The Christening of Prince Edward: ‘Son and heir to the King of England’

789px-Hans_Holbein_the_Younger_-_Edward_VI_as_a_Child_-_Google_Art_Project

On the 15th of October 1537, three days after he was born, Prince Edward was christened at the royal chapel of Hampton Court Palace. His eldest sister, Lady Mary Tudor, stood as his godmother with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, performing the ceremony.

Mary Tudor carrying Prince Edward

“As befitted a lady of royal birth –and the child’s godmother- she was wearing a kirtle of cloth of silver, richly embroidered.” (Porter)

And she wasn’t the only one dressed for the occasion. Despite the outbreak of the plague, between three and four hundred clerics, nobles and foreign envoys had come to witness the baptism of the new Tudor Prince. Among the nobles present, was none other than his second eldest sister, the Lady Elizabeth Tudor who was carried by her new step-uncle, Edward Seymour who was created Earl of Hertford on that day.

“The gentlemen in the procession walked in pairs, carrying unlit torches before them. The children and ministers of the king’s chapel followed. The knights, chaplains and other members of the nobility also walked in pairs.” (Norton)

Following them was the Marchioness of Exeter carrying the little prince, assisted by her husband and the Duke of Suffolk. The prince was “dressed in a great robe with a long train borne by Lord William Howard” and Norton adds: “over the prince’s head, a canopy was held by a number of gentlemen, including Thomas Seymour”. As was customary, Jane wasn’t present for her son’s christening. Instead, she waited in the Queen’s chamber and watched from her window the procession go by.

Jane Seymour red

As the ceremony finished, the heralds cried out: “Edward, son and heir to the King of England, Duke of Cornwall, and Earl of Chester” and afterwards the procession turned to the Queen’s apartments where he was welcomed back into his mother’s back. Henry was with her, and the two of them gave him their blessing before he was taken back to his room.

Despite being tired, Jane continued to be part of the celebrations and she was helped back to her bed after these were done. It is hard to know what was running through Jane’s mind, being that Jane is a mysterious and often elusive figure, but the times she made her voice heard, and even her silence alone, reveals as Chapuys once said of her “a woman of great understanding” and one who must have felt deeply proud and accomplished. She had succeeded where her predecessors and previous mistresses had failed. Sadly, she would not live long enough to reap the benefits. Jane would die nine days later as a result of childbed fever. And in death, she would become Henry’s favorite because of what she gave him: a son. And although the great monuments that Henry had planned for both of them never came to be, she would be remembered through the eulogies and poems made after her funeral, and her son would go on to become the first true Protestant King, and also the last Tudor (male) monarch.

Sources:

  • Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love by Elizabeth Norton
  • Edward VI: The Last King of England by Chris Skidmore
  • Jane Seymour by David Loades
  • The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
  • Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
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The Christening of Prince Arthur

The Rose both red and white. In one rose now doth grow.
The Rose both red and white. In one rose now doth grow.

On Sunday the 24th of September 1486, Prince Arthur Tudor was christened at Winchester Cathedral. His godparents were the Queen Dowager Elizabeth Woodville, John de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, Sir Thomas Stanley, the Earl of Derby.

“The city turned out to see the solemn procession, which was captured in an engraving by an unknown artist, showing no less than five people carrying the baby’s train under a fringed canopy. He was wrapped in crimson cloth of gold furred with ermine. Elizabeth’s family played prominent roles in her absence, with her mother being one of the named godparents.” (Licence)

Margaret Beaufort was absent from the celebrations. Possibly because she did not wish to overshadow her daughter-in-law’s family, especially the Queen Dowager who outranked her. It is a myth that Elizabeth’s family were treated with hostility during Henry VII’s reign. Some historians believe that he suspected his mother-in-law of playing a role in Lambert Simnel’s rebellion and historical fiction writers blame him for her low-key funeral. But the fact is that Elizabeth Woodville was a pious woman, and she won the commons during her first time in Sanctuary when she gave birth to the King’s first legitimate son, Edward, Prince of Wales (one of the lost princes in the tower) and she depended largely on their charity. The fact that she didn’t ask them to fight for her and played her role of the ‘good wife’ to perfection endeared her to them. And her daughter was pretty much the same and some have gone so far as to say that she became the image of the ideal wife and consort, that she was the basis by which Henry VIII judged all of his wives.

“It was not until the seventeenth century, when Francis Bacon wrote his history of Henry VII’s reign, that Elizabeth was explicitly linked to the Lambert Simnel conspiracy.” (Higginbotham)

Whether she was involved or not, her family’s religiosity was widely admired and commented on, even for the times.

The Queen Dowager’s brother, the late Earl of Rivers hosted his brother-in-law’s sister, the Duchess Dowager of Burgundy when she came for her last visit to England in 1480 and the two shared a common interest in education, and he expressed a deep interest in fighting in a crusade. One of her surviving brothers did fight in a crusade. Sir Edward Woodville aided Henry VII during the Simnel fiasco and then went on to give his services to the Catholic Kings when they fought against the Moors. He was also present for the christening, helping others carry the canopy over the baby.

