England’s Boy King

Baby Edward VI England’s Boy King: The Diary of Edward VI, 1547-1553

Evgenia and I once ran a publishing company called Ravenhall Books (more about that another time). We published some 10 books in all before the paperwork drowned our enthusiasm and the dried up. One of the most interesting books we published was, I think, the journal of King Edward VI. We produced this as a diary, added illustrations and adjusted the text for the modern eye (without losing its original character, I hope). Edward began the journal as something of a school exercise, it was autobiographical to begin with but, by 1550, he seemed to have acquired an enthusiasm for diary form and was jotting down entries in a regular manner.

Some entries covered international affiars – which queen had given birth to whom, which prince had been awarded with a title, which king had conquered which province. Then there was some court gossip, and local colour. Events in and around England received more detailed coverage, especially if they posed a threat to the vulnerable monarch:

1550

26 April. Certain persons were taken that went about to have an insurrection in Kent upon the following May day and the priest who was the chief worker ran away into Essex, where he was laid for.

May

Joan Bocher, sometimes called Joan of Kent, was burnt for holding that Christ was not incarnate of the Virgin Mary; she had been condemned the year before but kept in the hope of conversion. On the 30th of April the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Ely were to persuade her. But she withstood them and insulted the preacher who preached at her death.

1552

22 January. The Duke of Somerset had his head cut off upon Tower Hill between eight and nine o’clock in the morning.

There’s little that’s personal in the diary (the young king probably didn’t have much of a personal life), apart from an enthusiasm for jousting and hawking that would have made his father proud, but it is a great historical document. And an unusual chronology of a momentous time.