7 September 1533 – A baby girl for Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn

Posted By on September 7, 2017

On this day in history, Sunday 7th September 1533, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, Queen Anne Boleyn gave birth to a baby girl at Greenwich Palace.

Although the birth of a daughter instead of the predicted prince must have been a disappointment initially, both her parents delighted in their daughter. Of course, nobody could have known that this little girl, who was baptised “Elizabeth”, would one day rule over England for over forty-fours years and would go down in history as the Virgin Queen, Gloriana and Good Queen Bess, the iconic Elizabeth I.

Edward Hall records Elizabeth I’s birth in his chronicle:

“The. vii. day of September beyng Sondaie, betwene thre and foure of the Clocke at after noone, the Quene was deliuered of a fare Lady, whiche daie the Duke of Norffolke came home to the christenyng, & for the Queues good deliueraunce, Te deum was song in continently, & great preparacion was made for the christenyng […]”

Charles Wriothesley records in his chronicle:

“Memorandum, the viith daie of September, 1533, being Sondaie, Queen Anne was brought to bedd of a faire daughter at three of the clocke in the after noune; and the morrowe after, being the daie of the Nativities of Oure Ladie, Te Deum was songe solempnlie at Powles [St Paul’s], the Major [Mayor] being present with the head craftes of the Cittie of London.”

Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, also records Elizabeth’s birth in a letter to Emperor Charles V:

“On Sunday last, on the eve of Lady Day, about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the Queen’s mistress was delivered of a girl, to the great disappointment and sorrow of the King, of the Lady herself, and of others of her party, and to the great shame and confusion of physicians, astrologers, wizards, and witches, all of whom affirmed that it would be a boy. The people in general have rejoiced at the discomfiture of those who attach faith to such divinations, and who, whatever face they may put on the present occasion, are nevertheless exceedingly affected and ashamed.

The Lord Mayor and aldermen of this city, the heads of guilds, and other citizens of note have been invited to the christening, as well as the two French ambassadors. The new-born is to be christened at Greynuich (Greenwich). The godmothers will be the mother-in-law to the duke of Norfolk and the marchioness of Exeter; the archbishop of Canterbury to hold the child at the font, and the bishop of London to christen her. She is to be called Mary as the Princess: which title, as I have been informed from various quarters, will be taken away from its true and legitimate owner, and given to this spurious daughter of the King. If so we shall soon hear.”

Henry and Anne were bound to have been disappointed because a prince had been predicted, but there is no evidence of “great disappointment and sorrow”. The celebratory jousts planned for the birth of the expected prince were cancelled, but it was traditional for the celebrations for the birth of a princess to be low-key. A herald proclaimed the good news, Te Deums were sung and the royal couple got on with planning Elizabeth’s lavish christening. Anne Boleyn had given birth to a healthy baby, there was much to celebrate for a prince would surely follow, wouldn’t he?

Notes and Sources

  • Hall, Edward (1809) Hall’s chronicle : containing the history of England, during the reign of Henry the Fourth, and the succeeding monarchs, to the end of the reign of Henry the Eighth, in which are particularly described the manners and customs of those periods. Carefully collated with the editions of 1548 and 1550, Printed for J. Johnson, p. 805.
  • Wriothesley, Charles (1875-77) A chronicle of England during the reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559, Volume 1, Printed for the Camden Society, p. 22
  • ‘Spain: September 1533, 1-15’, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 4 Part 2, 1531-1533, ed. Pascual de Gayangos (London, 1882), pp. 787-800. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol4/no2/pp787-800.

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15 thoughts on “7 September 1533 – A baby girl for Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn”

  1. Christine says:

    Happy birthday Princess Elizabeth your disappointed parents did not know it, but you were destined to become Englands greatest monarch of all time!

  2. Kate Rodgers says:

    She didn’t do too badly for a girl!

