The king at this time was sixteen. He had never been strong, and he had learnt and worked much more than was good for him. He wrote a journal, and though he never says he grieved for his uncles, most likely he did, for he had few near him who really loved or cared for him, and he was fast falling into decline, so that it became quite plain that he was not likely ever to be a grown-up king. There was a great difficulty as to who was to reign after him. The natural person would have been his eldest sister, Mary, but King Henry had forbidden her and Elizabeth to be spoken of as princesses or heiresses of the crown; and, besides, Mary held so firmly to the Church, as she had learnt to believe in it in her youth, that the reformers knew she would undo all their work.
There was a little Scottish girl, also named Mary—the grand-daughter of Margaret, eldest daughter of Henry VII. Poor child, she had been a queen from babyhood, for her father had died of grief when she was but a week old; and there had been some notion of marrying her to King Edward, and so ending the wars, but the Scots did not like this, and sent her away to be married to the Dauphin, Francois, eldest son of the king of France. If Edward’s sisters were not to reign, she came next; but the English would not have borne to be joined on to the French; and there were the grand-daughters of Mary, that other sister of Henry VIII., who were thorough Englishwomen. Lady Jane Grey, the eldest of them, was a good, sweet, pious, and diligent girl of fifteen, wonderfully learned. But it was not for that reason, only for the sake of the royal blood, that the Duke of Northumberland asked her in marriage for his son, Guildford Dudley. When they were married, the duke and Cranmer began to persuade the poor, sick, young king that it was his duty to leave his crown away from his sister Mary to Lady Jane, who would go on with the Reformation, while Mary would try to overthrow it. In truth, young Edward had not right to will away the crown; but he was only sixteen, and could only trust to what the archbishop and his council told him. So he signed the parchment they brought him, and after that he quickly grew worse.
The people grew afraid that Northumberland was shutting him up and misusing him, and once he came to the window of his palace and looked out at them, to show he was alive; but he died only a fortnight later, and we cannot guess what he would have been when he was grown up.
Mary I. A.D. 1553—1588.
The Duke of Northumberland kept king Edward’s death a secret till he had proclaimed Jane queen of England. The poor girl knew that a great wrong was being done in her name. She wept bitterly, and begged that she might not be forced to accept the crown; but she could do nothing to prevent it, when her father and husband, and his father, all were bent on making her obey them; and so she had to sit as a queen in the royal apartments in the Tower of London.