Baptizing Edward VI

The future King Edward VI of England was baptized 479 years ago today, on 15 October 1537.

1581 - Infant Baptism woodcut

Excerpt from Edward VI in a Nutshell:

Edward was baptised in the royal chapel at Hampton Court a few days later, on 15 October. Every caution was taken to preserve the baby from illness or cold, and no expense was spared on ceremony. As Margaret Beaufort had dictated decades before, the protocol for the christening was followed to the letter. Gentlemen of the privy chamber carrying torches, the dean, and the choir led a procession of high-ranking clergymen, courtiers, nobility, officers of state, and various representatives of various European nations into the chapel. The baby’s godfathers, Thomas Howard (3rd Duke of Norfolk), Thomas Cranmer (Archbishop of Canterbury), and Charles Brandon (Duke of Suffolk), entered after the procession, and they were in turn followed by a small group of privileged noblemen who bore the water basins, candles, and a gold salt cellar that would be ritualistically gifted to the prince. The four-year-old, recently-bastardised daughter of the king, the Lady Elizabeth, conveyed the baptismal chrism behind the noblemen, although the weight of the object and the lateness of the hour necessitated that the queen’s brother, Edward Seymour, carry the little girl in his arms.

After the Lady Elizabeth came the star of the show, Prince Edward. Wearing a long white gown (much like babies wear today), the baby was transported on a pillow by the king’s distant cousin, Gertrude Courtenay. The baby was likewise attended by at least one nurse and midwife apiece, and six gentlemen supported a canopy above Edward and the trio of women with him. Edward’s Godmother and half-sister, Lady Mary, who was illegitimate and no longer a princess in the eyes of no one else but her father, followed the baby with her own cluster of candle-wielding ladies.

Edward was christened by Thomas Cranmer within the privacy of an octagonal screen surrounding the silver-gilt baptismal font, which was hung with tapestries and cloth of gold to keep away any drafts from the newborn’s wet head. There was also a fire pan of hot coals to warm the area; the king was taking no chances with the health of his son. In the semi-seclusion of this sumptuous compartment, the archbishop, who would one day be burned alive at the stake by the infant’s Godmother, completed the rite and signalled to the heralds to announce the successful baptism of the prince. Trumpets rang out and garter king-of-arms cried out, “God of His Almighty and infinite grave give and grand good life and long to the right high, right excellent and noble Prince, Prince Edward, Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester, most dear and most entirely beloved son to our most dread and gracious Lord, King Henry VIII” (Skidmore, 2009).

By custom, neither of his parents attended the christening, but waited in state to see the baby and to be congratulated by the attendees and well-wishers both before and after the christening. Jane, who was still in good health at this time, was richly bundled in fur and velvet against any chill and received a steady stream of visitors into her rooms. The king, who was almost certainly swelling with pride and happiness, was also in Jane’s chambers to be congratulated and to bless his newborn son in the accustomed manner. Edward was everything Henry had been hoping for.



3 thoughts on “Baptizing Edward VI

    1. Yes, that’s what I meant. I was typing fast and have an autocorrect function that is out to get me …

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