15 October 1537 – Edward VI’s christening at Hampton Court Palace


On this day in Tudor history, 15th October 1537, three-day-old Prince Edward (the future King Edward VI), son of King Henry VIII and his third wife, Queen Jane Seymour, was christened in a lavish ceremony in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace.

In today’s “on this day in Tudor history” video, I share a contemporary account of the christening ceremony, including a list of those who played prominent roles. Edward’s half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, both attended, with Mary standing as godmother and Elizabeth carrying the chrisom cloth. But you’ll also recognise lots of other Tudor personalities.

You’ll notice that Thomas Boleyn is mentioned and he must have had very mixed feelings about the day. If only his daughter, Anne Boleyn, had given the king a son! Poor poor Thomas had had to come back to court and do his duty as a king’s servant, and prove his loyalty, for the good of his surviving family, whatever his personal feelings. At least this ceremony would have given him the opportunity to see his granddaughter, Elizabeth.

Here is my video on the christening:

By the way, if you like my hoodie then you can see t-shirts, hoodies and lots of other things featuring this design in my channel shop at https://teespring.com/on-this-day-in-tudor-history…

I mention the re-enactment of Edward VI’s christening done for the documentary “Britain’s Tudor Treasure: A Night at Hampton Court”. You can see that at https://youtu.be/jjoLrOH6xDQ, or just search for it here on YouTube.

You can find out about Edward’s birth in Claire’s talk from 12th October – https://youtu.be/sfHi1REWh-I

Please do consider subscribing to my YouTube channel as I am doing daily Tudor history videos at the moment – https://www.youtube.com/AnneBoleynFiles/

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9 thoughts on “15 October 1537 – Edward VI’s christening at Hampton Court Palace”
  1. I saw some of that programme and it was wonderful how they re an-acted it, it was very lavish with the costumes and the candlelight flickering on the old stones of the chapel, unfortunately I never saw all of it so I’m looking forward to seeing it again, I have an apple device that allows me to watch it on the big screen which is very handy, I love that portrait of Edward he was such a lovely chubby baby, brimming with health rosy cheeks and golden hair, he is so cherubic and he has his mothers eyes with the upward slant, so sad looking at him and knowing the glorious future he had, to know that he was struck down so young and was to die a pitiful horrible death, such a waste to know that vibrant life ebbed away coughing up filthy black sputum, all his intelligence and fervour for his religion, all gone such a dreadful waste for England as we will never know what a ruler he would have made, we can only imagine, he could have been much feared like his father and sister Elizabeth, he was said to be a child prodigy and I feel there was that in him to command respect and awe, he was although resembling his mother in looks, not mild mannered like her, and I think he had many of his father’s characteristics, there was the time he reduced his elder sister Mary to tears over her what he called her popish beliefs, imagine the scene and he was so much younger than her, he was a very unusual little boy in that he was so solemn, he appears to have been what we call today ‘an old soul’, he was robbed of his future and England was robbed of what could have been another auguste ruler, his death paved the way to glory for his two sisters even though he tried to deny them both their inheritance, we can feel for Sir Thomas Boleyn in attendance at his christening, having to endure the lavish ceremony which had his daughter been able to provide a son, would have still been queen, in Janes place and she would have been rejoicing with the King over their bonny baby, in stead she had been killed to make little Edwards death possible, it must have stuck like bile in his throat knowing she was lying in her grave a few miles up the river whilst another queen was celebrated and feted, but there was nothing he could do but honour the new baby and serve his King as he had done for many years, it was hardly surprising neither he nor his wife lived for much longer, their hearts were broken and King Henry remarrying so soon after Annes death must have made their grief a hundred times worse, it showed a complete disregard for their feelings and sense of common decency, little Edwards life was just beginning yet several people had died to make that possible.

  2. Henry had to have been on cloud nine. The son he had waited so long for had been born healthy and thriving and now to be christened. I’m sure he still held some trepidation as to what the next few days or weeks would bring but this would have been a big relief. A spare would be nice but he achieved his primary goal.

