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Stone handaxe
THIS small handaxe is one of the most beautiful in the British Museum. It is made from quartz with attractive amethyst banding, a difficult material from which to make tools because it is extremely hard. The toolmaker would have had to hit with considerable force and accuracy to remove flakes. Such a high degree of difficulty makes the thin, symmetrical shape of this piece a masterpiece of the toolmakers’ art.
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Edward VI to Mary I (1547-1558)
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Edward VI to Mary I (1547-1558)Edward VI (1547-53)
Henry VIII died leaving a sickly son, not quite ten, to be tussled over by rival magnates. Edward VI was intelligent and – had he been older and healthier – might have balanced the powerful forces contesting for control of the kingdom. He was entrusted to the care of his uncle, Edward Seymour, who governed England as Protector until 1552 when he was ousted by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick (later Duke of Northumberland).

Both men favoured the religious ideas of the Protestant Reformation, which Henry VIII had kept at bay but which the young king seems to have approved. Cranmer’s English Prayer Book of 1549 was a symbol of the new era. Edward died at the age of 16, of consumption, probably made worse by the medical treatments he had been subjected to.

Lady Jane Grey (1553)
Desperate to stop Edward’s devoutly Catholic sister Mary from becoming queen, the Duke of Northumberland tried to re-route the Crown to his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey, granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Mary. So anxious had Edward been to preserve the Protestant succession that he had apparently signed a document making cousin Jane his heir. Only 16, Jane was proclaimed queen in London on 9 July 1553, but within days it was clear that the country backed Mary. Although Jane, the nine-days’ queen, willingly gave up her unwanted crown, she was tried for treason along with her husband and beheaded in 1554.

“While my father lives I shall be only the Lady Mary, the most unhappy lady in Christendom”.
Mary I, lamenting being unmarried at 28 years old.


Mary I (1553-58)
Edward’s enthusiastic Protestant beliefs were not shared by his older sister Mary. Declared a bastard when Henry VIII put aside her mother, Catherin of Aragon, Mary believed her task was to restore England to Catholicism – “the true faith”.

Having managed to evade marriage with Thomas Seymour, England’s Lord Admiral, Mary chose as husband in 1554 the most severe Catholic ruler in Europe, Philip of Spain. Her action outraged some Protestants, who led by Sir Thomas Wyatt, staged a short-lived, futile rebellion. The Duke of Suffolk – Lady Jane Grey’s father – joined the rebellion and so sealed poor Jane’s fate.

Mary longed for a child but, like her father, endured disappointment. Soon wearing of her, and of the English, Philip went home to Spain while the queen vented her resentment on “heretics”: the Protestant bishops Ridley and Latimer, who were burned at the stake in 1555, and Archbishop Cranmer in 1556. These, and some 300 other victims, caused people to call the queen “Bloody Mary”, and the loss in 1558 of Calais, England’s last possession in France, was viewed as a national disgrace.

Loveless, stubborn Mary presents a sad figure. Only in her final months, wracked by illness, was she reconciled with her sister Elizabeth (17 years her junior), whom she had accused of plotting against her. When Mary died on 17 November 1558, Elizabeth heard the news at Hatfield. “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes”, she said, quoting the Psalms.

Edward VI
The young monarch in this painting has his father’s fair hair. Some have seen a likeness to his grandfather, Henry VII.

Edward VI to Mary I (1547-1558)


Coronation procession
Londoners turn out to cheer Edward VI on Coronation Day in 1547. The boy-king had a rather rigorous upbringing (reflected in the number of schools founded in his name), lightened by the good sense and affection of his stepmother Catherine Parr.

Edward VI to Mary I (1547-1558)


Mary I
A precocious child, Mary was adored by her father Henry VIII – but rejected when he divorced her mother. Her religious intolerance led to persecution of Protestants.

Edward VI to Mary I (1547-1558)




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