Tag Archives: Greenwich Palace

On this day in 1533 – Anne Boleyn gave birth to Elizabeth

On 7th September 1533 at 3pm­ Queen Anne Boleyn gave birth at Greenwich Palace, the child was a girl and named Elizabeth after both of her grandmothers, Elizabeth of York and Elizabeth Howard.

Astronomers and philosophers predicted that Anne would give birth to a son and preparations had been made for the announcement of a son so when Elizabeth was born Henry was disappointed he had torn the country apart to marry Anne for her to give him another daughter.

With the birth of Elizabeth bonfires were lit across the country but there was little celebration for the Princess many of the jousts and banquets were cancelled. The proclamation announcing her birth had to be altered as it was written before declaring Henry had been given a prince an s was added before they were sent out to the country. It was traditionally for the birth of a daughter to be low key and a similar thing happened at the birth of Princess Mary.

A herald announced the birth of Henry’s first legitimate child whilst the choristers sang the Te Deum in the Chapel Royal.

Although Henry was bitterly disappointed that he still did not have a son it is reported that he said to his wife “You and I are both young, and by God’s grace, boys will follow.”

Upon her birth Elizabeth automatically became Henry’s heiress presumptive as Henry’s first daughter had been barred from the succession and declared ill­­egitimate.

Birth announcement of ElizabethThe announcement of Princess Elizabeth’s birth

On this day in 1533 – Anne Boleyn took to her chamber to prepare for the birth of Princess Elizabeth

On 26th August 1533 Anne Boleyn took leave of the court and entered confinement where she would stay until she gave birth. Normally a lady would go to confinement four to six weeks before the anticipated birth of their child.

Anne took to her chamber at Greenwich Palace after attending a special mass at the Chapel Royal within the Palace grounds. Anne would then proceed with her ladies to the great chamber were they would enjoy wine and spices before the Lord Chamberlain prayed to God that Anne would give a safe delivery, hopefully to a son. Anne would then enter her chamber where she would be waited on by her ladies; no men were permitted into the room.

The chamber was decorated in accordance with the ‘Royalle Book’ that had additions by Margaret Beaufort and had been followed by King Henry VIII’s mother, Elizabeth of York during her confinements in the same Palace. The book stated that the room should;

  • Be carpeted
  • Have an altar
  • Have soft furnishings of crimson satin that were embroidered with Gold crowns and the Queen’s arms
  • Have its windows, ceilings and walls covered with blue arras and tapestries
  • Have a tapestry covered cupboard to store the birthing equipment
  • Have a font in the room in case the baby needed baptising instantly due to sickness
  • Have a display of Gold and Silver plate items from the Jewel House, it was thought that the Queen and her baby to be surrounded by symbols of wealth
  • Be furnished with a luxurious bed for the Queen and a pallet at the end of it for the Queen to give birth on. The pallet would be built up to a height similar to the midwife, it was close to the fire and away from any cold draughts
  • One window would be slightly uncovered to let in light and air when deemed neccersary

In the ‘Ordinances and regulations for the royal household society of antiquaries’ it is written what is expected of the Queen’s chamber;

As to the deliverance of a Queene, it must bee knowne what chamber shee will bee delivered in, by the Grace of God; and that chamber must bee hanged with rich arras, the roofe, side and windowes, all except one windowe, and that must bee habged that shee may have light when it pleaseth her; with a royall bedd therein, the flore laid with carpeth over and over with a faire pallet bedd, with all the stuffe belonging thereto, with a riche sperner hanging over; and there must be a cupboard set faire, covered with the fame suite that the chamber is hanged withal. And if it please the Queene to take her chamber, shee shall bee brought thither with Lordes and Ladies of estate, and brought into the chappell or church there to bee houseled; then to come into the great chamber and take spice and wine under the cloth of estate; then twoe of the greatest estates to lead her into her chamber where shee shall be delivered; and they then to take their leave of the Queene. Then all the ladies and gentlemento goe in with her; and after that noe man to come into the chamber where shee shall bee delievered, fae woemen; and they to bee made all manner of officers, as buttlers, panters, fewers, kervers, cupbearers; and all manner of officers for to receave it in the chamber: a traverse of damaske, the bedd arrayed with sheetes of fine lawne or fine raynes, great pillows with a head sheete according to the sheetes; a pane of ermines embrothered with riche cloh of gould, the ells breadth of the cloth, and head-sheete of ermins and cloth of gould of the same suite; a pallet by the bedd arrayed according to the bedd, with sheets and paine; except the cloth of gould on the paine to bee of another colour than that of the great bedd; and over the pallet a large sperner of crimson satin, with a bowle of gould or silver and guilt; and above the opening of the same sperner to bee embrothered the King’s and Queen’s armes, and the residue with crownes of gould: and that such estates both spirituall and temporall as it shall like the Kinge to assigne to bee gossippes, to bee neere the place where the Queene shall bee delivered, to the intent anon after they bee ready that the child may soone bee christened.”

