When Prince George of Cambridge was christened in a replica of a gown first used for a royal baby 172 years ago, it was a commemoration of eight generations of royal history.
One of those earlier royal babies was Prince Albert Edward, later to become King Edward VII. Prince Albert Edward, the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, was christened at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor on 25th January 1842. In the previous four years, Britain had witnessed the coronation of a new Queen, a royal wedding and the birth of the Prince’s older sister, Princess Victoria. Despite these occasions not being as accessible to the public as they are today, a small parish in Warwickshire marked the christening in its own way.
Commemorations in Southam
In 1841, a meeting took place at the National School Room in Southam to “take into consideration the best manner of testifying their feelings upon the occasion of the birth of a Prince of Wales”. This wasn’t the first time that the parish had commemorated a royal event. Four years earlier, they had marked Queen Victoria’s coronation by giving dinner to the working people and in 1831, subscriptions were spent on food for the poor for the coronation of William IV.
For the Prince’s christening, it was decided that blankets should be given to the “working people” of Southam. Eighty-one subscriptions were made amounting to £60 17s 6d (approximately £2,700 in today’s money). Although it is unclear what the blankets were made from, or by whom, the document states that they were worth between 5 and 7 shillings each.
This notebook1 from St. James’ Parish Church in Southam contains lists of subscriptions from 1831 to 1847. These include the raising of funds to commemorate royal events, as well as donations for a clock for the Girls Sunday School and the ‘Shoe Club’. The document comprises of three lists, one for parishioners who received a blanket worth seven shillings and one for non-parishioners, who received one worth five shillings. The document states that parishioners were to be favoured, receiving blankets “of better quality”.
Lastly it notes the names of the subscribers and how much they donated, ranging from £41 to 6 shillings. There were 181 blankets given in total, 117 worth 7 shillings and 64 worth 5 shillings.
|Event||Date||Amount Received||Spent on|
|Coronation of King William IV||8 Sept 1831||£42 5s||Food for the poor, including beef and fennel|
|Coronation of Queen Victoria||28 June 1838||£82 50s||Dinner for ‘working people, including beer, rolls and music|
|Christening of the Prince of Wales||25 Jan 1842||£60 17s||Blankets|
This comparison shows that the subscriptions raised averaged between the two coronations. It is unclear why, on this occasion, the inhabitants of Southam chose blankets rather than food to mark the occasion. However we can speculate that the winter month may have played a part in the decision.
1 Warwickshire County Record Office reference DR852/60
This article was Document of the Month for the Warwickshire County Record Office in November 2013. Further articles can be found on their website.