Barnaby Fitzpatrick was another close childhood friend of Edward’s. Whilst a letter from Edward to Barnaby, in which he stridently exhorted his friend to behave with circumspection when abroad, has traditionally been viewed as evidence for the young King’s priggishness, the well-intentioned care and concern it belies is often overlooked.
The presence of Barnaby throughout Edward’s life also speaks to his ability to make and maintain close friendships and relationships, despite what some historians have suggested. Edward’s close friendship with Henry Sidney, who was with him during his final illness, and who tenderly took his friend the king into his arms before he died, also attests to this.
Rather than having the exclusively severe, aloof personality that history has often ascribed to him, Edward VI was in fact a far more rich, complicated character. He was a human being under immense pressure from the day of his birth, his conception even. In his short life, he was bereft of a mother, orphaned at the age of 9, and crowned king at the same time. He lived through the execution of his uncle the Admiral and later his uncle Somerset, and arguably abduction attempts by both, at different times, as well as Ket’s Rebellion.
Any one of these factors could more than account for a level of behavioural distancing, or withdrawal into oneself. Contrary to being an unfeeling, harsh person, the evidence points towards Edward as quite the opposite: a human being, with the capacity to feel greatly, forced to withdraw to some extent in order to cope with the catastrophic events of his young life. Instead of labelling Edward as a strange, cold character, we should perhaps extend some sympathy in our judgement of someone who showed great capacity for feeling and was under extreme stress for much of his short life.