Thus died King Edward VI, that incomparable young prince. He was then in the sixteenth year of his age, and was counted the wonder of that time. He was not only learned in the tongues, and other liberal sciences, but knew well the state of his kingdom. He kept a book, in which he writ the characters that were given him of all the chief men of the nation, all the judges, lord-lieutenants, and justices of the peace over England: in it he had marked down their way of living, and their zeal for religion. He had studied the matter of the mint, with the exchange and value of money; so that he understood it well, as appears by his journal. He also understood fortification, and designed well. He knew all the harbours and ports, both of his own dominions, and of France and Scotland; and how much water they had, and what was the way of coming into them. He had acquired great knowledge of foreign affairs; so that he talked with the ambassadors about them in such a manner that they filled all the world with the highest opinion of him that was possible; which appears in most of the histories of that age. He had great quickness of apprehension; and, being mistrustful of his memory, used to take notes of almost every thing he heard: he writ these first in Greek characters, that those about him might not understand them; and afterwards writ them out in his journal. He had a copy brought him of everything that passed in council, which he put in a chest, and kept the key of that always himself.
In a word, the natural and acquired perfections of his mind were wonderful; but his virtues and true piety were yet more extraordinary. . . . He was tender and compassionate in a high measure; so that he was much against taking away the lives of heretics: and therefore said to Cranmer, when he persuaded him to sign the warrant for the burning of Joan of Kent, that he was not willing to do it. He expressed great tenderness to the miseries of the poor in his sickness, as hath been already shown. He took particular care of the suits of all poor persons, and gave a Dr. Cox special charge to see that their petitions were speedily answered, and used oft to consult with him how to get their matters set forward. He was an exact keeper of his word; and therefore, as appears by his journal, was most careful to pay his debts, and to keep his credit, knowing that to be the chief nerve of government; since a prince that breaks his faith, and loses his credit, has thrown up that which he can never recover, and made himself liable to perpetual distrust and extreme contempt.
He had, above all things, a great regard to religion. He took notes of such things as he heard in sermons, which more especially concerned himself; and made his measures of all Men by their zeal in that matter. . . . All men who saw and observed these qualities in him, looked on him as one raised by God for most extraordinary ends; and when he died, concluded that the sins of England had been great that had provoked God to take from them a prince under whose government they were like to have seen such blessed times. He was so affable and sweet-natured, that all had free access to him at all times; by which he came to be most universally beloved, and all the high things that could be devised were said by the people to express their esteem of him. (Courtesy The National Message)
Written by Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury
Editor’s Comment: Sir Francis Bacon once wrote “Power to do good is the true and lawful end of aspiring”. Many persons of history have achieved greatness when young, Composer Wolfgang Mozart is a great example, but perhaps there was no greater example than Edward VI. He was very likely God’s choice to entrench the Reformation brought in by a boisterous Henry VIII and to keep it safe so the short-lived Bloody Mary could not reverse the trend back to Popery. The following article by Gilbert Burnet, written a century later demonstrates just how remarkable was this young man. Burnet, too, was a noted Scottish philosopher and historian, as well as being the Bishop of Salisbury. He was fluent in Dutch, French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and was highly respected as a cleric, a preacher, an academic, a writer and a historian. So, when he wrote the following centuries ago, we can well accept it as a true picture of a short-lived but great king, who sat on the Throne of David.