Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Royals & subjects united in prayer

Lambeth Palace Library will soon be home to a fascinating new exhibition celebrating QEII's Diamond Jubilee and the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer. Showcasing the Library’s collection of rarely exhibited royal artifacts, it will explore the relationship between royalty and religion across the centuries. Among the highlights are a 1549 printing of the Book of Common Prayer, the Book of Hours of Richard III, and Elizabeth I's personal prayer book, the lavish frontispiece of which portrays her kneeling in prayer. It is effectively a Protestant Book of Hours, printed by John Day in 1569, and its beautiful decoration, including woodcuts, is unrivaled by any other prayer book of the age. Elizabeth showed her devotion (and her intelligence) at a very young age by translating Latin prayers of her stepmother Katherine Parr into three languages as a gift for her father.

Ruling adeptly for 44 years, Elizabeth is a figure of enduring fascination, and for the current Queen this treasured possession is a tangible link to her great predecessor and namesake. The Library also owns a copy of the writ of execution for Mary Queen of Scots. (Elizabeth was so distraught and conflicted at having to kill her cousin that she destroyed the original.) It orders the 6th Earl of Kent "to repair to our Castle of Fotheringhaye where the said queene of Scottes is in custodie, and cause by your commaundment execution to be don uppon her person." That torturous episode is examined in detail in Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen. For more on the Kings and Queens of the England of yore, we have bios of Henry VIII, Queen Isabella, Anne Boleyn, and more.
Above: Illuminated capital from Richard III's prayer book; Above left: miniature portrait of Elizabeth I on vellum playing card by Nicholas Hilliard, 1572


  1. Oh wow these are fantastic!!!! This also has me excited for the 2012 London Olympics! I can't wait to see what they do for the opening ceremonies.

    1. And also the upcoming Diamond Jubilee festivities in June! I hear the Thames parade will be really something!

  2. I love these, I am a sucker for anything with Elizabeth I on it.

  3. We do not have this at Daedalus, but it could be interesting: "The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by his Fool, Will Somers" by Margaret George. I have always wanted to learn a little more about the strange and interesting ones like him.

  4. I remember becoming a bit disillusioned with Elizabeth I when I did a project on Mary, Queen of Scots in high school. In the decades-long relationship between the two powerful women, neither was innocent of wrong-doing; however, I always felt that Elizabeth could have shown mercy. It was a different time, though, of course, and Elizabeth had to grapple with criticisms and challenges to her authority throughout her reign.

  5. I think all of the plotting (and there was a great deal) forced her hand. Having to do it genuinely tormented her.