After Henry VIII's death, his only surviving legitimate son, Edward, inherited the crown, becoming Edward VI. Since Edward was only nine years old at the time, he could not exercise actual power.
Henry's will designated sixteen executors to serve on a council of regency until Edward reached the age of eighteen. The executors chose Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, Jane Seymour's elder brother, to be Lord Protector of the Realm. In default of heirs to Edward, the throne was to pass to Mary, Henry VIII's daughter by Katherine of Aragon, and her heirs. If Mary's issue failed, the crown was to go to Elizabeth, Henry's daughter by Anne Boleyn, and her heirs. Finally, if Elizabeth's line became extinct, the crown was to be inherited by the descendants of Henry VIII's deceased younger sister, Queen Mary of France, the Greys.
The descendants of Henry's sister Margaret – the Stuarts, rulers of Scotland – were however excluded from succession. This final provision failed when James VI of Scotland became James I of England upon Elizabeth's death.
As I did with Elizabeth, I rise to my feet and go towards him but he looks anxious as I approach and this makes me cautious. He bows, I curtsey, I extend my hand and he kisses it. I dare not embrace him as I did Elizabeth; I cannot fold him into my arms. He is only a little boy, but he is a unique being, as rare as a unicorn, sighted only in tapestries. This is the only Tudor prince in the whole world. After a lifetime of marriages and couplings, this is the only surviving boy that Henry could get.
Image: King Edward VI by Unknown artist, possibly after Hans Holbein the Younger, c.1542, National Portrait Gallery (NPG 1132)