A typical room that was used for a ladies confinement was closed up to light and fresh air, it was believed that clean air was harmful to the new child. Candles were used day and night to provide light in the dark room and objects like herbs, relics and amulets were brought in to speed and aide delivery. Superstition was high regarding childbirth and a dark and clean room was believed to protect the baby from evil spirits as it would remind the child of the womb. Women were also required to move anything that could restrict the birth, this included knots, buckles and rings.

The women that accompanied the Queen into confinement would keep her company and were there to assist during the labour by bringing spiced wine or ale and making the caudle.

Anne Boleyn would give birth just two weeks after entering her confinement to the Princess Elizabeth. However, she would remain in confinement for a further 30 days when she would be churched and re-enter the court.

170px-Anne_boleynAnne Boleyn

On this day in 1533 – King Edward VI died.

On 6th July 1553 the 15 year old King Edward VI died at Greenwich Palace. Edward had fallen ill at the beginning of 1553 from a fever and cough. The Imperial Ambassador, Jehan Scheyfve, wrote about Edward’s early illness in a letter to the the Bishop of Arras;

the King of England is still confined to his chamber, and seems to be sensitive to the slightest indisposition or change, partly at any rate because his right shoulder is lower than his left and he suffers a good deal when the fever is upon him, especially from a difficulty in drawing his breath, which is due to the compression of the organs on the right side. It is an important matter for consideration, especially as the illness is increasing from day to day, and the doctors have now openly declared to the Council, for their own discharge of responsibility, that the King’s life is threatened, and if any serious malady were to supervene he would not be able to hold out long against it. Some make light of the imperfection, saying that the depression in the right shoulder is hereditary in the house of Seymour, and that the late Duke of Somerset had his good share of it among the rest. But he only suffered inconvenience as far as it affected his appearance and his shoulder never troubled him in any other way. It is said that about a year ago the King overstrained himself while hunting, and that the defect was increased. No good will he ever do with the lance. I opine that this is a visitiation and sign from God. “

This illness came just months after he had suffered from measles and smallpox so his immune system was already in a weakened condition. Edward had improved slightly but by June it was looking likely that the young King would not survive.

Edward VI 1546King Edward VI, aged 9.

On 30th May Scheyfve wrote again regarding Edward’s condition;

The King of England is wasting away daily, and there is no sign or likelihood of any improvement. Some are of opinion that he may last two months more, but he cannot possibly live beyond that time. He cannot rest except by means of medicines and external applications; and his body has begun to swell, especially his head and feet. His hair is to be shaved off and plasters are going to be put on his head. The illness is judged to be the same as that which killed the late Earl of Richmond.”

King Edward’s illness would come in stages and in April, Edward was seen walking through the park at Westminster before moving to his palace at Greenwich but by the end of April he was again weak and suffering. However, just days later on 7th May his doctors were expecting a recovery and Edward sat in a window overlooking the Thames watching the ships sail past the palace. Edward’s recovery was not long lived and on 11th June 1533 Edward relapsed.

With this the seriousness of Edward’s condition had become apparent and the likelihood of him surviving his illness was slim. Edward was soon bedbound after his legs began swelling and he was unable to stand up any longer.

