The Christening of Edward VI

On this day in history, 15th October 1537, three days after his birth, Henry VIII’s son, the future Edward VI, was christened in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court in a lavish ceremony.

The day started with a procession from the Queen’s apartments to the chapel where Archbishop Thomas Cranmer performed the baptismal rites in front of three to four hundred people. Edward’s half-sister Mary stood as godmother while his other half-sister, the 4 year old Elizabeth, bore the chrisom cloth, helped by Edward’s uncle, Edward Seymour. Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, and Archbishop Cranmer stood as godfathers.

A report of Edward’s christening in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, tells of how Sir John Russell, Sir Francis Bryan, Sir Nicholas Carew and Sir Anthony Browne surrounded the font, equipped with aprons and towels while a procession of gentleman carrying torches, children and ministers of the King’s chapel (with the Dean), gentlemen esquires and knights, chaplains, abbots and bishops, King’s councillors and lords, the comptroller and treasurer, ambassadors, lord chamberlains, Lord Cromwell, the Duke of Norfolk and the Archbishop all processed, two by two, into the Chapel. The Earl of Sussex, supported by Lord Montague, carried a pair of covered basins, Thomas Boleyn, the Earl of Wiltshire, bore a “taper of virgin wax”, and a salt of Gold was carried by Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex. Behind these gentlemen came little Elizabeth with “the crysome richly garnished”, supported by Edward Seymour, Viscount Beauchamp.

The baby prince was carried under a canopy by the Lady Marquis of Exeter, Gertrude Blount, supported by the Duke of Suffolk and her husband. The Earl of Arundel carried the train of the Prince’s robe, helped by Lord William Howard, and the canopy above them was supported by Sir Edward Nevyll, Sir John Wallop, Richard Long, Thomas Seymour, Henry Knyvett and Mr Ratclif, all of the King’s Privy Chamber. The Prince’s wetnurse and midwife walked alongside the bearers of the train and torchbearers surrounded the canopy. After the canopy processed the Lady Mary with Lady Kingston carrying her train, followed by the other ladies of the court.

After Archbishop Cranmer had performed the rites of baptism, all of the torches were lit and the Garter King of Arms proclaimed the Prince’s name and titles, Prince Edward, Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester. The Te Deum was then sung, spice, hippocras, bread and sweet wine were served and then the torchlit procession made its way out of the Chapel and the little prince was taken back to his mother and father, King Henry VIII and Queen Jane Seymour.

Christening gifts included a gold cup from the Lady Mary, three bowls and two pots of silver and gilt from the Archbishop, and the same from the Duke of Norfolk, and two flagons and two pots of silver and gilt from the Duke of Suffolk.

Fires were lit in the streets of London and churchbells rang across England in celebration of the christening of Henry VIII’s son and heir – Prince Edward, the future King Edward VI.


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