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A Lamb in Lion’s Garb: Evolving perspectives on Edward VI

John Matusiak referees the debate about the influence of Henry VIII’s son.

Edward VI, by William Scrots, c. 1550
Edward VI, by William Scrots, c. 1550

By the end of May 1553, Edward VI was, aged almost 16, suffering an agonising and prolonged approach to death from pulmonary tuberculosis. According to John Banister, a young medical student attached to the royal household, the king could not sleep ‘except he be stuffed with drugs’, while ‘the sputum which he brings up is livid, black, fetid and full of carbon’, smelling ‘beyond measure’. As dusk fell on July 6th 1553, after Edward had breathed his last, rain is said to have fallen in torrents, sweeping houses away and uprooting trees. Church spires apparently crashed amid the lightning, and hail, said to be the colour of blood, covered the gardens by the Thames. 

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