  3. Michael Wright says:

    Happy birthday Princess Elizabeth! I often see her long and glorious reign as a beautiful way for Anne to have the last word on not giving Henry a son. I wish she had lived to see her daughter become Queen (and rule without a husband). I don’t think Anne would’ve been the least bit surprised at how well she did. Somehow I think she knows.

  4. Laura says:

    Happy Birthday Elizabeth! My favourite Tudor queen. It is ironic that Elizabeth was a successful monarch, though it was due to being privileged having an education and being I suspect savvy.
    I think it was a happy time for both Henry and Anne. However if it had been a boy it would have secured Anne’s future. The fact the baby was healthy must have brought with it lots of promise.
    I like the fact that Henry had them squeeze an extra S. He must have been proud of the fact that he had a daughter and announce it correctly to the world.

  5. Regina says:

    I agree with Michael, it’s too bad Anne nor Henry would see Elizabeth I rule without a king consort, she did just fine on her own! That would have put Henry in his place and made Anne so happy. Elizabeth I was the perfect mix of Anne & Henry – good judgment, cleverness, common sense. Anne & Henry both would have been proud of her.

  6. Laura says:

    Henry did acknowledge that Elizabeth was intelligent didn’t he? I know he said that Mary did not cry. It is a shame that Elizabeth had to rule alone. Robert Dudley and her were an example that true love did not conquer all.

  7. Banditqueen says:

    I have a weird vision of all the witches, soothsayers and sorcerers heading for the coast and out of England. What else were they going to predict? Henry should have known they were telling him what he wanted to hear. However, he put on a good face and was pleased to have a healthy child, at least but must have had some disappointment. This was also embarrassing. Henry had torn the country in two because Anne had promised him a son and now he had another useless girl. He soon got over such feelings and he did dote on Elizabeth as did Anne in particular, but then he had doted on Mary for over eleven years. Anne was very fond of Elizabeth and she wanted to breastfeed her but this was not seemly and she carried her about on a pillow as she held court. Henry was aware of her intelligence I believe as he was with Mary and he encouraged her. Anne knew, however, that she had to give Henry a son and she didn’t see Elizabeth as a future Queen, but as a marriage asset. Several attempts to arrange an alliance came in, but in reality most Princes were still interested in Mary, rather than her tiny half sister, which given the political realism of Anne and Henry’s marriage, is not surprising. Henry and Anne did invest in Elizabeth and she was treated as their heir for the time being. Elizabeth was certainly paraded around when an ambassador was around or at the time of Katherine of Aragon’s death, but the genuine hope was that she would soon be joined by a brother.

    While it is true that Elizabeth went on to have a long and successful reign, neither Henry or Anne could see that or imagine it and just what sort of Queen she made is open to question by modern historians. Was she really Glorianna or was this just a portrait or propaganda? Was she even the Virgin Queen? Her reign was long and reasonably successful, but it cannot be said that she was the myth that people claimed in centuries afterwards. Elizabeth had her detractors in her own reign and the following century, both at home and abroad. What she did achieve and this is possibly more important, was that she reigned at all. Both of her siblings considered her illegitimate and she was in the succession as a matter of default. She may have been legitimately executed by her sister had she been found to be guilty of involvement in the Wyatt plot to kill and overthrow Queen Mary and had either Edward or Mary had any children, she wouldn’t be on the throne at all. Mary had considered making Margaret Douglas her heir, legitimate and Catholic but to keep the peace Mary named Elizabeth, a few days before her death. In one sense Mary showed better judgement than either her brother who almost caused a civil war by making Jane Grey Queen and her sister, who refused to name anyone even on her deathbed. It was a good job a sort of agreement existed to name James vi of Scotland King with her council as there were at least seven other people with just as good a claim. Elizabeth normally used sound judgement, but in this she was not showing any common sense at all. Elizabeth did perhaps have good luck with both of her parents and she took most of their better qualities. She was a shrewd political manipulator, she played the game of Queens well, she rarely committed herself to anything, she had learnt to watch and when to take advice and to be self reliant. She knew when to be ruthless and she knew when to play to the crowd. She knew when to be generous and take risks and she learned how to play her cards close to her chest. However, she also had the Tudor temper and her love for young ambitious men could have been her downfall. Luckily she had enough belief in her own preservation and power that she pulled out of those relationships before she was destroyed. The best example of this was her relationship with the twenty one year old Earl of Essex. Essex went too far and almost stole her crown and life, but Elizabeth played him and turned the tables. She would never share power with a man who wanted to dominate her and he was executed, despite being her lover. Elizabeth left behind her a strong myth and image of her age which to be fair had achieved a good deal if we see it from the view of sea power and exploration and her portraits helped with that message. However, it was not a time of peace as the wars in Ireland and two decades of conflict with Spain, both inherited by her successor prove. The Tudors generally icreased the wealth of the nation as a whole and Elizabeth saw much growth in commerce and what we now call the middle classes or independent businesses and foreign attacks on Spanish ships and gold made the crown personally wealthy. However, there were also hardships which not even her two Poor Laws could end, three years of famine, failed harvest at the end of her reign, plus the vast number of seamen who died of poverty and disease after the Armarda whom she did nothing to help.

