15 October 1537 – Christening of the future Edward VI

Hampton Court Palace - setting of Edward VI's birth and christening.
Hampton Court Palace – setting of Edward VI’s birth and christening.

On 15th October 1537, three days after his birth, the future Edward VI, son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, was christened in the Chapel Royal of Hampton Court Palace.

A document in the Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII gives us the details of the christening:

By the provision of God, Our Lady S. Mary, and the glorious martyr S. George, on the 12 day of October, the feast of St. Wilfrid, the vigil of St. Edward, which was on the Friday, about two o’clock in the morning, was born at Hampton Court Edward son to King Henry the VIIIth,” year 1537, Dominical letter G., 29 Henry VIII., “which was not christened till the Monday next following.”

Incontinent after the birth Te Deum was sung in Paul’s and other churches of the city, and great fires [were made] in every street, and goodly banquetting and triumphing cheer with shooting of guns all day and night, and messengers were sent to all the estates and cities of the realm, to whom were given great gifts.

The preparations ordained for the said christening at Hampton Court. Describing minutely the course of the procession and the decorations of the chapel, with the positions occupied by the officers of the household (Sir John Russell, Sir Fras. Bryan, Sir Nic. Carew, and Sir Ant. Browne in aprons and towels were to take charge of the font until discharged by the lord Steward, or, in his absence, the Treasurer of the Household). The order of going to the christening was: First, certain gentlemen two and two bearing torches not lighted until the prince be Christened. Then the children and ministers of the King’s chapel, with the dean, “not singing going outward.” Gentlemen esquires and knights two and two. Chaplains of dignity two and two. Abbots and bishops. The King’s councillors. Lords two and two. The comptroller and treasurer of the Household. The ambassadors. The three lords chamberlains and the lord Chamberlain of England in the midst. The lord Cromwell, being lord Privy Seal, and the lord Chancellor. The duke of Norfolk and abp. of Canterbury. A pair of covered basins borne by the earl of Sussex, supported by the lord Montague. A “taper of virgin wax borne by the earl of Wiltshire in a towel about his neck.” A salt of gold similarly borne by the earl of Essex. “Then the crysome richly garnished borne by the lady Elizabeth, the King’s daughter: the same lady for her tender age was borne by the viscount Beauchamp with the assistance of the lord.” Then the Prince borne under the canopy by the lady marquis of Exeter, assisted by the duke of Suffolk and the marquis her husband. The lady mistress went between the prince and the supporter. The train of the Prince’s robe borne by the earl of Arundel and sustained by the lord William Howard.” “The nurse to go equally with the supporter of the train, and with her the midwife.” The canopy over the Prince borne by Sir Edw. Nevyll, Sir John Wallop, Ric. Long, Thomas Semere, Henry Knyvet, and Mr. Ratclif, of the Privy Chamber. The “tortayes” of virgin wax borne about the canopy by Sir Humph. Foster, Robt. Turwytt, George Harper, and Ric. Sowthwell. Next after the canopy my lady Mary, being lady godmother, her train borne by lady Kingston. All the other ladies of honour in their degrees.

When the Prince was christened all the torches were lighted and Garter King at Arms proclaimed his name (proclamation verbatim, titles duke of Cornwall and earl of Chester). “This done, this service following was in time the Prince was making ready in his traverse, and Te Deum sung”:—First, to the lady Mary the lord William to give the towel and the lord Fytzwater to bear covered basins, and the lord Montagew to uncover. Item, to the bishop that doth administer, the lord Butler to bear the towel, the lord Bray to bear the basins and the lord Delaware to uncover. To the duke of Norfolk and abp. of Canterbury, godfathers, the lord Sturton to bear the towel and the lord Went worth to give the water. To serve the ladies Mary and Elizabeth with spices, wafers, and wine: the lord Hastings to bear the cup to lady Mary, and the lord Delaware that to lady Elizabeth; lord Dacres of the South to bear the spice plates to both, lord Cobham the wafers, and lord Montagew to uncover the spice plate. The bishop that doth administer, the duke of Norfolk and abp. of Canterbury, godfathers at the font, and the duke of Suffolk, godfather at the confirmation, to be likewise served by knights appointed by the lord Chamberlain. All other estates and gentles within the church were served with spice and ypocras, and all other had bread and sweet wine.

The going homeward was like the coming outward, saving that the taper, salt and basin were left and the gifts of the gossips carried, i.e. Lady Mary, a cup of gold borne by the earl of Essex; the archbishop, 3 great bowls and 2 great pots, silver and gilt, borne by the earl of Wiltshire; Norfolk, ditto, borne by the earl of Sussex; Suffolk, 2 great flagons and 2 great pots, silver and gilt, borne by Viscount Beauchamp. Lady Elizabeth went with her sister Lady Mary and Lady Herbert of Troy to bear the train. Sounding of the trumpets. Taking of “assayes.” The Prince was then borne to the King and Queen and had the blessing of God, Our Lady, and St. George, and his father and mother; and the same day the King gave great largess.

