King Edward VI

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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King Edward VI

by Unknown artist, after William Scrots
oil on panel, circa 1546
18 5/8 in. x 11 in. (473 mm x 279 mm)
Purchased, 1877
Primary Collection
NPG 442

Sitterback to top

  • King Edward VI (1537-1553), Reigned 1547-53. Sitter associated with 48 portraits.

Artistsback to top

  • William Scrots (active 1537-1553), Painter. Artist or producer associated with 7 portraits.
  • Unknown artist, Artist. Artist or producer associated with 6577 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Technical analysis has revealed that the pigments have faded considerably over time. The background would originally have been a brilliant blue and Edward's cloak a dark red.

Related worksback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Bolland, Charlotte; Cooper, Tarnya, The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered, 2014 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12th September 2014 to 1st March 2015), p. 74
  • Cannadine, Sir David (Introduction); Cooper, Tarnya; Stewart, Louise; MacGibbon, Rab; Cox, Paul; Peltz, Lucy; Moorhouse, Paul; Broadley, Rosie; Jascot-Gill, Sabina, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 7 October 2018 -3 February 2019. Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia, 16 March - 14 July 2019.), p. 97 Read entry

    Prince Edward was born at Hampton Court Palace on 12 October 1537 and was described by Henry VIII as his 'most noble and most precious jewel'. His mother, Jane Seymour, who had been maid of honour to both Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, died twelve days after giving birth. Although Edward was only nine years old when he became king, his reign, under the stewardship of his uncle Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, and subsequently John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, saw the establishment of the Protestant Church in England. He died after catching a chill early in 1553, aged fifteen.

    As a legitimate male heir to the throne, numerous portraits of Edward were commissioned as he grew up in order to disseminate his image and demonstrate that the future of the dynasty was secure in the figure of a healthy boy. A number of versions of this profile portrait of the young prince survive. It would originally have looked even more striking, as the background includes a large amount of the blue pigment smalt, which not only fades from a strong royal blue over time but also causes the oil in the paint mixture to discolour to brown.

  • Cooper, Tarnya, Elizabeth I & Her People, 2013 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 10 October 2013 - 5 January 2014), p. 207
  • Cooper, Tarnya; Fraser, Antonia (foreword), A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 2012, p. 12
  • Cooper, Tarnya; Fraser, Antonia (foreword), A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 2012, p. 32 Read entry

    Following the death of Henry VIII, his son Edward took up the throne at the age of nine around the time this portrait was painted. He is shown in profile, his delicate youthful features carefully drawn and recorded in paint for posterity. As the much-longed for male heir to the throne, Edward was painted throughout his childhood by several different artists, including the talented German artist Hans Holbein the Younger, indicating his importance and status. This portrait is from the studio of Holbein's successor, another foreign artist called William Scrots. As in all portraits of Edward, the challenge of presenting a young boy as a regal figure and capable potential ruler is partly solved through the adornment of costly clothing and jewellery and the use of an adult-like pose. He died shortly before his sixteenth birthday.

  • MacLeod, Catherine, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection at Montacute House, 1999, p. 13
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 195
  • Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 90

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1546back to top

Current affairs

The Treaty of Ardres ends England's war with France and Scotland. Francis I of France agrees to pay a large pension to King Henry VIII and his successors.
Henry VIII becomes seriously ill.

Art and science

The Dutch artist William Scrots paints Princess Edward (later King Edward VI) using an unusual and virtuoso technique of distorted perspective (anamorphosis).
King Henry VIII founds Trinity College, Cambridge.


The German Protestant reformer Martin Luther dies while attempting to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the mounting tension between German Protestant and Catholic factions. The Schmalkaldic League of Protestant princes prepares for war against the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

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