    Elizabeth and Mary achieved the aims of Henry Viii by being the ones to rule as adults, while his son went the way of other Tudor male children, dying in mid to late teenage years. His illegitimate son also died aged 17 and Arthur, his brother died when 16. Two female survivors may have been a fluke or it may have been genetic; a lot of speculation exists on this subject. Anne could not have seen Elizabeth on the throne and neither could Henry but both of his daughters received a classical and advanced education. That education is very clear in her corresponding with Italian Ambassadors and Princes, in French and Spanish and her writing is clearly very intelligent. Mary and Elizabeth translated classic Latin and Greek as young ladies and Edward was also known for his cleverness. Anne was an intelligent and well educated woman as was Katherine, but so was Henry. It is little wonder all of his children shone with that same intelligence.

    1. Vermillion says:

      Re the succession, I don’t think Mary should ‘good judgement’ in naming Elizabeth as her successor – she resisted doing so until the very last minute and by that point essentially had no choice to do anything else. All those around her (including Philip) accepted that Elizabeth would succeed and I suspect no one would have listened to her if on her deathbed she had named someone else – by that stage she had no means of enforcing any other decision.

      Whilst Elizabeth didn’t explictly endorse any individual successor, by the 1590s it was pretty much an unspoken fact that James would be her successor. No one had as good a claim as he did and several of the alternative claimants were either female and/or strongly disliked by Elizabeth. To me it looks like, in her typically idiosyncratic way, she found a way round having to name someone outright whilst making her preference clear under the radar. The more dangerous time was in 1562 when she fell ill with smallpox, as at that stage there was no clear successor and no agreement on who it would be. As the last of Henry VIII’s line, Elizabeth didn’t have the security (or the potential annoyance) of having a successor already in line after her, which was a pretty unusual state of affairs in England (Queen Anne’s situation in the seventeenth century may be the only obvious parallel).

      Elizabeth was certainly fortunate in some respects, particularly in terms of living so long and outliving a number of her opponents, but despite the recent revisionism on this, taken on its own terms, her reign was a huge success. No one in 1558 I suspect would have imagined it would have turned out so well, particularly given what happened in other countries like France in the same period.

