The christening procession of Edward VI

The gyftes givyn by Lady Mary a Cupe of gold
The archbishop iij great bolls & ij great pottes silver and gold
The Duc of norff- lyke unto the arche Bishop of Canterbury
The Duc of Suff- ij great flagoynes & ij great pottes silver and gylt

Edward VI

The birth of a male heir to Henry’s throne was long anticipated, and prince Edward’s birth must have meant a great deal to the king both in a personal and a political sense. The young prince’s christening marked him as a legitimate heir to the throne and improved Henry’s standing on the world stage. Few royals have had quite the flair for celebration as King Henry did, and Edward’s christening was no exception here. It had to be perfect.

Prince Edward was born on the 12th of October 1537, at 2am, to King Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour. His birth prompted a nationwide celebration, and hymns of thanksgiving were sung in every church in London. Free food, wine and bonfires marked his birth late into the night, as this long awaited birth was truly something worth celebrating.

Henry VIIIWhen it comes to events illustrating the royal showmanship of King Henry VIII, there are few better than Edward’s christening. It was one of the best-recorded events ever to be held at Hampton Court in that century, further highlighting the king’s ongoing obsession with the idea of a male heir. This was an obsession which had caused England’s split from Rome, the creation of the Church of England and the dissolution of the monasteries, but one which would be justified by this very christening.

The prince was christened in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court on the 15th of October, 1537, just three days after he was born. The event was packed with symbolism and grandeur. Edward was carried in a grand procession right through the Palace, through the State Apartments, through the Great hall, through Base Court, through Anne Boleyn’s gate and over to Chapel Royal.

Thomas CranmerThis grand event probably took an entire committee to organise, which no doubt included the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, who was set to become one of Edward’s godfathers. The King’s Chief Minister, Thomas Cromwell, probably played a role also, as well as a number of other officers from the Royal Court. Edward’s was the first christening to be held at Hampton Court, but they still had certain rules and regulations to follow. These were set down in a document called the Ryalle book, whose function was to set out guidelines for court and chapel ceremonies. Because of this, Edward’s christening would have closely resembled that of King Henry himself, although the king would have spent as much money as he could to make it as memorable as possible.

Lady Gertrude CourtenayThe grand events surrounding the prince’s christening served not only to introduce him to the new Church of England, but also to name him officially as heir to the throne. With the formalities out of the way, the court would finally have been allowed to settle down to a more cheerful affair: the feast. They would have been served a vast amount of lavish dishes, each designed to show off the king’s power and abundance, along with the strength of the Tudor dynasty. Throughout the country, great fires were lit, guns were shot, banquets held and cheers heard, and countless gifts were sent to the royal prince.

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