Henry, and who had been married to a son of the Duke of Northumberland. Lady Jane was the most beautiful, most intelligent, and most amiable of all the females who appear in the history of England. Though only seventeen, she was deeply learned, and yet preserved all the unaffected graces of character proper to her interesting age. Unfortunately, her father-in-law Northumberland was so much disliked, that the Catholics were enabled to displace her from the throne in eight days, and to set up in her stead the Princess Mary. Northumberland, Lady Jane, and her husband, Guildford, Lord Dudley, were all beheaded by that savage princess, who soon after took steps for restoring the Catholic religion, and married Philip II, king of Spain, in order to strengthen herself against the Protestant interest. Mary experienced some resistance from her Protestant subjects, and being under great suspicion of her sister Elizabeth, who professed the reformed faith, but took no part against her, was almost on the point of ordering her to execution also. As soon as she had replaced the Catholic system, and found herself in possession of sufficient power, she began that career of persecution which has rendered her name so infamous. Five out of fourteen Protestant bishops, including the revered names of Cramer, Latimer, and Ridley, were committed to the flames as heretics; and during the ensuing part of her reign, which was closed by her death, November 17, 1558, nearly three hundred persons suffered in the same manner. These scenes did not take place without exciting horror in the minds of Englishmen in general, including even many Catholics; but the royal authority was at all times too great under this line of princes to allow of effectual resistance. Such a persecution, however, naturally fixed in the minds of the British Protestants a hereditary horror for the name of Catholic, which has in its turn been productive of many retaliatory persecutions, almost equally to be lamented. In the latter part of her reign, she was drawn by her husband into a war with France, of which the only effect was the loss of Calais, the last of the French possessions of the sovereigns of England. The natural sourness of Mary's temper was increased by this disgraceful event, as well as by her want of children, and she died in a state of great unhappiness.