      1. Banditqueen says:

        I did say that Mary wanted to name Margaret Douglas until the last few days, just before she died in my comment. I agree, had she named someone else, there would have been problems and she was persuaded to name Elizabeth. However, I have to disagree that Mary was forced to do anything. Naming her successor was her decision. Elizabeth was named on condition that she left England Catholic, something she didn’t commit to either way, but it was sufficient for Mary, who was dying. Mary consented to her as her successor on advice at least three days before she died, not the last minute. Elizabeth didn’t even do that but refused to say anything. Whether under pressure or not, and there is no evidence that Mary was pressured, but advised, she chose Elizabeth as the lesser of two evils because she was a Tudor, a child of Henry Viii, and she could see another Jane Grey situation. Philip wanted Elizabeth as Queen because the pervert wanted to marry her, before his wife’s body was cold. He would lose England if not. There were probably other sensible reasons to make Elizabeth Queen, but we only know these with hindsight and the peace of the realm was the chief concern. Mary listened to those around her at a time she may not have done and showed good sense and judgement by putting her own desires aside to name Elizabeth, regardless of whether it was near her death or not. There was no need for her to do so before this as twice she believed she was carrying her husband’s child. Now her last months had turned into her last days, Mary had to make a decision and unlike her brother, she made the correct one, the one she was advised, not forced to do, and named, if somewhat reluctantly, Elizabeth because of her own experience. The succession was a lot less clear when Elizabeth died, with at least seven potential and good candidates in the wings, including James who was King because of Robert Cecil and his plots.

        1. Vermillion says:

          I think the reality is that Mary finally faced up to the fact that the terms of Henry VIII’s will in relation to the succession, which was what essentially ensured support for her succession in 1553, made it inescapable that Elizabeth would have to succeed her.

          Given that no one knows when they will die, even when they are mortally ill, and that news travelled much more slowly then than now, leaving it until three days before she died to settle the issue of the succession strikes me as pretty ‘last minute’!

          Perhaps this is beside the point though, since, as I mentioned in my previous post, Mary was pretty much accepting the inevitable by consenting to Elizabeth as her successor – had she died without naming any successor, I think it’s extremely unlikely that anyone other than Elizabeth would have even been considered, as there was no political support for anyone other than her at this stage. Jane Grey’s designation as Edward’s heir didn’t ensure her temporary ‘succession’ – this was only possible because (initially at least) there were a number of people in the political elite who wished to make it so. Mary wasn’t forced to name Elizabeth, but by this point her power to ensure that any other wish she might have had would be enforced was essentially negligible.

          Philip’s support for Elizabeth’s succession was, I suspect, based more on preventing Mary Stuart from advancing a claim and thus stymying any chance for France to gain influence over England rather than any ‘perverted’ feelings towards Elizabeth! In the rest of his life, he doesn’t come across as a particularly emotionally driven person.

          As I said in my original post, I don’t agree with you about the succession in 1603 being any less clear than that in 1558. James was the only plausible claimant and had been tacitly recognised as such for years – no other ‘claimant’ had any serious backing. Remember that James had to travel down from Scotland to make good his claim and he took until May 1603 to arrive in London. Such a time gap between Elizabeth’s death and his arrival would have presented any other claimant in England with any real chance of succeeding with the perfect opportunity to advance their claims in his absence – the fact that there was no evidence of anyone doing so suggests to me that none of them could realistically have done so.

