10 September 1533 – Elizabeth I’s Christening at the Church of Observant Friars, Greenwich

Posted By on September 10, 2013

Baptismal FontOn Wednesday 10th September 1533, Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was christened at the Church of Observant Friars in Greenwich.

The future Queen Elizabeth I was just three days old, having been born on the 7th September, when she was processed along a carpet of green rushes from the Great Hall at Greenwich Palace to the church.

Letters and Papers contains a record of Elizabeth’s christening:

“The mayor, Sir Stephen Pecock, with his brethren and 40 of the chief citizens, were ordered to be at the christening on the Wednesday following; on which day the mayor and council, in scarlet, with their collars, rowed to Greenwich, and the citizens went in another barge.

All the walls between the King’s place and the Friars were hanged with arras, and the way strewed with rushes. The Friars’ church was also hanged with arras. The font, of silver, stood in the midst of the church three steps high, covered with a fine cloth, and surrounded by gentlewomen with aprons and towels about their necks, that no filth should come into it. Over it hung a crimson satin canopy fringed with gold, and round it was a rail covered with red say.

Between the choir and the body of the church was a close place with a pan of fire, to make the child ready in. When the child was brought to the hall, every man set forward. The citizens of London, two and two ; then gentlemen, squires, and chaplains, the aldermen, the mayor alone, the King’s council, his chapel, in copes ; barons, bishops, earls ; the earl of Essex bearing the covered gilt basons ; the marquis of Exeter with a taper of virgin wax. The marquis of Dorset bare the salt. The lady Mary of Norfolk bare the chrisom, of pearl and stone. The officers of arms. The old duchess of Norfolk bare the child in a mantle of purple velvet, with a long train held by the earl of Wiltshire, the countess of Kent, and the earl of Derby. The dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk were on each side of the Duchess. A canopy was borne over the child by lord Rochford, lord Hussy, lord William Howard, and lord Thomas Howard the elder. Then ladies and gentlewomen.

The bishop of London and other bishops and abbots met the child at the church door, and christened it. The archbishop of Canterbury was godfather, and the old duchess of Norfolk and the old marchioness of Dorset godmothers. This done, Garter, with a loud voice, bid God send her long life. The archbishop of Canterbury then confirmed her, the marchioness of Exeter being godmother. Then the trumpets blew, and the gifts were given ; after which wafers, comfits, and hypocras were brought in. In going out the gifts were borne before the child, to the Queen’s chamber, by Sir John Dudley, lord Thos. Howard, the younger, lord Fitzwater, and the earl of Worcester. One side was full of the Guard and King’s servants holding 500 staff torches, and many other torches were borne beside the child by gentlemen. The mayor and aldermen were thanked in the King’s name by the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, and after drinking in the cellar went to their barge.”

In his Chronicle, Charles Wriothesley writes that “and the morrowe after their was fiers[bonfires] made in London, and at everie fire a vessell of wyne[wine] for people to drinke for the said solempnitie.” Elizabeth may not have been the son Henry VIII had hoped for, but her birth had shown that his new wife was fertile and could carry a healthy baby to term, so there was hope for the future.

Notes and Sources

  • L&P vi. 1111
  • Wriothesley, Charles. A Chronicle of England During the Reigns of the Tudors, p23

11 thoughts on “10 September 1533 – Elizabeth I’s Christening at the Church of Observant Friars, Greenwich”

  1. maritzal says:

    Aww that’s so beautiful I guess her. Future was already sealed and that was something people got to know

  2. BanditQueen says:

    Beautiful article about a beautifu; ceremony! Do you think that Cromwell was asking how much it cost? If Henry had have been disappointed at Elizabeth not being a girl then he had certainly gotten over it and her baptism was a fantastic affair not a small one. It sounds almost like he had the same baptism that he would had she been a Prince. Only the tornament was cancelled.

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  4. Newton says:

    Wow that was strange. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my
    comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

  5. Crystal says:

    I suspect that Henry’s “disappointment” over the birth of Elizabeth has been somewhat exaggerated over the years by people with knowledge of events that happened many years after her birth. However, I think that it is not unreasonable to think that, at the time of her birth, Henry was not too disappointed at all. Yes, he had other celebrations planned that were cancelled because Elizabeth was a girl and not a boy. That was not unusual for the time period though, and the same thing had happened when Mary I was born years before.
    Henry was married to Catherine of Aragon for 6 years before Mary was born. 6 years married without any healthy children born that lived past the two month mark. On the other hand, most historians believe that Anne Boleyn conceived very soon after her and Henry began sharing a bed, and it seems to me that Henry must have been delighted with his healthy daughter. He surely expected sons to follow, but at the time he had no reason to believe that he would not be married to Anne for 50 years with a dozen children. Terrible how things worked out.
    On another note, the Spanish ambassador had written about her christening: “The water was hot, but not hot enough”. Amusing, considering that 26 years later the King of Spain proposed to Elizabeth, and she could have been the Queen of Spain. She may have been the mother of a King of Spain too, had the marriage born fruit. The ambassador certainly caused a lot of trouble in the 1530’s, beyond what was expected of him.

  6. Christine says:

    As said at least it showed Anne could bear healthy children so both parents must have been certain that one day she would have a son, such high hopes for the future and how tragic that it wasn’t to be.

  7. Rute Pereira says:

    Do we know who were her godparents?

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, it says in the primary source account above “The archbishop of Canterbury was godfather, and the old duchess of Norfolk and the old marchioness of Dorset godmothers”, so Thomas Cranmer was her godfather, and her godmothers were Agnes Howard (nee Tylney), Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, and Margaret Grey (nee Wotton), Marchioness of Dorset.

      1. Claire says:

        oh, and also the Marchioness of Exeter.

  8. Roland H. says:

    Interestingly enough, the Imperial ambassador mentioned that shortly before the christening, there were plans to name Elizabeth ‘Mary’ – as a slight to her older sister, to show that it was now the King’s younger daughter who was the legitimate one. But the idea, the envoy said, was abandoned.

    So Elizabeth I could have been ‘Mary II’!

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, I wrote about that in my post about Elizabeth’s birth. I haven’t seen it mentioned in any other sources so I wonder where Chapuys heard that.

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