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Henry VIII's children

Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I

Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I

All three of Henry VIII's children went on to become kings and queens of England.

Portrait of Edward VI as a child.  National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA / Bridgeman Images

Edward VI, born 1537, reigned 1547-53

Edward, born and christened at Hampton Court Palace was the eagerly-awaited son of Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour.

Henry is said to have wept with joy as he held his infant son, then wept again a few days later when the queen died from post-birth complications.

As a little boy Edward was spoiled and indulged, he even had his own fighting bears.

Image: Portrait of Edward VI as a child, circa 1538, Hans Holbein the Younger, ©National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA/Bridgeman Images

A painting of King Edward VI after Hans Holbein the Younger

The young king

Edward was extremely well-educated by a set of forward-thinking Cambridge scholars, who instilled in the prince a respect for religious reform.

Even before he was eight, Edward was fluent in Latin, Greek and French.

He was crowned aged nine, although his uncle, Seymour, acted as his protector until he was deposed in 1550.

But sickly Edward had little time left to carry out any of the great religious reforms he wanted.

He finally succumbed to tuberculosis in 1553, aged only 15. 

Image: King Edward VI after Hans Holbein the Younger, circa 1542, © National Portrait Gallery, London

Queen Mary I by Master John, 1544.  National Portrait Gallery, NPG 428

Mary I, born 1516, reigned 1553-58

Mary Tudor was the only surviving child of King Henry VIII’s 24-year marriage to Katherine of Aragon.

When her mother fell from favour, Princess Mary’s own future looked doubtful, and she was demoted to 'Lady Mary'.

In 1554 she married Philip of Spain. A year later, it was thought the queen was pregnant, and the court gathered at Hampton Court Palace to await the birth.

However, no baby ever came. Mary’s swollen belly was possibly the result of a psychological phantom pregnancy.

Image: Queen Mary I by Master John, 1544, © National Portrait Gallery, London

Bloody Mary

As queen, Mary was notorious, and seemed bent on revenging her Catholic mother and returning the country to the 'old religion'.

Her persecution of over 300 Protestants earned her the title 'Bloody Mary'.

The nursery rhyme 'Mary Mary, quite contrary' is thought to refer to her attempt to re-impose the Catholic faith upon England.

Image: Queen Mary I after Anthonis Mor (Antonio Moro), © National Portrait Gallery, London

Elizabeth I, born 1533, reigned 1559-1603

Elizabeth was the only daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn.

The little princess’s life was thrown into chaos aged nearly three, when her mother was executed. Elizabeth was declared illegitimate and banished from court. 

She was brought up in Hatfield House in Hertford, but reinstated at court after Prince Edward’s birth.

Image: Portrait of Princess Elizabeth, c.1546.  Attributed to William Scrots (active 1537-53), Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

One of the most important surviving images of Elizabeth I, this portrait was almost certainly painted from life, and the resulting pattern for the queen's face was to be repeated for the remainder of her reign.

The Virgin Queen

Protestant Elizabeth appears to have been clever and quick-witted which were talents she put to good use.

However, as a young woman she was perceived as a threat to her Catholic half-sister Mary.

At one point, Mary imprisoned her in the Tower of London on suspicion of treason.

The courage and coolness under questioning she demonstrated augured well for her extraordinary 45-year reign.

Elizabeth, the 'Virgin Queen' famously never married. 

Image: Queen Elizabeth I by an unknown continental artist, circa 1575, © National Portrait Gallery, London

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