September 10 – The christening of Elizabeth I at Greenwich

Sep10,2022 #Elizabeth I

On this day in Tudor history, 10th September 1533, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth I, was christened at the Church of Observant Friars in Greenwich.

Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn.

She had a lavish christening service presided over by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who also stood as the little girl’s godfather. Her godmothers were the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk and the Marchioness of Exeter.

Let me share a contemporary account of Elizabeth’s christening service and the celebrations that followed…


On this day in Tudor history, Wednesday 10th September 1533, Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Queen 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.

Edward hall gives an account of Elizabeth’s christening in his chronicle:

“the Mayor and his brethren, and 40 of the chief of the citizens were commanded to be at the Christening, the Wednesday following, upon which day the Mayor, sir Stephen Pecocke, in a gown of Crimson Velvet with his collar of S. S. and all the Aldermen in Scarlet, with collars and chains, and all the council of the city with them, took their barge after dinner, at one of the clock, and the citizens had another barge, and so rowed to Greenwich, where were many lordes, knightes and gentlemen assembled.

All the walls between the Kyng’s place and the Friars, were hanged with Arras, and all the way strawed with greene rushes: the Friar’s Church was also hanged with Arras. The Font was of silver, and stood in the midst of the Church, three steps high, which was covered with a fine cloth, and diverse gentlemen with aprons, and towels about their necks, gave attendance about it, that no filth should come in the Font. Over it hung a square Canapy of crimson Satin, fringed with gold, about it was a rail covered with red say: between the quire and the body of the Church, was a close place with a pan of fire, to make the child ready in : when all these things were ordered, the child was brought to the hall, and then every man set forward: First the citizens two and two, then gentlemen, Esquires and chaplains, next after them the Aldermen, and the Mayor alone: next the Mayor, the king’s council, the king’s Chapel in copes: then Barons, Bishops, Earles, then came the Earl of Essex, bearing the covered Basins gilt, after him the Marquis of Exeter with the taper of virgin wax, next him the Marquis of Dorset, bearing the salt, behind him the lady Mary of Norfolk, bearing the crisom which was very rich of pearl & stone, the old Duchess of Norfolk bare the child, in a Mantel of purple velvet, with a long train furred with Ermine. The duke of Norfolk, with his Marshall rod, went on the right hand of the said duchess, & the duke of Suffolk on the left hand, and before them went the officers of arms: the countess of Kent bare the long train of the child’s mantel, and between the Countess of Kent and the child, went the Earl of Wilshire on the right hand, and the Earl of Derby on the left hand, supporting the said train : in the midst over the said child was borne a Canopy, by the lorde Rocheford, the lorde Hussee, the lorde William Howard; and by the lord Thomas Howard the elder, after the child followed many ladies, and gentlewomen, when the child was come to the church door, the bishop of London met it with diverse bishops and Abbots mitred, and began the observances of the Sacrament. The Godfather was the lorde Archbishop of Canterbury : the Godmothers were the old Duchess of Norfolk, and the old Marchioness of Dorset widows, and the child was named Elizabeth : and after that all thing was done, at the church door the child was brought to the Font, and christened, and this done, Garter chief king of arms cried aloud, God of his infinite goodness, send prosperous life and long, to the high and mighty Princess of England Elizabeth : and then the trumpets blew, then the child was brought up to the altar, and the Gospel said over it: and after that immediately the Archbishop of Canterbury confirmed it, the Marchioness of Exeter being Godmother, then the Archbishop of Canterbury, gave to the Princess a standing cup of gold : the Duchess of Norffolke, gave to her a standing cup of gold, fretted with pearl: the Marchioness of Dorset gave three gilt bowls, pounced with a cover : and the Marchioness of Exeter gave three standing bowls graven, all gilt with a cover. Then was brought in Wafers, Comfettes, hypocras in such plenty, that every man had as muche as he would desire. Then they set forwards, the trumpets going before in the same order, towards the kyng’s place, as they did when they came thether warde, saving that the gifts that the Godfather, and the Godmothers gave, were borne before the child by four persons, that is to. say: First Sir John Dudley, bare the gift of the Lady of Exeter: the lord Thomas Howard the younger bare the gift of the lady of Dorset : the lord Fitzwater bare the gift of the Lady of Norfolk, and the Earl of Worcester, bare the gift of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and all the one side as they went, was full of staff Torches, to the number of five hundred, borne by the guard and other of the king’s servants, and about the child were borne, many other proper torches borne by gentlemen: and in this order they brought the princess to the Queen’s chamber, & the Mayor & the Aldermen tarried there a while, and at the last the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk came out from the King, thanking them heartily, & said the king commanded them to give them thanks in his name: and from thence they were had to the cellar to drink, and so went to their Barges.”

For me, it’s lovely to note that Elizabeth’s maternal grandfather, Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire, held his baby granddaughter’s train, and that her uncle, George Boleyn, bore her canopy.

In his Chronicle, Charles Wriothesley records the celebrations in London: “and the morrow after, there was fires made in London, and at every fire a vessel of wine for people to drink for the said solemnity.”

In just over 25 years’ time, Elizabeth would be their queen!

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One thought on “September 10 – The christening of Elizabeth I at Greenwich”
  1. A beautiful lavish spectacle for this little baby, how she was feted and yet so had been her mother, the blow of the sword three years later took away her high office and standing, but for now she was indeed the one true legitimate heir of her father, King Henry V111, had she been the boy her parents wanted the celebration’s would have been even more lavish, a tournament had been prepared but that had been cancelled, and to the word ‘Prince’ had been added two more letters of ‘S’, by tradition the queen did not attend her daughters christening, and she was still maybe taking it easy, although this ancient ritual with all its pomp was normal for royal babes, it was still very much a family affair as was evident in the presence of Elizabeth’s grandfather and uncle, Sir Thomas must have been full of pride as he witnessed his grandchild being carried to the font whilst the archbishop sprinkled water over her, alas this was the only child borne of his daughter who was to have such a ceremony, but the baby was healthy and the people cheered and the wine flowed in the streets.

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