        2. Banditqueen says:

          James may have been the best claimant and there were deals done to recognise that fact, Robert Cecil and others being those who “smoothed” the ground. You may not agree, but it’s a historical fact. It’s also a biological/legal fact. Elizabeth had a natural claim and a legal one, because of her father’s will and Parliament. She was never made legitimate again, not even by her own Parliament, but the legislation allowed for both Mary and Elizabeth to succeed by royal prerogative despite that. Mary had of course reversed everything to do with herself and her parents marriage and even religious settlements but didn’t declare Elizabeth legitimate, for obvious reasons, she didn’t believe that she was. In this, she was backed by her late brother who had some very insulting remarks about Anne in his Devise. However, lacking her own children meant the urgency of naming a successor and Mary had as early as 1554 said to Simon Renard that her preferred successor would be her eldest cousin, Margaret Douglas, not excluded by legal complications. This, as you have correctly pointed out was changed of course because of Mary’s long, grave last illness. She was not able to get her choice via Parliament in time, a problem which Edward had, dying before Parliament could confirm his Letters Patent. The support for Elizabeth was practical as well as personal as far as Philip was concerned because he could hold onto England by marrying her. The Grey factions were shamed by the actions of Jane Grey and their father, but not out of the Succession completely. The children of Catherine Grey and her grandchildren would continue to be seen ad trouble. The other problem was religious belief. Mary wanted a Catholic succession, but the other candidates were a direct threat, as in Mary Queen of Scotland who was growing up in France and would have French support, especially as she would soon become Queen Consort. You are quite right, Philip would seek a buffer and England was that buffer. Regardless of her illegitimate status, Elizabeth had cultivated personal support so made sense from a popular viewpoint as well. Mary’s decision was sensible and accepted the will made by her father and Elizabeth had a blood claim, a direct claim as her sister, or rather half sister and a practical solution which prevented needless trouble, but which had wider support and she couldn’t make her own choice hold before Parliament.

          For Elizabeth it was not straightforward at all as she had no more brothers and sisters, just a load of first and second cousins. The Scottish succession was excluded by Henry’s legal bans and his will and Mary was dead by the end of Elizabeth’s reign, executed by her due to a mixture of plots to put her on that throne and other plots to kill Elizabeth and her own claim to the crown. James made overtures once her reached his majority but it was only agreed that his claim would be considered by way of treaties in the 1590s. Much of the groundwork was done by Robert Cecil but Elizabeth was still officially reluctant and put anyone who raised it down. She didn’t name him but her ring was taken from her finger and her council agreed to his claim. It was the most logically sensible claim, but it was not the strongest legally. Seven other candidates had just as strong a claim and all of them were considered. Although the bloodline made James the best legitimate successor, he had to persuade many of the members of the court, plus there were others just as well placed and considered better because of their English claim. This was the two active lines from Mary, Duchess of Suffolk, the two sons of Catherine Grey and her cousins from Eleanor, Countess of Cumberland. These were her cousin, Margaret Clifford and her son, Ferdinando. The eldest cousin was Margaret Countess of Lennox who could have succeeded Mary I, whose grandchild, Arabella Stuart was a real challenge to King James. The old families of York and Lancaster also saw themselves as in with a good chance and one of their number in particular, during his lifetime, Philip ii of Spain had an even stronger claim than Elizabeth. His daughter, Isabella Clara Eugenia was seriously put forward by many as a genuine successor, even a year or two before Elizabeth died. Ferdinando Lord Stanley had exactly the same level of claim as James Vi and was not barred by any will or earlier Act of Succession as he was English. One suggestion was that the Infanta marry his brother William, 6th Earl of Derby and succeed. In 1594 there was a crisis with many tracts promoting these lines of Succession. By 1600 two candidates had died leaving the Lennox and Seymour and Stanley claims which were given serious consideration. However, to avoid the in fighting these families may produce, the legal claim of James via blood and the oldest of Henry Viii sister, Margaret Tudor was revisited. Elizabeth had never denied that Mary Queen of Scots was to be seen as her true and lawful successor and more or less indicated James would follow her. However, she refused to ratify anything when a Bill went through Parliament, on at least three occasions. The Catholic claims were never going to get anywhere if Cecil and Parliament had anything to do with the security of the country. The denials of Elizabeth could not continue and a secret deal was done to proclaim James King on her death. Robert Cecil was the architect of this and riders were waiting to ensure his claim by information that very night. It is assumed that James had the best claim and by blood rights it may have been so, but it was not that simple and to state it was shows a lack of understanding of the legal complexity of sixteenth century political goings on. Scotland was an old traditional enemy, just as France was, made more so with the wars of Henry Viii and Lord Protector Seymour in the name of Edward vi. Making a Scottish King or Queen ruler of England was not popular and had been feared for a long time. The Scottish succession was legally barred by Henry Viii so promoting it now was a real balancing act and without consent or if challened by others, with an old English claim, did not gain James automatic support.

