Princess Elizabeth’s Christening

Today in 1533 Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was christened at the Church of Observant Friars in Greenwich. There is a wonderful description of the christening celebrations in “Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 6: 1533” that I want to share with you.

The account describes how, after Elizabeth’s birth 3 days earlier,

“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.”

Greenwich Palace

Greenwich Palace

It goes on to say

“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 gentlewomen 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.
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The Birth of Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I aged around 13 by William Scrots

Elizabeth I aged around 13 by William Scrots

Today in 1533 the future Queen Elizabeth I was born at Greenwich Palace, she was the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. The birth was quick and the baby was healthy, it was said she had her father’s complexion and her mother’s dark black eyes.

Preparations for Elizabeth’s arrival had begun in early August. Greenwich was the palace of choice for the birth, it had been a favourite of Henry’s mother, Elizabeth of York, and was the place of his own birth 42 years earlier. As was customary for the time a chamber was prepared at Greenwich for Anne’s confinement. Historian David Starkey describes how the walls and ceilings of the chamber were hung and tented with precious tapestries called arras which were woven with gold or silver thread and there were rich carpets laid on the floor. Anne’s bed was also richly hung with tapestries that matched the rest of the room. At the last minute gold and silver plate was brought into the chamber, there were cups and bowls to stand on the cupboard and crucifixes, candlesticks and images for the alter. Starkey describes the chamber as being like a “cross between a chapel and a luxuriously padded cell”

Greenwich Palace

Greenwich Palace

Anne entered her confinement on the 26th August. There had been a lot of anxiety leading up to this date as it appears Anne had some difficulties in the later stages of her pregnancy. Eric Ives explains how Henry was said to have “been at his wits end, even hoping for a miscarriage if it would save Anne’s life”. Anne eventually gave birth to Elizabeth less than 2 weeks into her confinement. The birth was straightforward and Henry was hugely relieved that his wife and child were safe. Henry and Anne named their baby Elizabeth, after both their mothers.
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