  3. At last after three wives and 28 years of marriage Henry Viii had a healthy son and heir and his magnificent baptism was held at Hampton Court. The reconstruction 500 years later was based on a near contemporary roll of parchment showing who was in the procession and ceremonies and their roles. The reconstruction with David Starkey and Lucy Worsley was wonderful and I really enjoyed it. The palace was brought back to life again, full of people and pageantry, just as it should be. Hampton Court ceased to be a royal residence in the early reign of Queen Victoria who opened it up to the public. The baptism party included the Duke of Norfolk and Princess Mary and little Elizabeth, herself carried by the Marquis of Exeter and just about anyone important.

    Mary was one of the God parents, as was Thomas Cromwell and the Duchess of Suffolk and one of the guests was Thomas Boleyn. That must have been difficult for him, commanded to attend the baptism of the son of the woman who had replaced the judicially murdered Anne Boleyn, his daughter. However, Thomas had returned to Court and Royal service as soon as he had completed mourning his son and daughter because that was what his family fortunes depended on, it was his living and how a courtier showed loyalty. We don’t know how he felt but it could not have been at all comfortable for him during this time. The whole of the ceremony was very grand, a special platform was raised and everyone could see Edward lowered into the font, baptised, dipped three times into the warm water and signed with the Cross. He was then dried and dressed again in his very long Christening robes. Afterwards a party with nibbles went on in the chapel.

    Henry and Jane watched the ceremony, but didn’t take part. Henry must have felt really joyful and maybe hopefully Jane would soon have more children as the years passed. However, as we know, that dream was not to be as the poor Queen died from an infection and complications on 24th October, twelve days after Edward was born. Henry Viii was genuinely upset, withdrawing from view for several months and refusing to see anyone, save his fool, Will Somers.

    1. Henry effectively withdrew from public life for several months and in this I think we can see the extent of the love he had felt for Jane, the esteem he had held her in which must have increased with the birth of their son, I thought The Tudors portrayed that very well, the King was genuinely upset and as in most people when hit by grief, they shut themselves away and cannot abide being in company, it’s easy to understand, the sympathetic looks and apologetic phrases that one has to endure, and he would have had to endure more than most being King, he left the reigns of government to Cromwell and was closeted with his fool Sommers for a long time, and in this simple mans dry wit and easy character, he perhaps found solace that he could not with anyone else, even his close friend Brandon, Henry V111 was no stranger to sorrow and had seen his own mother die from the effects of childbirth, he had lost many children over the years and everyone knew in that age, that for a woman to become pregnant was inviting death into her chamber, and in the weeks that followed the baby’s life was also at risk, Royal children were sent away to the country where there was less chance of infection and fresh air, it is amazing when we know that Edward was a perfectly healthy little baby as it took him two days to make his entry into the world, he was not in distress at all unlike his poor mother, and I feel so sorry for Jane who never got to know her child as she would have been so proud of him, the court went into mourning and it must have been very sad with the King shut away, there would have been no banquets or dancing but a dreadful dismal atmosphere, Christmas that year would have been cheerless and meanwhile the new prince was fussed over and he had a wet nurse specially chosen, the walls of his nursery were scrubbed daily and Henry V111 must have visited his son quite frequently, meanwhile the little lady Elizabeth daughter of his discarded queen, was residing in Hatfield and growing fast as children do, her outfits were straining at the waist and her shoes were pinching her toes, yet Edward had all the aplomb all the attention of being the Kings one true legitimate heir and prince, his other daughter Mary was to be chief mourner at Janes funeral and she must have grieved for her to, Jane had been a true friend to her and had shown her genuine affection which had been missing from her life for a good many years, she had been separated from her beloved mother and had leant a lot on Chapyus for guidance and I believe he had filled a void in her life, when Anne Boleyn had fallen and Jane married her father, that queen had set about bringing a reconciliation between them, she had even bravely suggested putting her back in the succession which angered Henry, but the fact that Jane tried is a credit to her knowing the misery the unhappy girl had suffered for being declared a bastard and losing her status as Henrys heir, yet it Jane was meddling in political matters and Henry was very sensitive about his first marriage and he had declared it null and void, he had hoped to have more sons with Jane and for now he did not wish Mary or Elizabeth back in the succession, as the years went by and any more chances of him siring another son looked increasingly unlikely, he did however place them both back in, yet their status was still illegitimate, out of all Henrys three children it was only Edward whose legal right as his father’s heir was never in question, and Henry only ever referred to Jane as his first true wife, during the mourning period that was held for her, he must have decided that she would be the one he would lie next to for eternity, and that he would be with her in the afterlife that followed.

