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on 15 April 2012
This is a well written biography by a brilliant young scholar (annoyingly, only 26 when this was published) and now Member of Parliament, about a brilliant young king caught up in the turbulent politics of Tudor England. Edward was the longed for son of Henry VIII, and only nine years old when his father died. Edward himself died at the age of 15, when he was on the cusp of taking the full reigns of power.

Death is a recurring theme of this biography, and for a modern reader it is a sobering reminder of how different our world is from that of previous generations. Edward's mother (Jane Seymour) died soon after he was born of blood poisoning caused by poor hygiene. Edward probably died of TB.

I am grateful for modern medicine.

Edward led a gilded yet very constrained childhood, with little contact with his father. Educated from birth to be king he was unusually gifted, showing an intellectual flair that was extraordinary. He was also committed to the Reformation cause, with a conviction that intensified as he grew older. Reading this biography, one of the most striking things is the role that religion played in public and private life in the Tudor age. Everyone was a believer - and what they believed really mattered. Faith was at the centre of all life and activity in a way that is almost incomprehensible now. Following Henry's partial Reformation, the extent to which England would become truly Reformed, or slip back into Catholicism was the most crucial issue of the day, and Edward held all the promise of being "a new Josiah" who would lead his nation into a glorious new age.

As religion was so central to every aspect of life, the change from Catholicism to Protestantism had an impact on day to day life that is very hard for the modern mind to grasp. Reformation really did make everything different - the whole cycle of life and established pattern of being was turned on its head. And not everyone was happy with this change. It was also a time of economic change and turmoil, as wealthy landowners enclosed common land to turn it over to sheep production, leading to popular uprisings and great discontent.

In this religious and economic maelstrom Edward's council sought to hold the nation together, and jockey for power. Much of this story is the rivalry between the Dukes of Somerset and Northumberland. In the end, both were destroyed by their ambition, and lost their heads at the block.

The last Machiavellian twist of Edward's reign was a `devise' to disinherit his half sisters Mary and Elizabeth, and redirect the succession to the resolutely Protestant Lady Jane Grey. Jane was Queen for only nine days, before the council and the nation switched allegiance to Mary.

On Edwards death Calvin wrote that England had `been deprived of an incomparable treasure of which it was unworthy. By the death of one youth, the whole nation has been bereaved of the best of fathers.' Mary's rise to power meant the crushing of the Reformation, and the remorseless persecution of those who favoured it. What the course of history may have been had Edward enjoyed a long reign is a matter of fascinating conjecture.
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on 5 June 2015
This has been well researched and uses many contemporary sources, including Edward's own writing, which paint an accurate picture of the intrigues and turbulent times of a period in our history when it was deemed impossible to be loyal both to the Roman Catholic church and to the King. It also shows how Edward's beliefs and attitudes were shaped by those around him, and by his own developing maturity.It establishes Edward as a young man with firmly held beliefs, who was keen to continue the reformation begun by his father, King Henry Vlll.
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VINE VOICEon 31 July 2008
Popular views of the Tudor history seem to regard the 5 years reign of Edward VI as a mere transitional period between the monumental rule of his father Henry VIII, the disastrous rule of his elder half-sister (Bloody) Queen Mary and the Golden Age of his younger half-sister Elisabeth. Edward seems to be disappearing - in so far is the subtitle the lost King of England justified - and dismissed as the sickly boy king for whose birth the kingdom was turned upside down. Some might remember Mark Twain's novel, The Prince and the Pauper, in which the young Edward VI and a pauper boy of identical appearance accidentally replace each other.

Was that really the case? Here Chris Skidmore wants us to rethink and see Edward as an educated, quite brilliant, very serious young man who had all the Tudor tracts and had the qualities to be a great king. A bit one is dealing with the big "if-question".... if he would have lived, what would have been....Well, that is usually the question asked about the heirs to the throne who died before their accession. But Edward was king. That is a crucial difference. So there is more to judge Edward upon.

Our thinking about this child-king is corrupted by hindsight. Because he died young one seems to believe he was always sick, and a mere pawn of his advisers. But this is very wrong. Before his final illness there is no serious history of illness.

His reign marked the final transition to Protestantism. While Henry VIII had left the country in a religious limbo, Edward became the first protestant king, a development that the reign of Queen Mary could not revise and was finalized by Elisabeth. Edward was fully behind this. He was a "hard-core" protestant. Even his sombre, highly developed sense of duty and what seems like an impersonal coolness in his dealings with other people proves this. Of course his regents - the Dukes of Somerset and Northumberland - were the driving actual forces, but the king backed and supported this. Too young to assume the day-to-day work of government, did not mean for Edward to delegate the workings of his conscience. Therefore, the famous Device for the Succession which left the crown not to his half sisters but to his very protestant Cousin Lady Jane Grey is not that surprising. While the debate is not yet solved whether the Device originated with the Duke of Northumberland or the king himself, there is a huge possibility that the king was all behind it. At least he signed it and that meant something.