With this news his council sought to change his father, King Henry VIII, will so that Mary would not inherit the throne and return England to Catholicism. Edward did not want to see the country returned to the old religion but also he felt that Mary and Elizabeth were both illegitimate and therefore illegible to take the throne. A document was drawn up entitled ‘My devise for the succession’ in which Edward overruled his father’s wishes in the Third Act of Succession and named Lady Jane Grey, Edward’s cousin, as his successor.

On 15th June Edward summoned his high rank judges to his sickbed and demanded their allegiance. He then called upon his lawyers and councillors to sign a bond that would ask them to perform his will faithfully. This would also see that Lady Jane Grey was placed upon the throne even if they believed the throne should pass to Mary. On 21st June the ‘Devise for Succession’ was passed to and signed by hundreds of councillors, peers, sheriffs, bishops and archbishops who all agreed to follow Edward’s wishes. Many would later claim that they had been bullied by John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland and father in law to Lady Jane.

King Edward VI’s final appearance to his subjects was on 1st July 1533 when he appeared at a window at Greenwich Palace and it was noted how thin he looked. Crowds continued to gather in hope of seeing their king but after two days the crowds were told that the weather was too cold for Edward to appear.

On 6th July at 8pm King Edward VI died, the cause of Edward’s death has been debated ever since with suggestions of tuberculosis, bronchopneumonia and even poisoning. However, it is likely that tuberculosis was the most likely cause of death for the 15 year old King.

Historian Chris Skidmore documents that Edward prayers included;

“Lord God, deliver me out of this miserable and wretched life, and take me among thy chosen: howbeit not my will, but thy will be done. Lord I commit my spirit to thee. O Lord! Thou knowest how happy it were for me to be with thee: yet, for thy chosen’s sake, send me life and health, that I may truly serve thee. O my Lord God, bless thy people, and save thine inheritance! O Lord God save thy chosen people of England! O my Lord God. defend this realm from papistry, and maintain thy true religion; that I and my people may praise thy holy name, for thy Son Jesus Christ’s sake!”

Edward was buried at Westminster Abbey in the Henry VII Lady Chapel on 8th August with the ceremony presided over by Archbishop Cranmer.

Edward’s death would send England into division over the new rightful monarch.

Edward VI tombKing Edward VI tomb at Westminster Abbey

On this day in 1491 – King Henry VIII was born

On 28th June 1491 the future King Henry VIII was born in the manor house of Placentia, Greenwich. A small country manor house within the vicinity of Greenwich Palace. It was a far less significant birth to his older brother, Arthur, who was the Prince of Wales and the heir to the throne. Henry’s birth was largely less important as he was viewed as ‘the spare’

Henry’s mother, Elizabeth of York, would have gone into confinement after hearing a mass at the beginning of June. Her confinement would have been arranged down to the finest detail. Elizabeth’s chamber would have been highly decorated with intricate tapestries hanging from the walls, bed and windows they would be rich in colour and heavy. There would have also been hangings and cloth across the chamber. It would have been Elizabeth’s first confinement to take place in the height of summer and with the room plunged into darkness it would have been hotter than usual.

On 28th June Elizabeth gave birth to her second son. Henry would have been taken by his nurses and bathed in various substances including milk, sweet butter and barley water amongst others in the hope of preventing death before the infant was baptised.

Henry’s birth was less significant compared to his elder brother and sister. Very few records exist of Henry’s birth and even his paternal grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, only wrote a small note in her Book of Hours when she had wrote dates and times for Arthur. Henry was destining for a quiet life as the spare.

Henry was baptised in Greenwich Church of the Observant Friars where Richard Foxe, Bishop of Exeter presided over the service. The church was lavishly decorated with tapestries, damask and cloth of gold and a wooden stage was built where the Canterbury silver font was placed. Now baptised Henry would soon be sent to Eltham where he would join his sister in the royal nursery. Just 11 years later Henry would suddenly find himself the new heir to the throne after the unexpected death of his older brother and with that Henry was catapulted into a life that would lead him to be King.

Henry VIII childThis bust is believed to be Henry VIII as a child