A Royal Christening: Bridget of York, November 11, 1480

On November 10, 1480, Elizabeth Woodville bore her last child–Bridget, named after St. Bridget of Sweden. Bridget may have been intended for the Church; in any case, she eventually became a nun at Dartford Priory.

The day after her birth, Bridget was christened at the chapel of Eltham. Her godmothers at the baptismal font, as the following account indicates, were her paternal grandmother, Cecily, Duchess of York, and her oldest sister, Elizabeth. Margaret, Lady Maltravers, a younger sister of Elizabeth Woodville, served as godmother at the confirmation. William Waynefleet, Bishop of Winchester, was the baby’s godfather. Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, had the honor of bearing the infant. (The next royal christening would be that of Margaret’s own grandson, Arthur Tudor.)

A detailed description of Bridget’s christening has survived and was reprinted by an “F.M.” in the 1831 Gentleman’s Magazine. I have modernized the spelling when possible.

. . . the twentieth year of the reign of King Edward IV on St. Martin’s Eve was born the Lady Bridget, and christened on the morning of St. Martin’s Day in the Chapel of Eltham, by the Bishop of Chichester in order as ensueth:

First a hundred torches borne by knights, esquires, and other honest persons.

The Lord Maltravers, bearing the basin, having a towel about his neck.

The Earl of Northumberland bearing a taper not lit.

The Earl of Lincoln the salt.

The canopy borne by three knights and a baron.

My lady Maltravers did bear a rich crysom pinned over her left breast.

The Countess of Richmond did bear the princess.

My lord Marquess Dorset assisted her.

My lady the king’s mother, and my lady Elizabeth, were godmothers at the font.

The Bishop of Winchester godfather.

And in the time of the christening, the officers of arms cast on their coats.

And then were lit all the foresaid torches.

Present, these noble men ensuing:

The Duke of York.

The Lord Hastings, the king’s chamberlain.

The Lord Stanley, Stewards of the King’s house.

The Lord Dacre, the queen’s chamberlain, and many other estates.

And when the said princess was christened, a squire held the basins to the gossips [the godmothers], and even by the font my Lady Maltravers was godmother to the confirmation.

And from thence she was borne before the high altar. and that solemnity done she was borne eftsoons into her parclosse, accompanied with the estates aforesaid.

And the lord of Saint Joans [probably John St. John, according to Pauline Routh] brought thither a spice plate.

And at the said parclose the godfather and the godmother gave great gifts to the said princess.

Which gifts were borne by knights and esquires before the said princess turning to the queen’s chamber again, well accompanied as appertaineth, and after the custom of this realm.

I can’t leave this post without mentioning that recently, I have seen several people claim that Bridget was the mother of an out-of-wedlock child, Agnes of Eltham.  The Wikipedia article about Agnes which makes this claim cites two sources–one a scholarly article about John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, the other Jeffrey Hamilton’s book on the Plantagenets. In fact, neither source even mentions Bridget or Agnes, much less claims that they were mother and daughter. I have no idea if this tale has any basis in fact, but given the Wikipedia author’s cavalier use of sources, I’m skeptical, to put it politely.

Sources:

“F.M.,” “Christening of the Princess Bridget, 1480.” Gentleman’s Magazine, January 1831.

Pauline E. Routh, “Princess Bridget.” The Ricardian, June 1975.

Anne F. Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs with R.A. Griffiths, The Royal Funerals of the House of York at Windsor. Richard III Society, 2005.

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11 Responses to A Royal Christening: Bridget of York, November 11, 1480

  1. Sonetka says:

    I know that it’s not what’s intended, but “having a towel about his neck” leaves me with a mental image of Lord Maltravers racing to the baptism just after having showered.

    I’d seen the story about Bridget having an illegitimate daughter, but had no idea of its provenance (or lack thereof). Wiki does like to give people extra children, doesn’t it? Anne Boleyn has been given a son named Henry, Duke of Cornwall who lived for two minutes (could be true, but still it would only be a guess) and Mary Boleyn has also been given two children with her second husband whose origins are vague. It wouldn’t shock me if it at least one or two of these had their origins in novels whose accuracy people overestimated. Are there any romance novels about Bridget of York out there? It might be worth looking into.

    • boswellbaxter says:

      That might well be the case! You would think whoever did the article about Agnes would have been clever enough to pick a couple of references which actually dealt with the period in question, instead of choosing one book that ends with Richard II’s reign and another that covers Edward VI’s. I see that someone this morning edited the Agnes article to remove the “sources.” Progress! Wikipedia also gave Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford a couple of extra daughters.

  2. Debra al-Bayani says:

    Interesting post, Susan. Thanks!

  3. The Wikipedia article’s text is clearly based on this entry (see “Agnes of Eltham”) http://www.kateemersonhistoricals.com/TudorWomenA.htm

  4. Anerje says:

    I’m always amazed to read how either newborn babies or young children are destined for the church without any say in it. Especially as they are royal children – surely a lucrative marriage would be more important?

    I’m looking forward to your factual book on the Woodevilles, which Amazon has just flagged up to me.

  5. Pingback: Bridget of York: A Royal Nun | History Refreshed by Susan Higginbotham

  6. Ruth Crumpton says:

    The wiki article is still there but now sources Alison Weir’s “Elizabeth of York”, which does reference the suggestion but itself gives no primary source. Weir also seems to briefly flirt with the idea that Bridget was “not very bright”, yet not only again gives no sources for that but elsewhere in the same book mentions that Bridget would have to have been well-educated to enter the Priory. She also states that Bridget entered the Priory at the age of 7, which doesn’t match any other date I can find on a quick search (excluding wiki, which it seems best to ignore!). Weir also states that the Crown paid for Agnes’s upkeep – this allegation she does give a source for, but unfortunately I was only looking on Google Books and the lists of sources are amongst the pages not included.

    • boswellbaxter says:

      Yeah, I noticed this a couple of months ago. In her book, Weir gives the Hamilton and Hoak publications (neither of which actually mention Bridget, Agnes, or Elizabeth of York) as sources for the claim about Agnes’s upkeep, along with Kate “Meerson” (actually Emerson)’s “Who’s Who of Tudor Women.” The Emerson site just repeats the story about Agnes’s expenses being paid by the crown, without giving any source. Looks like this sourceless claim is going to keep getting regurgitated, unfortunately.

  7. Celia Parker says:

    http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=38217 gives the history of Dartford Priory, the only house of Dominican nuns in England. According to the article, from the Victoria County History of Kent (1926) ‘Strict discipline and plain living’ as well as a high standard of education were its characteristics. In other words it wasn’t just a sort of dumping ground for the unmarriageable daughters of the rich, let alone ‘not very bright’ ones. That Bridget was sent, well after 1485, to the only priory of its order in the country, one with a reputation for piety and learning, suggests a considered choice if not by Bridget herself then by her relatives, perhaps a combination of her mother, sister and grandmother. And since Henry VII was quite willing to find (not very prestigious) marriages for his other sisters-in-law I don’t think we need believe that Bridget was sent there as part of the (largely mythical) Tudor ‘vendetta’ against the house of York.

  8. Pingback: Bridget de York: a freira irmã de Elizabeth de York | Boullan - Tudo sobre Ana Bolena e a Era Tudor