The Illnesses and Death of King Edward VI (1537–1553)


Edward VI was the son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, wife #3 of the king. In his autobiography astrologer Jerome Cardan notes that during his travels in England in October of 1552 he was consulted about Edward’s horoscope, especially regarding the recent illnesses of the young king and the prospects for his early death. Edward was only 15 years old when Cardan met him, and Cardan was acutely aware of the delicate nature of the consultation. Upon returning to Italy, Cardan wrote more frankly about Edward’s birth chart.

Edward VI was generally a healthy child except for a bout of quartan fever in 1541, but in April of 1552 he contracted the measles and perhaps also smallpox from which he apparently recovered by mid-year of 1552. According to medical science, measles is known to suppress the human immune response and leaves its victims open to infection with tuberculosis. The authors of an article in the New England Journal of Medicine write: “We believe that his death was due to rapidly progressive tuberculosis that developed after he had measles.”

In December of 1552 or January of 1553 young Edward developed a cough which became progressively worse. A summary from the Tudor Society notes that “when his half-sister, Mary, visited him on the 10th February [1553], she found him bedridden. Although he had rallied at various points, by the 20th May, the Imperial Ambassador, Jehan Scheyfve, described Edward’s condition as ‘desperate’, and on the 30th May he wrote: ‘The King of England is wasting away daily, and there is no sign or likelihood of any improvement. Some are of opinion that he may last two months more, but he cannot possibly live beyond that time.’

Born on 12 October 1537 at Hampton Court Palace (51n22, 0w20), 15-year-old King Edward VI died on the evening of 6 July 1553 at Greenwich Palace, England. Hampton Court Palace is in East Molesey in the borough of Richmond upon Thames, 12 miles south west and upstream of central London on the River Thames. 

The British astrologer Ebenezer Sibly pubished the following horoscope of the young king.

Sibly’s chart for the birth of Edward VI

Below is the same chart as from Sibly’s book but calculated by modern computer. (Sibly’s chart differs slightly from the one at AstroDataBank, which gives an Asc of 6 Virgo 01. Cardan apparently used a birth time of 1:16 AM instead of 1:36 AM LMT as in the Sibly chart.)

Now let’s consider the primary directions during 1552 – 1553, the period when he became ill with measles and smallpox, recovered, and then developed tuberculosis or some other serious lung ailment which eventually killed him. Using Janus 5.3, I calculated the Placidus semi-arc primaries, with and without latitude, using only the hard aspects to keep the list manageable. (Cardan in the 16th century would have used Regiomontanus primary directions rather than Placidus semi-arc as shown below.)

Hard aspect Placidus semi-arc primary direction, with and without latitude, for 1551-1552

We see in April of 1552, when the young king came down with measles and smallpox, that primary directed Saturn (ruler of the 6th of illness) with latitude came to the natal Ascendant, and the primary directed square of Mars (ruler of the whole sign 8th house) came to the natal sun (a symbol of the life force and ruler of the 12th of confinement). The astrological symbolism fits a serious bout of potentially life-threatening illness that this time.

In January of 1553, when his cough began, by primary direction the opposition of the ecliptic position of Mars (without latitude) came to the natal Moon (a symbol of the body) and the square of the ecliptic position of Mars (without latitude) came to the MC. Mars is a universal symbol of infection and inflammation.

In July of 1553, the month of his demise, by primary direction the square of the body of Mars came to the MC, opposite the IC (endings and the grave).

In September of 1553, by primary direction the ecliptic position of Saturn (without latitude) came to the Ascendant, and this direction would have been within orb of its perfection at the time of his death in July.

Interestingly, once Cardan was safely back in Italy, he speculated that the primary direction involving Mars and the Sun suggested that one of the British government ministers was plotting against the life of the king and perhaps considering killing him with poison. To this day there are conspiracy theories about whether Edward VI was poisoned in a power grab or whether he died of natural causes.

For the sake of completeness, the list below shows the hard aspect Regiomontanus primary directions for the period of the king’s illnesses and death, calculated with and without latitude at the Naibod rate.

REGIOMONTANUS primary directions, with and without latitude, at Naibod rate. When primary directed Saturn comes to the ASC in April of 1552, Edward VI falls ill of measles and smallpox, from which he recovers by mid-year. In late December 1552 or early January 1553 he develops a chronic and worsening cough when the square of Mars is directed to the Sun and to the MC, and the square of Jupiter is directed to Pluto. Finally, he dies in July 1553 when the directed ASC comes to the ecliptic position of natal Saturn. Both the Placidus and the Regiomontanus primary directions tell a similar story in this birth chart.

About Anthony Louis

Author of books about astrology and tarot, including TAROT PLAIN AND SIMPLE, HORARY ASTROLOGY, and THE ART OF FORECASTING WITH SOLAR RETURNS.
This entry was posted in Astrology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s