Chris Skidmore's book is a balanced and lively account of Edward's reign and personality. He guides the reader through the web of Tudor court politics and the serious religious disputes of the time. After having read this book one can not dismiss this king any longer as the sickly boy king, but sees indeed a man of much conviction and determination. He was after all a Tudor. His determination is however equally dangerous as the one of his half-sister Mary - him for Protestantism, she for Catholicism. Both do not have the greatness of their half-sister Elisabeth. In my assessment both would have never said a line like Elisabeth: There is only one God. The rest is trifle. Religious tolerance would not have been a trademark of Edward's reign had he lived as it was not a sign of Bloody Mary's rule.

All in all, after having read Skidmore's book one will never talk about a "lost king". It is great read - lively and engaging, painting a fully rounded picture of Edward VI.
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VINE VOICEon 15 January 2008
Edward VI seems to many just the boy king in between the great Henry VIII and is famous half isters "Bloody Mary" and legendary Queen Elizabeth I., the King who wanted to deprive us of Queen Elizabeth by passing his throne to the Lady Jane Grey. The main thing seems to be the story of his birth, him being a male and the quest by Henry VIII for a male heir.

What he really did and whether his rule of merely six years had any impact seems to have been overlooked or ignored. How could a king who died at the age of 15 have an impact at all? His regents - the Dukes of Somerset and Northumberland - are of more importance.

Christopher Skidmore in his biography of Edward VI tries to establish for the first time his significant personal impact on the history of his country. He was the first real protestant king of England!! Edward VI is not the constant sick boy-king of no will of his own, but a healthy, vigorous, precocious, like all Tudor princes and princesses highly educated, and decisive. Here emerges a new perspective to his personality and his reign which did not lack drama.

I like the style and the new look on Edward and his reign. He has a point of not dismissing him as a mere tool in the hands of ambious politicians. However, I feel she pushes it maybe a bit too far. I see more potential, a boy-king who starts to exercise his powers before the final illness caught up with him. He has definitely the "power gene" of the Tudor kings and queens. Where one would have ended up with him, is mere speculation. The extremely protestant streak - like in Lady Jane Grey, his chosen successor - is more worrying than encouraging. I am not sure that he would have the genius of his half-sister Elizabeth. I could easily seem him going down the route of his catholic half-sister Mary. Whatever you personally think of him and his reign, this book is worthwhile a read as it encourage you to re-think this period of the English history.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 19 January 2015
Crowned aged only nine years old and dying at just fifteen, the reign of Edward VI is often passed over as a mere unstable blip between the reigns of his father Henry VIII and his sisters Mary and finally Elizabeth. Even though momentous events took place in those six years, not least of which is the full flowering of the Protestant Reformation, Edward's own role is often dismissed as that of a mere figurehead, with his advisors and council holding the real power. The instability of those years is ascribed to the political in-fighting and factionalism deemed inevitable in the vacuum of power where the king would reign.

The truth is, as with most things, somewhere between the two. Edward was indeed a mere child, yet there can be little doubt he was an exceptionally intelligent and astute child, and certainly as he grew into adolescence he became more and more involved in the business of reigning, not stinting to assert his will, particularly in areas of religion. Not everything that happened during his reign happened without his input or command. It is a sad 'what if' as to what kind of king he may have become - based on his childhood output, he would perhaps have been the most intelligent, accomplished and intellectual king England would have had up until then, perhaps ever. Of course, with the religious question interfering, it is debatable whether he would have been the fairness or most just.

This is the second of Chris Skidmore's books I've read, although it was his first to be published, when he was only 25 - and on my judgement so far I'm impressed. He's rapidly becoming one of my favourite 'popular' historians, second only to Ian Mortimer, and that's high praise in my book. It's not an easy balance, eloquently writing intelligent and impartial history that appeals not just to the informed but the uninformed reader as well, and I think Skidmore achieves it. His books are a pleasure to read, and I look forward to seeing what else he will produce. I only hope he branches out from the Tudors, who surely have been written and 'biographied' to death by now!
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on 21 April 2013
I bought this book as I saw the author being interviewed on television as part of the Fit to Rule series recently. It was very interesting indeed as I found out a lot about a king I really knew very little about before. A little too much detail on some of the religious rules Edward tried to introduce but I suppose that was so much part of his reign. A large part of the book was made up of notes and I was a little shocked that it came to and end when I still thought I had more text to go. A penalty of reading it on Kindle I suppose.
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VINE VOICEon 11 September 2009
A very well written biography of the young king that gives one as good a feel as the evidence allows of Edward as a person, as well as covering the events of his reign. Indeed a good balance throughout between his personal life, religious developments, domestic and foreign policy. A joy to read and the author is clearly a major new young talent in Tudor historiography (and nearly young enough to be my son!).
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on 12 April 2017
Boring
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on 22 August 2013
exceptionally well researched, full of detail of this heir to the Tudor throne. If Edward had lived a full life, he may well have proved to be the greatest European monarch of the era. However, he was obviously very biased in his religious beliefs, some would say detrimental to the well being of the nation; an exceedingly well educated youth, he could be dogmatic and determined in getting his viewpoint over - which perhaps would prove not to be such a good trait had he grown to adulthood, at a time when diplomacy was of the essence.

one thing spoils this for me - the family tree provided for the Dudley family shows John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland as having two sons named Henry, both dying in 1557 - surely not the case - bad proof reading perhaps?
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on 31 May 2013
A great read giving detail of things I did not know. At 73 years old this is very comforting. History like this is what should be being taught in out education system. The corruption shows there is nothing new under the sun !
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