Skip to main content

Royal Devotion: Monarchy and the Book of Common Prayer

decoration01 May 2012|14 July 2012
For three hundred years, from its republication in 1662 right up to the accession of Elizabeth II in 1952 (and indeed beyond), the Book of Common Prayer embodied the religious life of the nation. Kings and Queens were baptised, married and buried to its words. During that same period, more people heard Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer in weekly services in the words of this book, than listened to the soliloquies of Shakespeare. The exhibition in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee and the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer is the first to bring together the Palace Library’s collections of items of royal provenance.  Curated by Brian Cummings it will give a unique insight into the relationship between royalty and religion, from medieval times up until the present day. 


Visitors will be able to see a range of stunning books and artefacts, many owned or marked in the margins by monarchs, and some never seen in public before. At the centre of the exhibition is the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. Also on show are medieval manuscripts, Thomas Cranmer’s first edition of the Book of Common Prayer in 1549, prayers revised in the handwriting of Charles I, the prayer books used at the wedding of Queen Victoria and the coronation of Elizabeth II, and books owned by Richard III and Henry VIII.

A celebration of the Diamond Jubilee and the 350th anniversary of the revised Book of Common Prayer.

Lambeth Palace Library is the historic library and record office of the Archbishops of Canterbury and the principal repository of the documentary history of the Church of England. Its collections have been freely available for research since 1610. The records held here date from the 9th century to the present day, and their broad scope reflects the office of Archbishop as head of the Province of Canterbury, his national and international roles in leading the Church of England and the Anglican Communion worldwide, and the wealth and power of Archbishops in past centuries which enabled them to collect books and manuscripts of the highest quality and significance. James I described the Library as ‘a monument of fame' in his kingdom. Peter the Great, who visited in 1698, is recorded as saying that nothing in England astonished him as much as Lambeth Palace Library; he had never thought there were so many books in all the world.


01 May 2012|14 July 2012
£ 12
Lambeth Palace Library (curator: Brian Cummings)
  • share