Baptizing Edward VI

The future King Edward VI of England was baptized at Hampton Court on 15 October 1537, with all the holy pomp his father, King Henry VIII, could muster.

1581 - Infant Baptism woodcut

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 (1st 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 the gold salt cellar that would be ritualistically gifted to the prince.

Honestly, it is surprising Henry VIII didn’t have them bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The recently-bastardized daughter of the king, four year old Lady Elizabeth, conveyed the baptismal chrism behind the noblemen, although the weight of the object and the lateness of the hour necessitated that the new queen’s brother, Edward Seymour, carry the little girl in his arms. This bothers me, because Edward was instrumental in getting Elizabeth’s mother legally murdered. I know it shouldn’t matter after so many years and his own eventual beheading … but get your filthy hands off Anne’s baby you monster!

After the Lady Elizabeth came the star of the show, Prince Edward. Wearing a long white gown (much like babies wear today), the infant heir to the throne was transported on a pillow by the king’s cousin, Gertrude Courtenay. The baby was likewise attended by at least one nurse and midwife apiece, as well as six gentlemen supporting a canopy above them. Edward’s eldest half-sister, Lady Mary, who was illegitimate and no longer a princess in the eyes of no one else but her father, served as her brother’s godmother and followed him 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 signaled to the heralds to announce the successful baptism of the prince. Trumpets rang out and the 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”


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.

A boy who would rule after him as king.



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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