c.1560 pen & ink drawing of the christening cortege

The christening procession of Edward VI

Finally Henry’s long awaited male heir had arrived. The little prince Edward would have meant much to the King both politically, and personally. The christening advertised Edward’s legitimacy and confirmed Henry’s standing in the eyes of the world. When it came to making a statement about his power and status, Henry VIII didn’t do things by half and what better occasion to mark than Edward’s christening.

Born to his third wife, Jane Seymour, Edward was born at 2am on the morning on the 12 October 1537. His arrival was greeted with national rejoicing, hymns of thanks giving were sung in all the parishes of London. The celebrations continued far into the night with street bonfires and free food and wine. A birth of the heir of the throne was something to trumpet as loudly as possible.

This was a time for royal showmanship and Edward’s christening is one of the best-recorded events at Hampton Court in the sixteenth century. For us now, the christening highlights the King’s obsession with securing a male heir, the pursuit of which caused the split from Rome, created the Church of England and dissolved the monasteries. The christening ceremony could have been seen by Henry as a justification of the entire upset inflicted on the country and those closest to him.

Edward’s christening took place on 15 October 1537, in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace, three days after his birth. It was an event filled with majesty and symbolism. Edward was taken in a lavish procession through the Palace’s State Apartments, through the Great Hall, to Base Court, through Anne Boleyn’s gate, and across the inner court to the Chapel Royal.

Probably organised by a committee, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, was no doubt involved in the planning – he was also to be one of Edward’s godfathers – and Thomas Cromwell, the King’s Chief Minister almost inevitably had a hand in it too, as well as officers of the Royal Household. Although this royal christening was the first to be staged at Hampton Court, they had precedent to go by, as recorded in the Ryalle book which provided guidance of court and chapel ceremonial. The rituals of the ceremony would be very much like those of Henry’s own; but Henry would have thrown as much wealth at it as he could, to ensure it was as lavish as possible.

The christening, the formal and ceremonial part of the day’s events, not only brought Edward into the new Church of England but also officially named him as his father’s heir. After the formalities, came the feast. The feast would have been a less solemn affair and would have been catered for with a vast array of opulent dishes, all of which would have shown royal wealth, power and – with Edward’s christening – the longevity of the Tudor dynasty. This was certainly an event worth celebrating and outside the Palace, great fires were made in the streets, banquets were held, cheers and shooting of guns could be heard day and night and messengers were sent to all the estates and cities of the realm with gifts. Some of these gifts included;

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

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This article is from the free online course:

A History of Royal Food and Feasting

University of Reading