Wednesday 15 October 2014

Prince Edward's Christening

Jane Seymour's final public appearance occurred on 15 October 1537. Although, by convention, neither Henry or Jane attended their son's christening, both were expected to play a public role in the ceremonies. In preparation, the queen was wrapped by her attendants in velvet and furs to guard against the cold, before being carried to an anti-chamber where a special sofa had been prepared for her to lie on.

The couple watched as their baby was carried to the chapel in a grand procession, with Jane, although still weak, conscious that she had finally given the king all that he desired. During her marriage, the queen had built a strong relationship with her elder stepdaughter, Mary, who had agreed to stand as one of the prince's godmothers. Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, was godfather. The christening was like a 'who's-who' of the Tudor court. Jane's kinsman, Sir Francis Bryan, served as one of the gentlemen dressed in aprons and holding towels who took charge o the font. Her brother, Edward Seymour, was also prominent, carrying the prince's other half sister, the four year old Elizabeth, who made a rare visit to court.

Once the procession left Jane and Henry, the gentlemen walked in pairs, carrying unlit torches before them. The children and ministers of the king’s chapel followed. Then, the knights, chaplains and other members of the nobility also walked in pairs in procession. Following this, the prince was brought, carried carefully by the Marchioness of Exeter and assisted by her husband and the Duke of Suffolk. Jane’s son was dressed in a great robe with a long train borne by Lord William Howard and, over the prince’s head, a canopy was held by a number of gentlemen, including his uncle, Thomas Seymour.

Once inside the chapel, the baby was announced by the king of heralds as ‘Edward, son and heir to the king of England, Duke of Cornwall, and Earl of Chester’. The name Edward had been chosen by Henry both to mark the fact that the prince was born on the eve of St Edward and as a tribute to his own grandfather, Edward IV. 

After the ceremony, the procession finally made its way back to the king and queen, this time with their tapers lit. Edward was handed to his mother and both Jane and Henry gave him their blessing before he was taken away to sleep. Jane’s role was not yet done however and it was past midnight before the last of the guests had left. She was carried tired but triumphant back to her bed in the small hours of the morning to finally get some rest.

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