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October 15, 1537 – Christening of Edward VI

The Future Edward VI, by Hans Holbein (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

On this day, the court was still jubilant, with no visible clouds looming.

Edward was christened at a midnight ceremony in Hampton Court’s Chapel Royal at Hampton Court.  400 people attended – it would have been far, far more if fear of the plague had not caused Henry and Jane to severely restrict the numbers.

The lucky guests gathered beforehand in the Queen’s apartments, where Jane received them on a bed of crimson damask lined with cloth of gold (the King sat beside her in a richly upholstered chair).  Jane’s blonde hair was recorded for posterity as worn loose over her crimson mantle edged with ermine. As was customary, neither she nor the King attended the christening but rather watched as the procession left.

The ceremony was carefully designed to feature all of the most important personages of Henry’s court. Two of the four accessories of the ceremony led the procession through torchlit corridors: Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire, carried the taper; and the lady (no longer princess) Elizabeth carried the chrism (given that she was only four at the time, she was herself carried by the Queen’s brother Thomas, Lord Beauchamp – in light of later events, another awkward choice). Then came the young prince, carried under a miniature cloth of estate by the Marchioness of Exeter. Behind him walked the nurse and midwife who delivered him, then his Godmother (his sister Mary), and all the ladies of the court in order of rank.  Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, performed the service. The Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk were named Edward’s Godfathers.

When the ceremony was over, the group returned to Jane’s chamber, where she gave Edward her blessing. The King then took the boy into his arms to deliver his own blessing in the name of God, the Virgin Mary and St. George (tears were streaming down his face when he did this). Then Edward was taken to his own rich apartments to rest, and refreshments were served to the guests. At this point, nothing seemed to be wrong with Jane…


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October 15, 1537 - Christening of Edward VI
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