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Edward VI

Edward was born at Hampton Court Palace on 12th October 1537, the son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour. He was a well-educated but sickly child. An important event during his reign was the introduction of the first English Prayer Book when English replaced Latin in church services.

Coronation

He succeeded his father when he was just 9 years old and was crowned in the Abbey on 20th February 1547. As he was a minor a Regency was created and his uncle, Edward Seymour, later Duke of Somerset, became Protector.

Burial

He died of tuberculosis at Greenwich Palace on 6th July 1553 and was buried beneath the original altar of Henry VII's Lady Chapel (designed by Pietro Torrigiano) on 8th August. He had lain unburied during the long negotiations between Mary I and her ministers as to the mode of the funeral rites. The burial service from the English Prayer Book was used for the first time at the funeral of a monarch. Mary held a requiem for her brother in the Tower of London.

The present stone was inserted, just in front of the present altar:

IN MEMORY OF KING EDWARD VI BURIED IN THIS CHAPEL THIS STONE WAS PLACED HERE BY CHRIST'S HOSPITAL IN THANKSGIVING FOR THEIR FOUNDER 7 OCTOBER 1966.

Although a design for a monument was made it was never executed probably due to lack of space in the chapel. Edward's coffin was seen by Dean Stanley in the 19th century and he recorded the Latin coffin plate inscription. It can be translated:

Edward the sixth by the Grace of God King of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith and on earth under Christ supreme head of the churches of England and Ireland and he migrated from this life on the 6th day of July in the evening at the 8th hour in the year of our Lord 1553 and in the 7th year of his reign and in the 16th year of his age.

The vault of the king, immediately to the west of Henry VII's tomb, is a few feet below the pavement in a narrow space meant for just one coffin. The corroded coffin plate was reburied in 1869 and screwed to a marble slab on the coffin together with another slab recording an account of the opening of the vault. A large fossil marble slab was laid over the spot with a copy of the plate inscription on it. But this was soon obscured by the new altar put up by the Dean in 1870. Part of the original frieze of Torrigiano's altar, destroyed by Cromwell during the Civil War, was found in the grave and is still preserved in the present modern altar (put up in 1935).

Further reading

Edward VI by Jennifer Loach, 1999

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

Supplement to the first and second editions of Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey by A.P. Stanley, 1869 (describing the opening of the vault)

The first and second prayer books of Edward VI, introduction by Bishop Gibson, Everyman's Library 1910

A design for a proposed monument is in the Bodleian Library, Oxford

Penguin Monarchs Edward VI by Stephen Alford

Born

12th October 1537

Died

6th July 1553

Buried

8th August 1553

Memorial

1966

Coronation

20th February 1547

Funeral

8th August 1553

Location

Lady Chapel

Memorial Type

Grave

Material Type

Marble

Edward VI
Edward VI of England c. 1546

[Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Edward VI
Edward VI stone

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

I’ve worked here for over thirty years and have seen many of the major services - it’s strange to realise that you are in a small way part of history.

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Pamela - Rector's Secretary

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