Letters and Papers also gives a full list of all those in attendance at the christening – see LP xii. Part 2. 911.ii

As you can see from the above record, Edward’s half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, were both involved, as were his uncles (Edward and Thomas Seymour) and Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire. Edward’s eldest half-sister stood as his godmother and his godfathers were Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk; Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk; and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.

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10 thoughts on “15 October 1537 – Christening of the future Edward VI”
  1. England has a long tradition of impressive pageantry as is evident by the large number of visitors who come to London for our special royal occasions. The description of the christening of Prince Edward shows how far back such traditions go. It must have been a spectacular day out for those who witnessed it. What a shame the television cameras were not there to record it.

  2. I have often wondered about how Thomas Boleyn felt about participating in this rite and seeing his granddaughter, Elizabeth. I don’t imagine she knew who he was, but I wonder if he was allowed to speak to her. I know he died a few years later, so I don’t know if they ever met again.

    1. Good question! The execution of both George and Anne Boleyn was still a fairly fresh event; were I any of the Boleyn family, I’d have kept my head down and moved fast.

    2. I think Thomas would have done whatever he could to keep on the King’s good side for the sake of his remaining family. It must have been so hard for him to be present at this christening. I don’t know if he ever spent any time with his granddaughter, it’s sad.

  3. Enjoyed reading about Elizabeth walking out of the ceremony with her elder half-sister; pity the good relationship between the two didn’t last.

  4. A beautiful and very remarkable ceremony and lovely to see the new completed chapel of Hampton Court completed the previous year fianlly used for a celebration of such an importance. This was one of the last Catholic public chapels built at this time and was one of the last used in such a traditional service and honour. It has been in continual use as a chapel ever since. The ceremony must have been lovely and very emotional as well as at last England had a male heir, but England had also seen such a ceremony before back in 1511 and the boy had only lived 58 days; Henry surely must have been nervous about protecting his health. I too have noted the presence of Sir Thomas Boleyn; and that Princess Elizabeth and Mary had important roles in the baptism as well as the great Lords and Ladies as his godfathers and escorts.

  5. I am not sure that the idea of Sir Thomas Boleyn being at the Christening is so strange in light of reading about the Woodvilles and Henry VII as suvivors of previous regiems do seem to have found a place in new ones or have at least made an effort to show they are not hostile to the new state of affairs. The nobles of Richard III found their place at the Tudor court after a time, even Surrey after he was released from prison when Henry VII needed his military assistance and experience. The Howards then prospered under his son until the end of the reign at least. The baptism of Prince Author had some rather interesting representatives from the Yorkist era as well. Cicilly Neville was one of the godmothers of her maternal great grandson and as the grand matriarch of the House of York I am sure she swallowed a great cup of pride before going to the ceremony. Elizabeth Woodwille herself was present as she had been restored to ex Queen Mother/Dowager by Henry Tudor, whose cause she had supported with his own mother now, Queen Mother Margaret Countess of Richmond; Lady Stanley. What a complex web and I think I have got the relationships right. But what a way to go!

    I am certain that Sir Thomas Boleyn was present as he was asked and that he wanted to keep in some favour and may have done anything he was asked but it at least shows that the family was not entirely forgotten about or treated as aliens. Some form of stately favour was at least possible. I have read commentators say that this was the way that Elizabeth found a route back into her father’s favour. I think she was merely doing a service or duty but it may have been the start of regular contact again with her father and Jane certainly made efforts to keep Elizabeth in the mind of Henry. Mary also played a regal possition and this was certainly a mark of her own royal status as it was her showing favour to her little brother. The Lords being asked are normally the most important in the court at the time and those most in favour. And you asked Cromwell as a matter of course and Henry found hims still in high favour and importance even at this time. I must also point out that contrary to the Tudors there is no evidence of any hatred or anger between Cromwell and Suffolk at this time. In fact letters between them show that Cromwell was a friend of Suffolks and that his assistance even in family matters was sought on a regular basis.

    Finally all of the lords and nobles would have wanted to make a great show at least of being glad that the King now had a son, to share in the celebrations and royal bounty and that there was no bad feeling between them, for the peace of the realm and court if nothing else. What they really thought, I am sure they would carefully keep to themselves.

    1. I agree, I don’t think it was strange at all, although it must have been sad for him to see Elizabeth and for her not to be part of his life, I think it was what was expected of him and what he needed to do for his career and remaining family. You had to be a survivor at the Tudor court. Look at the Howards, the Staffords etc. Families had to put the past behind them and serve the King loyally, no matter what they had lost and what they might feel in private.

  6. As direct descendant of William St Barbe, Gentleman of the Privy Chamber of both Henry & Elizabeth, my family still has half the ‘Gold Cloth’ that Edward was christened under, It was made in Venice and is still stunning to look at.

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