  4. You are right, Christine, the Tudors did it very well, with the black mourning, the tomb which would have originally had her image on top but which was later dismantled as it was meant to be with Henry there as well, the place actually did go downhill without him to control the unruly children aka nobility, Cromwell really was besides himself, the King was out of it, completely and desperately besides himself with grief, he was almost in sack cloth and ashes and alone with his fool, but outside things were not going well.

    He wrote to King Francis that God had mixed the blessing of a son and heir, his joy with the grief of the loss of her who was the “greatest consolation in his whole world” . Maybe Henry loved Jane because she had borne him a healthy son, but it is clear he did love her, perhaps not with the passion he had felt for Anne Boleyn but with the sophisticated love he had once felt for Katherine of Aragon. Not that a mature male can’t be passionate, but Henry wasn’t unfaithful to Jane. Apart from his rebound affair with Kathryn Howard, there is no record of him having a mistress in any of his last four marriages.

    I absolutely reject any suggestion that Henry would have become bored with Queen Jane because such views are based on modern assumptions and biased views because of the support for the more colourful Anne Boleyn, with whom Jane is often unfairly compared. I know this isn’t a very popular opinion but here is my reasoning. Henry Viii was now in his late 40s and he still needed more children. Jane had proved herself were his two others had failed. There is absolutely no evidence to support views that Jane was plain or boring and Anne was no conventional beauty either. Henry grew bored of Anne within months of their marriage and began regularly to have affairs, probably more than he had done with Katherine who was regularly pregnant. Jane was shrewd politically and was learning how to handle Henry: a healthy son gave her political power and bedroom power. Jane was safe, regardless of how many, if any women Henry sought out. He would need to regularly return to his wife’s bed if he wanted more legitimate children. If Jane survived, her position would be unassailable and she probably could have made his life easy or difficult. As a peacemaker Jane would have helped with all of his children eventually. Jane most certainly would have had other children, Henry’s sexual problems probably didn’t begin until after 1540 onwards and given her genetic heritage, at least one more son is probable. Henry had chosen Jane precisely because she was more like Katherine and was far more compliant than Anne. Personally I believe he couldn’t be bothered to get bored at his age and it was only her death which led to further wives. I don’t believe Jane was as unsophisticated or not well educated as modern mythology would have us believe and she would have become much more confidence and accomplished as a diplomatic and supporting Queen. Henry may have had the odd affair during her pregnancies, but growing bored, I don’t believe that at all. Jane had served two previous Queens and boy had she learned from both of them! She was just as educated as most noble women, how to rule and run a big household, how to hunt expertly, to play music and dance, her needlework was second to none, she could obviously read and write, she spoke French, something only recently picked up on, she was devoutly Catholic, traditional but she was open hearted, set herself a clear mission as Queen to help Mary, she took risks but learned from her mistakes, she was a shrewd operator, listening to and acting on advice on how to handle the King and she would only have become stronger in all of these things as she helped to raise and influence her son or sons. Henry’s grief was genuine and I personally feel he was lost without her. I am not team Anne, Katherine or Jane, but I do feel because of less attention being given to Jane because she wasn’t around for long as Queen we are too quick to judge her by modern standards and by the lack of information. She is unfairly compared to Anne Boleyn, especially on sites like this one, not by Claire but from contributors, because she replaced Anne and Anne was so brutally treated by Henry in order to marry Jane. I am not saying Jane didn’t push her own agenda, speaking to Henry that his marriage to Anne was over and unpopular, but she didn’t cause or celebrate Anne’s death. Henry wanted to get rid of Anne Boleyn for many reasons, including her on going tragic birth record: there was nothing going to prevent the events of May 1536 but the birth of a healthy son. Henry had made up his mind during April and Cromwell had provided the means for her dramatic fall. It was harsh, it was cruel, Anne was innocent, but it wasn’t the fault of Jane Seymour. If Henry didn’t choose Jane, he would have chosen someone else. However, what Jane did have which prompted her from sympathetic mistress to valiant Queen was the fact she was promoted by, at the heart of and may have headed a powerful and very large traditional faction which were joined by those who supported Princess Mary in the succession. That was the agenda Jane promoted, although it was Cromwell who reconciled Mary to her father, only after the Princess had submitted to the King. Jane, I don’t believe, should ever be underestimated in her influence on Henry, especially had she lived and gone on to have more children.

