The Prince and the Pauper – Chapter Four – Historical Tidbit

At the start of Chapter 4 in The Prince and the Pauper, Edward is wearing Tom’s clothes wandering around London. He has been chased out of the palace by the guards and spectators. When he finally loses the crowd, he finds himself in a familiar area. Today’s Historical Tidbit is…

Greyfriars Christ Church

Edward thinks because his father created this orphanage for these boys, they would show him kindness and would help him get back home. But he was sorely mistaken. The boys make fun of him and abuse him. But how much of the backstory of Greyfriars Christ Church is historically accurate? Keep reading or watch the video below to find out.

Below you will find the Ch. 4 excerpt containing Edward’s initial thoughts at seeing the church.

“He said to himself, “It is the ancient Grey Friars’ Church, which the king my father hath taken from the monks and given for a home for ever for poor and forsaken children, and new-named it Christ’s Church. Right gladly will they serve the son of him who hath done so generously by them—and the more that that son is himself as poor and as forlorn as any that be sheltered here this day,
or ever shall be.” (p. 15)

What was Greyfriars Christ Church?

In the early 13th century, nine Catholic Brothers were sent to London, England. This included four Franciscan friars. Originally they rented a house as their headquarters, but their numbers soon grew too large and they needed find a new place.

The first church they inhabited was built in 1239. It cost only £200 to build at the time. Roughly 100 years later, they rebuilt the church on a much larger scale as they were continuing to grow. Over time, they became very popular with the royals in England, and several of them chose to be buried here.

Things were going well for the monastery up to the Reformation. England was in the process of switching over from Catholicism to the Church of England. In 1538 Greyfriars Church was dissolved by Thomas Chapman (who was taking orders from Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s right-hand man). Because of this the building was vandalized and the brothers were forced to flee the country.

In 1546 Henry VIII gave the church to the City Corporation who created a new parish called Christ Church. As far as I could find, it was not mentioned that an orphanage was a part of this church, but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t, I just couldn’t find anything that explicitly stated that there was.

It is historically accurate however that Edward VI did found a school for boys at this spot called Christ’s Hospital school. This school is still in existence today, but has moved locations. The original spot of the Greyfriars Christ Church/Christ’s Hospital School was damaged in the Great Fire of London, and then was ultimately destroyed by bombings in World War II.

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