“The Cathedral door was hung with cloth of gold and the nave had been magnificently “hanged with cloths of Arras and red sarcenet” and laid with carpets right to the altar … To one side was a curtained area, behind was “a fire of coals”, a chafer of water, and silver basins. It was here where he could be kept warm and clean, that the prince was undressed completely.” (Weir.)

He was given to John Alcock [Bishop of Worcester] who immersed him in the basin of holy water just enough to touch his forehead and christened him. His aunt, Anne of York then came and placed a cloth on his forehead and he was handed over to his maternal grandmother and godmother, Elizabeth Woodville who laid him on the altar “after which the Earl of Oxford took the prince in his right arm, and Peter Courtenay [Bishop of Exeter] confirmed him.” Gifts were brought, offerings were made, and then Cecily took the baby and brought him back to his mother.

Arthur would later be invested as Prince of Wales and Lord of Snowdonia besides becoming Duke of Cornwall. The hope of the Tudor rested entirely on his shoulders from the moment of his birth. Poems were made about him, extolling his lineage, remarking how he was the true embodiment of the union between Lancaster and York.

Sources:

  • The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family by Susan Higginbotham
  • Elizabeth of York: The Forgotten Tudor Queen by Amy Licence
  • Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and her World by Alison Weir

Behind the Scenes: The Christening of Princess Elizabeth

Anne Boleyn & her daughter

Princess Elizabeth Tudor was christened on the tenth of September 1533, three days after her birth. Her mother was Queen Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second spouse. And although some sources reported that it was with “great regret” that they welcomed their daughter into the world, the couple tried to remain positive with Henry VIII stating that he and his wife “are both young and by God’s grace, sons will follow.” It was the best they could do of a bad situation.

In her book, Antonia Fraser, states that it would have been much better for Anne and her stepdaughter, if she had given birth to a son. With a son in the Tudor cradle the pope and the rest of Catholic Europe, would have been forced to recognize the marriage. And it is highly likely, given that Spain was constantly looking to England as an ally against their ancestral enemy, France; he would have found a form of reconciling with his former uncle. As for the Lady Mary; with a brother in the cradle and the rest of Europe recognizing him as her father’s true heir, she would no longer be seen as a threat anymore and it’s very possible that she would have been married to a loyal noble or an impoverished royal or second son in due time.

Of course, this is all speculation, but given how urgent it was for Henry and Anne to have a son, these outcomes seem highly likely.

Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII

Following his daughter’s birth, Henry cancelled the joust and the letters announcing her birth had to be added an extra ‘s’ for Princess. What made up for their disappointment was the princess’ health. This was a good sign for some, and proof that Anne could sire healthy children.

Prior to her christening, the rivalry between Anne and Katherine intensified when she demanded that she hand over the christening cloth she’d used for her firstborn son [Henry, Duke of Cornwall]. Naturally, Katherine refused. That cloth had been brought by Spain, it was hers and it also held a sentimental value. She was not about to give it up declaring that the mere suggestion of it was “horrible and abominable”.

Anne must have been angered, but in the end it didn’t matter because as Queen, she could have anything she wanted, so a new cloth was made.

The ceremony started very early.

“The heralds carried their tabards. Attendants and serving men bore unlighted torches. Lords and ladies carried the equipment needed for the ceremony: a gold cellar of salt, for the exorcism of the child; great silver gilt basins in which the godparents could wash off traces of the holy oil with which the child was anointed; a chrisom-cloth, to be bound over the crown of the baby’s head after she had been anointed with chrisom; and a taper, to be lit after the baptism was completed.” (Starkey)

Elizabeth was carried into the church by one of her godparents, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Her other godparents, Thomas Cranmer [Archbishop of Canterbury] and the Marchioness of Exeter were close by. The Bishop of London officiated the ceremony, christening the little Princess Elizabeth; and when it was over, she was returned to her mother who received her “joyfully lying on her great French bed with the King by her side.”

Elizabeth-I_Rainbow-Portrait

There was a lot of talk regarding her birth, and what Henry felt. Chapuys was no stranger to gossip and was the one who wrote that the couple felt very disappointed with their daughter’s gender. It would be very naïve to think that they weren’t, but as time went on, Anne showed that she was very committed to her child as her rival had been of hers; and just as Katherine, her faith become a major part of her life –taking refuge in it.

Ironically, Henry’s quest for an ‘ideal’ marriage and a son to make his dynasty be remembered, wouldn’t be accomplished by a son or another marriage, but rather by a daughter; and her refusal to wed.

Sources:

  • Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey
  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
  • The Boleyn Women by Elizabeth Norton
  • Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser

A Royal Princess’ Christening

Maria Red Gown

20 FEBRUARY 1516 -Mary I was Christened at the Church of the Observant Friars.
Her Godparents were Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the Duchess of Norfolk, her grand-aunt Katherine of York Countess of Devon and Margaret Pole. After she was baptized she was returned to her mother who was waiting for her at the Queen’s Chamber in Greenwich.

Henry whispered to the Venetian Ambassador that he and Katherine were still young and they could have more children. Ironically, these were the same words he whispered to his second wife when she gave him another daughter seventeen years later.
Mary was named after the Virgin Mary and her aunt the Princess Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk and Queen Dowager of France.