    Henry’s withdrawal was extremely confusing for the Council and there was trouble around the Court precincts. Henry was a giant of a man with a huge, influential, charismatic personality who kept order. Everyone was in healthy awe of him. His lack of presence was disconcerting and he was badly missed. Henry was heartbroken, his wife’s death reminding him of the loss of his own dear mother, his peaceful domestic world had gone, his son had no mother and Henry just couldn’t face anyone or anything. The Duke of Norfolk was left to arrange her magnificent state funeral and Henry determined to join her in death for eternity.

  5. Henrys passion for Anne had been when he was much younger, it had all the ardent all consuming obsessiveness that we could say Prince Paris felt for Helen, Queen of Sparta, her fleeing with him to Troy led to the destruction of that fabled city, it was a Greek tragedy and somewhat akin to Henry V111’s tormented love for Anne Boleyn, they too caused destruction and the deaths of many people, lives were ruined in the process and the people who it touched were never the same again, when we look at Henrys courtship of Jane it appears ‘safe’ almost, he met this shy young lady who was one of his queens ladies in waiting and found he liked her dimpled smile and downcast eyes, I can see her blushing when he spoke to her, she had been at court many years serving first Katherine, then his second queen, something about her attracted his interest, weary of his wife’s nagging and disrespect he sought her out and from there we can safely assume a certain love grew, it’s true that Jane has not had it easy with historians who as Bq says are either team Anne Jane or Katherine, I have never read Joanna Denny’s biography of Anne as certain critics have said it is very biased against Katherine, she sneered at her Catholic beliefs one critic said, in Ives book of Anne he made deragotory comments about her appearance, Denny was obviously a great admirer of Anne like Ives and I must admit I found her dull compared to the enigmatic Anne, for some time I did not like Jane very much, I felt in a way she had contributed to her downfall but after reading many books on Henry V111 and his court and also, spending time on this website I have changed my mind and can see how Jane had no part in her former mistress’s death, Henry V111 wanted a way out of his marriage he alone was responsible for sending her to her death, Jane just happened to be there and had she not been then it would have been another, we do not know what kings said to their queens in the privacy of their bedchamber and for all we know, Jane could have implored Henry to save her life and just banish her instead, she was not hard hearted I believe she felt for little Elizabeth and must have thought how she would have felt knowing her father had ordered her own mothers death, of course this is mere speculation I am only going on decent womanly feelings, yet she was very fond of and loyal to Mary and I believe she felt a lot of sympathy for those less fortunate than herself, she tried to end the suffering that was caused by the sacking of the monasteries and this shows a character determined to speak up, and be a champion for the underdog, she also knew how to keep quiet when it appears she may have overstepped the mark, when she tried to get Mary reinstated in the succession Henry was irritated and called her a fool, when she sank to her knees and implored him to stop the dissolution he brutally told her to remember what happened to her predecessor, that was an awful remark to make and yet Jane bit her lip and kept quiet, that was what he liked about her she knew when to shut up, it was something Anne never learnt and her downfall was in some way due to her to character, apart from the son she failed to give him, she was a nag and a scold and the love the King had felt for her began to flicker and die, worse she sneered at him in public which shows a lack of respect for him not only as her husband but as her monarch, Anne was her own worse enemy and Henry began to see her as a very real thorn in his side, no wonder he began to seek out Jane, once in history lessons at school our teacher