Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, 2012

Edward VI of England: How Protestant Was He?

Of all the nations I enjoy researching during my 16th century studies, England is one of the most fascinating, because without England becoming Protestant it is highly unlikely that my ancestors would have been allowed to settle in America. That said, there were many different people --- many different factors --- that turned England from a dominion of Catholicism to a stronghold of Protestantism. One of the movers and shakers of this revolution was named Edward Tudor. And he was only nine years old. It could be argued that, as he died very young, he might have converted to Catholicism as an adult. But he never did. Instead he chose a Protestant successor --- Lady Jane Grey --- and touched her fate as well.

England’s Protestant flavor was enhanced by the fact that as Edward was a child, a council had been chosen to protect and advise him. These men were committed Protestants. As Edward lay at death’s door they created a document that said England could never again be controlled by a Catholic king or queen, and nor could Catholicism be the official religion. Were it not for his minority (and for powerful and influential Reformation-minded men being in charge) that time in history could have unfolded very differently.

Sometime in Edward’s young life, he changed from lukewarm Catholic to vibrant Protestant, taking great comfort in the five solas of the Reformation and desiring everyone else to do likewise. He was one of the rare children who did not have to be encouraged to spend long hours reading Scripture. He read voraciously every day of his own volition. Scholars believe that the ‘Act of Uniformity,’ passed in 1552, completed England’s exodus from Catholicism to Protestantism. One of the Act’s purposes was to introduce more Reformation-minded theology into the Church of England.

Though Edward VI died at just fifteen years of age, his reforms resounded in England clearly enough that people joyfully took them to heart --- for the most part. When his sister Mary I ascended the throne it became clear why the nation had wished to deter religious fanatics of any stripe from taking the throne. Somewhere around three hundred Protestants were burned at the stake due to Mary’s rabid adherence to orthodox Catholicism. Yet after Mary’s death, Elizabeth I quickly determined to follow her brother’s footsteps --- at least in action. When Protestant England defeated the armadas of Catholic Spain and became one of the strongest European nations the world had ever known, the policies that Edward VI and his advisors had put into place were brought full-circle.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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