        3. Christine says:

          Ha ha I like that Bq – pervert!, it is said Philip had a fancy for the young and sprightly Elizabeth but it didn’t stop him sending his Armada to her thirty years later, Mary knew Elizabeth was the right choice, she was great Harry’s daughter and popular, to the Protestants she represented hope and the prospect of peace to a country that had witnessed the struggle for the crown and the execution of a young girl, plots and civil war and the Smithfield fires, Now many looked towards her as their salvation, Mary died as she had lived in the catholic faith and hoped Elizabeth would see that England would remain catholic, yet her younger sister was the daughter of Anne Boleyn who had embraced reform and just as Mary was her mothers daughter, so was Elizabeth the product of the new religion, Elizabeth herself did not take the beliefs of Catholic or Protestantism seriously, whilst growing up self preservation was her first issue, she never named her successor it’s true, ever mindful of her subjects loyalty and she guarded her position jealously, having trod such a fraught path to the throne it’s little wonder.

  8. Christine says:

    Just as her father Henry V111 wished to portray to his subjects the image of a glittering God like King, so did Elizabeth portray herself as Gloriana, the virgin queen, chaste and noble, a merciful queen but she was also a terrible one when crossed, in comparison to her sister and father she was a merciful monarch, she did not execute those near the throne like her father did, for eg the wretched Margaret Pole, she did her best to preserve her cousin, the ill fated Mary Stuart from death when her council chiefly Cecil among them, tried their utmost to get her to execute her, the end when it came was dreadful but only happened after many years of captivity for Mary, the Earl of Essex being Mary Boleyns great grandson, and therefore Elizabeth’s third cousin reminds me of Sir Thomas Seymour, both power hungry men with little foresight and common sense, Essex rode into London with an army calling on the Londoners to join him in open rebellion against the queen, an act of treason if ever there was one, it was inevitable he ended up on the block, she had forgiven him time and again, he had disobeyed orders to stay in Ireland and had come back to England against Elizabeth’s wishes, unceremoniously barging into her bedchamber, Elizabeth was furious he saw her without her wig and powder and rouge, he was looking at an old woman, quite bald and not like Gloriana at all, Essex’s behaviour was that of a spoilt child and quite possibly I think both his mother and the queen had indulged him, Elizabeth certainly had and it was something she came to regret, she could not spare his life anymore and he too went to the block, during her long reign she did not execute many of her subjects but she dealt harshly with her rebellious catholic subjects and Anthony Babington the chief mover of the Babington plot, was hung drawn and quartered, however when Elizabeth was told of his horrific execution she decreed that his fellow conspirators be simply beheaded, iv often wondered what Henry would have made of his daughters reign, I feel he would have been disappointed that she had no son to carry on the Tudor dynasty, the dynasty that was founded on the field at Bosworth and which he had tried so hard to preserve, that he would have been proud of the defeat of the Armarda I have no doubt and of her courageous Tilbury speech, but he did not ever expect her to wear the crown, that was intended for her brother whom he hoped would follow, Elizabeth against huge odds survived to become queen and gave her name to the first Elizabethan age.

  9. sandra blattmann says:

    I am still stewing on the cake! In Switzerland we have something which looks like it. It Is known as “Herzogin torte” or Duchess cake. Whilst it appears to be covered in whipped cream, it is in actual fact covered in cooked meringue which is made by pouring hot sugar onto the eggwhites which obviates the need for putting it back in the oven to cook the eggs. It is a great favorite of ours and the Co-op in the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich makes a particularly good one. (They also make a particularly good Black Forest gateau, but that is a whole other story!)

  10. Laura says:

    Did Kat Ashley actually encourage Elizabeth to accept Thomas Seymour’s advances because it would be empowering? That is the only reason I can think of.

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