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This Day in Elizabethan History, Uncategorized

The Christening of the Princess Elizabeth

Christening Gown

Hall’s Chronicle, first published in 1542, is remembered as one of the texts that Shakespeare relied upon when he penned his historical works. The text also contains several details of Henry VIII’s reign that can only be found within its pages (the account of Henry and Anne wearing yellow “for mournyng” upon news of Catherine of Aragon’s death, for example, is found within the Chronicle). It does, however, pay for historians to be considerate when reading Hall’s Chronicle. This is for two reasons. First, because it is a combination of both first-hand and second-hand accounts, one cannot always be certain how the passage of time and events altered the telling of the story. Secondly, another troublesome point rests in the fact that the writer demonstrates bias throughout the text. The reader is therefore occasionally presented with a story that does not present the full facts of certain events.

Despite these points, however, the following account, that of Elizabeth’s christening, is an excellent example of the Chronicle’s excellence in capturing the pageantry of past events:

The christening of lady Elizabeth, daughter to King Henry VIII., the 25th year of his reign, A.D. 1533.
On Sept 7, between three and four o’clock p.m., the Queen was delivered of a fair lady, for whom Te Deum was incontinently sung. The mayor, Sir Stephen Pecock, with his brethren and 40 of the chief citizens, were ordered to be at the christening on the Wednesday following ; on which day the mayor and council, in scarlet, with their collars, rowed to Greenwich, and the citizens went in another barge.
All the walls between the King’s place and the Friars were hanged with arras, and the way strewed with rushes. The Friars’ church was also hanged with arras. The font, of silver, stood in the midst of the church three steps high, covered with a fine cloth, and surrounded by gentlemen with aprons and towels about their necks, that no filth should come into it. Over it hung a crimson satin canopy fringed with gold, and round it was a rail covered with red say. Between the choir and the body of the church was a close place with a pan of fire, to make the child ready in. When the child was brought to the hall every man set forward. The citizens of London, two and two ; then gentlemen, squires, and chaplains, the aldermen, the mayor alone, the King’s council, his chapel, in copes ; barons, bishops, earls ; the earl of Essex bearing the covered gilt basons ; the marquis of Exeter with a taper of virgin wax. The marquis of Dorset bare the salt. The lady Mary of Norfolk bare the chrisom, of pearl and stone. The officers of arms. The old duchess of Norfolk bare the child in a mantle of purple velvet, with a long train held by the earl of Wiltshire, the countess of Kent, and the earl of Derby. The dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk were on each side of the Duchess. A canopy was borne over the child by lord Rochford, lord Hussy, lord William Howard, and lord Thomas Howard the elder. Then ladies and gentlewomen. The bishop of London and other bishops and abbots met the child at the church door, and christened it. The archbishop of Canterbury was godfather, and the old duchess of Norfolk and the old marchioness of Dorset godmothers. This done, Garter, with a loud voice, bid God send her long life. The archbishop of Canterbury then confirmed her, the marchioness of Exeter being godmother. Then the trumpets blew, and the gifts were given ; after which wafers, comfits, and hypocras were brought in. In going out the gifts were borne before the child, to the Queen’s chamber, by Sir John Dudley, lord Thos. Howard, the younger, lord Fitzwater, and the earl of Worcester. One side was full of the Guard and King’s servants holding 500 staff torches, and many other torches were borne beside the child by gentlemen. The mayor and aldermen were thanked in the King’s name by the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, and after drinking in the cellar went to their barge. (1)

(1) Henry VIII: September 1533, 1-10, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 6: 1533, James Gairdner (editor), in British History Online, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=77567&strquery=September 1533 (accessed 10 September 2012)

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