Princess Elizabeth is Christened
10th September 1533 – On this day in history Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Queen Anne Boleyn second wife of King Henry VIII, was Christened at the church of Observant Friars at Greenwich.
Little Elizabeth was born three days previously on the 7th of September at approximately three o’clock in the afternoon. Both her mother and father had hoped that she would be born a boy, the son and heir that King Henry VIII so desperately longed for. Unfortunately Elizabeth was a girl and despite initial disappointment Henry was determined to give Elizabeth a grand Christening.
The procession for the Christening walked on a carpet of green rushes and past hangings of arrars from the Great Hall in Greenwich to the Church of Observant Friars. Elizabeth was wrapped in purple velvet and a train which was furred with ermine. She was carried by the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk and flanked by the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk. Anne Boleyn’s uncle the Duke of Norfolk was the Earl Marshal for the event and Anne’s father carried Elizabeth’s train while her brother was one of four men who carried a canopy of Elizabeth. Accompanying them were many nobles who carried basins for the Godparents to wash their hands, a candle which would be given to Elizabeth, salt which was to exorcise the baby and cloth which would be put over Elizabeth’s head.
Inside the church a large octagonal stage had been constructed which was three steps high. At the centre of the stage stood a magnificent silver font which had been brought from Canterbury to Greenwich for the occasion. Around the octagonal stage were rails hung with red cloth and over the stage fine cloth was laid. Over the stage hung a square canopy which was made of crimson satin and fringed with gold. The font itself was lined with white cloth and filled with warm water. Next to the stage was an enclosure with a brazier which would keep Elizabeth warm when she was undressed for the christening.
Once the procession arrived at the church Elizabeth was christened. Her godparents were the Duchess of Norfolk, the Marchioness of Dorset, the Marquess of Exeter and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. As customary Henry VIII nor Anne Boleyn attended the Christening.
After the Christening Elizabeth was taken back to her mother accompanied by over five hundred lit touches. In London to celebrate Elizabeth’s Christening bonfires were to be lit accompanied with free wine! It appears that Henry was determined to go all out for the child whose mother he had turned a country upside down to marry. If only Henry knew what an incredible ruler and Queen his daughter would make.
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Starkey, D 2004, Six Wives The Queens of Henry VIII, Vintage, London.
Weir, A 1991, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Grove Press, New York.