The Nationalism of the Protestant Reformation: King Edward VI's prayer for God's chosen English nation

October 18th 2023

By Dr. Adi Schlebusch

This October marks 506 years since Martin Luther initiated the Great Reformation of the Church of Christ. In celebration thereof Pactum will be publishing a series of blog posts on the nationalism of the Reformation in the run-up to Reformation Day on October 31st.

In this installment, we will be looking at King Edward VI, who reigned over England and Ireland from 1547 until his untimely death in 1553 at the mere age of 16. He was the first English monarch to be raised as a Protestant. He would be succeeded by Bloody Mary. Had Edward lived longer, the horrendous persecution of Protestants that characterized Mary’s reign might have been avoided. England likely lost some of its finest due to Mary's persecution and execution of prominent Protestants, potentially causing long-term detriment to the nation. This makes Edward’s premature death doubly regrettable. On his deathbed, Edward prayed for the continued flourishing of his English nation:

Lord, I commit my spirit to Thee. O Lord, thou knoweth how happy it were for me to be with thee. Yet for thy chosen sake, send me life and health, that I may truly serve Thee. O, my Lord God, blesse thy people, and serve thine inheritance. O Lord God, save thy chosen people of England. O my Lord God, defend this realme from papistry, and maintain thy true religion, that I and my people may praise thy holy Name, for thy Sonne, Jesus Christ’s sake.

Edward saw it as his divinely appointed duty to lead God’s chosen English people, a covenant nation with a distinct purpose in serving Christ’s Kingdom. He was determined to see the true religion established, penetrating and sanctifying every aspect of English public life. Furthermore, to the noble king, kinship and national identity were not merely trivial matters—very much unlike the perspective of most contemporary leaders. He even subordinated his own desires and comfort to the needs of his nation. He saw his own nation as a covenantal cornerstone for the protection and preservation of the true Christian faith.

May God once again grant us godly leaders like King Edward.