Alternate History: What If Edward VI Had Lived?
What if Edward VI didn't die in 1553? Could that have changed much for the English throne?
I’m finished with my series on Henry VIII’s six wives, but I’ve really enjoyed my alternate history series. With that in mind, I’m going to focus on a new set for a few weeks: the children of Henry VIII. How much could have been changed if they did something different in their lives? Would it have affected England’s reign now?
The first is Edward VI. It was a relatively easy alternate history to decide on for him. What if he didn’t die when he was 16? What if he lived and died years down the line? How much could it have changed England’s monarchy?
Would Edward VI Have Had Children?
Could Edward Tudor have had children of his own? What could that have changed for England?
There doesn’t seem much hope for Henry VIII’s children when it comes to having their own kids, does it? Henry VIII seems to have had fertility problems during his later life, and Mary I had issues (at least it seems). It is difficult to guess for Edward IV and Elizabeth I.
Assuming that he had no fertility issues, if he’d have lived then it is highly likely that he would have had children of his own. He would have married a princess from another country and would have had his own heirs. Whether he would have had boys is another question, and he may have turned out as crazy as his father in search for that needed heir.
One thing is certain, Edward believed the same thing as his father: a woman could not successfully rule. He wanted a male to take the crown after him, and made it clear that only Lady Jane Grey could become queen. From there, it would pass only to her male heirs. So, it makes sense that Edward would have focused on having a male heir or two.
Who would have been his wife? I’m not too sure about that. With him being protestant, he may have had a German wife. I don’t think he would have opted for a French or Spanish wife. There was an attempt to marry him to Lady Jane Grey, but John Dudley would have still likely pulled the same stunt to try and get his own son closer to the throne. There may have been the option of one of his younger cousins, either Katherine or Mary Grey.
There was an attempt to get Mary, Queen of Scots to marry Edward VI. In the end, Mary married the French dauphin Francis, but he died young. She came back to Scotland in the 1570s and went on to marry again. It is possible that Edward may have been looking for another bride at that point depending on how things worked with his first wife (if he was even married by that point). He and Mary may have ended up marrying because it would have placed her on the English throne. At that point, Scotland was a Protestant country anyway.
There Would Have Been No Lady Jane Grey vs. Mary I
If Edward had lived long enough, Mary wouldn't have been in any position to fight his decisions after death. But what about Elizabeth?
By Edward VI having children of his own, there would have been no battle for the crown between Jane and Mary. The “innocent traitor” would have kept her head, and could have gone on to have her own children with Guildford Dudley.
But what if Edward wasn’t successful in an heir? This would depend on when he died. Considering Mary died in 1558, it is highly possible that Edward would have agreed to the crown passing to his other half-sister Elizabeth. She was a protestant, but she was illegitimate and a female. If he didn’t have heirs but Lady Jane Grey did, then her children may have jumped straight to the throne.
Would that have caused a problem for Elizabeth? Likely not, especially if Jane’s children were boys. England would have supported a male on the throne over a female. The good thing for Elizabeth is that she would have known when to strike or when not too, and may have kept herself out of the Tower of London without Mary on the throne.
No Scottish Monarchs in 1603
The Tudor dynasty could have continued, getting rid of the need for the Scottish monarchs to become monarchs of England.
If Edward lived, it is highly unlikely that the throne would have passed into the Scottish hands in 1603. It doesn’t matter if he had heirs or not, because Lady Jane Grey would have been around and the Grey line would not have been tainted the way it was in history. Henry VIII always wanted the crown to pass to Mary’s children before Margaret’s.
Had Edward had heirs of his own, they would have gained the crown anyway. That could have continued the Tudor dynasty for a little longer.
If Edward died without children, Jane or her children would have likely been named his heir. Had Jane had a son, no matter when he died the English people would have likely backed that heir before Mary or Elizabeth. That boy could have gone onto marry and have children of his own. There would have been no need for the Scottish monarchs to become English kings or queens. The Stuart period could have been completely missed out.
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A Very Protestant Nation
How would the country have faired religiously? What would it have meant for the Catholics?
One of the benefits of Elizabeth’s reign is that it brought some sort of balance between the Catholics and Protestants. She wasn’t allowed to become the Supreme Head of the Church like her father, and she agreed to introduce a few Catholic elements into the Protestant services. It helped to keep the rebellions to a minimum.
However, without Mary’s attempt at bringing back Catholicism, there would have been no need for this. Edward would have pushed his Protestant views through, and may have become the Supreme Head of Church. It would have pushed the Catholics out further, and could have lead to many rebellions. Mary would have likely been used as the name for those rebellions.
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Edward would have needed to do something, and the best thing would have been to lock Mary in the Tower of London. While it would have angered the Catholics, there is very little that they could have done. Chances are that Mary would have died in the Tower, as her health may have deteriorated much sooner than it did in real life.
The country would have continued with Protestant monarchs. Edward would have raised his own children with Protestant views. Likewise, Jane was Protestant and would have ensured her own children were raised in that way. Whichever ended up being monarchs, the children would have been Protestant.
This has been an interesting alternate history to contemplate. Edward living past the age of 16 and having his own children would have changed so much in history. This is especially the case if he or Jane had boys of their own.
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