Edward was nine years old when he became king of England and just fifteen when he died. Although he was extremely devout, he was so young that most policies, religious and otherwise, were set largely by his Lord Protectors—first his uncle, Edward Seymour, duke of Somerset, and later, after Somerset’s fall and execution, John Dudley, duke of Northumberland.
After the burst of new English Bibles during the reign of his father Henry VIII (the Tyndale translations, the Coverdale Bible, Matthew’s Bible, and the Great Bible), no major new English Bibles were produced under Edward’s rule.
Edward and his protectors did, however, preside over the publication of the first Book of Common Prayer (1549), an English-language prayer book that may have had as great an impact on ordinary people as the shift to English Bibles. The second edition of the Book of Common Prayer, in 1552, was also published during Edward’s reign.
Credited to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the Book of Common Prayer governed English worship and devotion, including the English texts of prayers and readings that replaced their old Latin counterparts. For the next four centuries, it influenced language, literature, and social life.
The most familiar words in marriages and funerals are from the Book of Common Prayer: “til death us do part,” “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Miles Coverdale’s psalms, from the Great Bible, were also included in the Book of Common Prayer, making his translations more familiar to most churchgoers than the psalms in the King James Bible.