Edward VI

O Lord God, save Thy chosen people of England. 

O Lord God, defend this realm from Papistry; and maintain Thy true religion, that I and my people may praise Thy holy Name for Thy Son Jesus Christ's sake.

Edward VI's prayer on his deathbed (6 July 1553)


Clear account   

An old textbook     





The Protestant Reformation

During Edward's reign, laws were passed which made England a Protestant country.   Edward was only a child, so these laws were passed - with Edward's agreement - by the 'Protectors' (the regents) who ruled the country for him.


Protector Somerset

Edward Seymour (the Duke of Somerset) passed most of the key laws which introduced Protestantism:

  • the Latin Mass was abolished;

  • a new Prayer Book, in English, with Protestant beliefs, was introduced;

  • priests were allowed to marry;

  • statues of the saints were removed;

  • pictures on church walls were whitewashed;

  • stone altars were taken out of the churches and replaced by simple wooden communion tables.


To teach the people about the new religion, Protestant missionaries were sent out round the country, who told the people about the new things they should believe, and who gave people English Bibles


Protector Northumberland

In 1549 there was a rebellion against the new Prayer Book in Devon and Cornwall.   It was easily put down, but Somerset fell from power.   John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, took over.

Northumberland was a very extreme Protestant, and he was also trying to bring the Protestant religion before Edward (who was ill with tuberculosis) died.   Under Northumberland:

  • a new, stricter Prayer Book was introduced;

  • ornaments such as candles and goblets were sold;

  • stained glass windows were smashed;

  • Catholics bishops were imprisoned in the Tower of London.


During Edward's reign, Protestantism became the state religion of England.



In this propaganda picture, the dying Henry hands over rule to Edward VI and (on his left) Protector Somerset, while Catholic monks flee in terror and the Pope is knocked down by the English Bible.   In the window, Protestants are smashing statues of the saints and the Virgin Mary.











Did You Know?

Not everyone liked the new religion.   In 1549 the rebels in Devon and Cornwall called the English Prayer Book 'but like a Christmas game'.

What to say:

If you are writing about religion under Edward VI, you must mention at least:

  • the new Prayer book;

  • how churches changed inside;

  • the missionaries, who tried to change what people believed, a well as what they did;

  • the persecution of Catholics.