asked us to write an essay on Henry and Jane, she asked us if we thought he would have remained faithful to Jane had she lived, I said yes then when I was older I changed my mind, of course he wouldn’t have, he had a roving eye and Jane was no beauty, yet now I find myself changing my mind again, I think possibly he would have, he was not the young Adonis of his youth, he was now middle aged and not in the best of health, and he was I think disillusioned with the concept of romantic love, Anne had in a sense chewed him up and spat him out, he was not in the best of health and had his family, two daughters and his little boy so he had his heir and I think he was not inclined to take lovers anymore, he wanted to settle down in domestic bliss with Jane, she made him happy and their courtship which had been like tepid waters on the ocean unlike the tempest that had been Anne, he welcomed that change, in fact iv often thought their courtship was rather like that of a Victorian novel, Jane smiling shyly behind the potted palms whilst Henry in his finest came a courting at her father’s house, she was always accompanied when he visited her and there were no ardent passionate letters – declarations of love, they were like a Victorian couple or two old friends who had met up after many years apart, and found themselves liking one another’s company again, it was like a deep affection and out of that grew a genuine love that never blazed but neither burnt and I feel that’s how Henry felt for Jane, his grief at her sudden death was genuine and she did have a magnificent funeral, as he grew older he did come to regard her as the ideal wife and queen and she is portrayed in Holbeins painting which the King commissioned years later, she was as Bq attest’s no dullard, born the daughter of country gentry with a pedigree going back to Edward 111, she had been educated fitting a lady who served at court, she could ride well she was an expert needle woman and had been taught like all daughters of the nobility, how to run a large household, her looks character and impact on history has been overshadowed by Henrys second queen, yet she is important just as important as his other wives, she died young and was robbed of the chance to be an effective queen consort, had she lived then she would have ruled as regent for her son when Henry died, she could have gone down in history as quite an influential consort like Katherine of Aragon, I am not sure about her having anymore sons though, her first experience was certainly horrendous and she could have been unable like Margaret Beaufort to have anymore children, possibly I doubt she would ever want to, her death really led to her husband venturing into marriage hood another three times, yet she alone out of all of them, gave her king a son who survived infancy.

    1. Thanks Christine for your kind words. I love reading your posts as they are really full of insight and understanding of the characters and their feelings come through. You have a lot of empathy and your posts are so full of excellent details and beautiful imagery. Very enjoyable.

      I love the way Holbein has captured Jane’s shy looks, her hooded eyes, her shrewd looks; you are left wondering what is this lady hiding, what secret is she holding onto? Is she watching and learning? I think she was an observant young woman and watched, learned and practiced.

      1. Thank you Bq your posts are very interesting to read as well, Iv often studied the portraits of Henry’s queens and wondered what they were thinking, I find Janes is like a closed book I cannot read anything in her gaze, yet Catherine Howard’s portrait looks rather proud and disdainful, the many portraits of Anne show a lady with a vivacious expression typical of her nature, it is however, his sixth queens portrait I find the most interesting, she looks sideways and her expression is furtive and anxious, it’s as if she senses doom just around the corner or constantly expects it and fears it, she out of all his wives shows exactly the torment which she and her predecessors must have felt, being married to England’s most notorious king.

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