Rarely can a son have been more longed for than the future Edward VI, born on 12 October 1537 to a father who had been waiting twenty-seven years for a legitimate son and heir. Henry VIII had moved heaven and earth to ensure that his dynasty would continue, renouncing the authority of the Pope, taking control of the English Church, rewriting the rules of kingship and the laws of succession and treason to safeguard his third marriage, and his only son. The birth of Edward seemed more than just a lucky chance; for Henry, it was the divine seal of approval on his bold innovations, a vindication of policies that many thought brutal, unlawful, and misguided. Yet, as this book makes clear, the ambitions and pretensions of Tudor kingship were constantly at the mercy of human frailty. Henry VIII died leaving his son to inherit at only nine years old, and Edward himself was to die, slowly and painfully, a teenager on the brink of adulthood and power, just six years later.
It is very hard to write the biography of someone who never came to maturity; it is equally hard to write the biography of a Tudor monarch. On the one hand, there is the lack of material and the difficulties of teasing out an individual identity which was still only