The Life and Raigne of King Edward the Sixth.
Professor Beer emphasizes two distinctive aspects of this biography as a treatment of Edward's reign: it does not portray the king as a young Josiah or champion of English Protestantism, and it is the first work to use Edward's manuscript journals as its principal source. Beer further explains that while Hayward expresses conventional respect for Edward's intelligence and virtue, his judgments sometimes markedly differ from the king's, particularly concerning key figures at court. The biography also departs from prior chronicle accounts of the reign by acknowledging Edward's unfulfilled promise, and by painting the era principally in terms of the tragic conflict between Edward's uncle, Protector Somerset, and John Dudley, Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland.
Hayward presents Somerset as mostly benevolent but ineffective, a man advanced by chance well above his level of competence. Northumberland in the work is an ambitious, manipulative monster who ruthlessly schemes to destroy his in-law and rival. (Hayward attributes the attempted disinheritance of Mary and Elizabeth, however, more to Edward's affection for Jane Dudley, and his antipathy toward Catholicism, than to Northumberland's plotting.) Hayward's characterizations verge on the stereotypical, to be sure, but they contain sufficient truth to have persisted well into our own century, and they have yet to be overturned by revisionist scholarship more sympathetic to Northumberland's position. Also, Hayward's prejudice against women is fully apparent in his condemnation of Somerset's wife, Anne Stanhope, as a jealous and devilish harridan responsible for goading her husband into the arrest and execution of his brother.
Hayward held both the court nobility and the common people in low regard, and he concluded that divisions at court had impeded proper control of the disorderly masses. He considered the deficiencies of the nation's governors an equal or greater cause of rebellion than either the progress of reformation (which receives remarkably little attention in the work), or the considerable economic hardship which characterized these years.
No autograph manuscript of this biography survives, so Professor Beer collated the first edition of 1630 with four manuscripts written in other hands. We do not know the circumstances which prompted the publication of Edward VI in 1630, three years after Hayward's death, for a bookseller specializing in astrological works with whom Hayward had no known connection. Yet through paleographical analysis and the careful sifting of internal and external evidence, Beer arrives at a number of original, plausible conjectures concerning the work's origins and composition. He suggests that Hayward, for reasons unknown, might have prepared more than one version of the biography; that the work might have been completed in two different stages, decades apart; and that its didactic character indicates it was possibly written as an instructional manual, perhaps for Henry, Prince of Wales, though the educational value of Edward's life for Henry, and the pertinence of Edward's reign to early Stuart politics, remain frustratingly unclear.
John Hayward was not just an historian and political theorist, but also an important civil lawyer, religious writer, and successful investor in London property and the Bermuda and Virginia companies. Today, though, he is chiefly remembered as an early practitioner in England of "politic history" of the kind introduced by Machiavelli and Guicciardini. Hayward's three other historical studies are also biographical in nature, treating Henry IV, England's Norman kings, and the early years of the reign of Elizabeth.
This exemplary edition advances our appreciation of both the history and the historiography of Edward's reign. If Professor Beer can be faulted on any account, it is his decision not to provide historical or literary notes or a full-scale commentary, which surely would have added to the usefulness of this volume for both general and specialized readers. Professor Beer is superbly qualified to have performed this task, having previously produced Northumberland (1973) and Rebellion and Riot: Popular Disorder in England during the Reign of Edward VI (1982), both issued by this same university press. It is tempting to suggest that it is not too late for him to undertake this additional service.
THOMAS J. WYLY Bentley College
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|Author:||Wyly, Thomas J.|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 1996|
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