Books and their Owners III: The Prayer Book of Elizabeth I

Christian Prayers and Meditations in English, French, Italian, Spanish, Greeke, and Latine. London: John Day, 1569

At Lambeth Palace Library we hold the only surviving complete copy of Christian Prayers and Meditations in English, French, Italian, Spanish, Greeke and Latine (London: John Day, 1569). As with the books that we have looked at previously in this series of blog posts, this volume has inscriptions showing its provenance. Notes on the flyleaves outline how it passed from hand-to-hand from the time it was removed from the Wardrobe at Whitehall in the 1640s by a Mr Jolliffe, one of the Keepers, until it was given by Sir Charles Cottrell to Thomas Tenison, Archbishop of Canterbury (1694 to 1715).  Tenison, in his turn, presented the book to Lambeth Palace Library. However, the evidence for this volume’s first owner, Queen Elizabeth I, is less direct but no less convincing.


Christian Prayers and Meditations is beautifully illustrated and has been called ‘a Protestant Book of Hours’.  It is clearly meant to be associated with the monarch; it contains woodcuts of the Royal arms as well as a fine woodcut portrait of Elizabeth with the attributes of Kingship around her (see below). The title page shows the tree of Jesse (above), while the borders in the first part of the book depict the life of Christ and associated Old Testament scenes and those in the second part of the volume show a Dance of Death. Throughout the book the woodcuts have been carefully hand-coloured. The distinctive palette used to colour the illustrations indicate that the work was done by artists employed by Archbishop Matthew Parker at Lambeth Palace. This copy was clearly meant for someone important.


Day took much of the text of this collection of prayers from Henry Bull’s Christian Prayers and Holie Meditations, which had been published the previous year. Some of the prayers included in the volume were original compositions, however. Several of the prayers refer to the Queen in the first person. One such prayer, A Prayer for wisdom to governe the Realme, is somewhat reminiscent of Elizabeth’s famous Tilbury speech in its wording, with phrases such as “I thy handmaide, being by kinde aweake woman… ” Other prayers that refer to the Queen in the first person include four prayers for use in time of sickness. It has been suggested that the Queen composed these prayers as well as the prayers in Greek, Latin, Spanish and Italian that appear at the end of the book herself. Indeed, they have been published as part of her collected works. S. W May, however, takes the contrary view and argues that, while the publication of the book was approved by the Queen, the prayers in it were not written by her.

Whatever the truth about the authorship of the prayers the Lambeth Palace Library copy has a unique textual variation which gives a clue to the original owner of this copy of Christian Prayers and Meditations.  Unlike other copies of this book, references to the Queen in the Litany are in the first person, providing clear evidence, as Robert Harding has pointed out, that this copy was meant for the Queen’s personal use. Taken together with the evidence that the book came from the palace at Whitehall and that it was coloured in Parker’s workshop here at Lambeth, it is safe to conclude that this was a presentation copy for Elizabeth. Whether she ever used it is a very different matter!

Further reading

Robert Harding, “The Prayer Book of Elizabeth I” in Richard Palmer and Michelle P.  Brown, Lambeth Palace Library: Treasures from the Collection of the Archbishop of Canterbury. London: Scala, 2010

Elizabeth Evenden. Patents, Pictures and Patronage: John Day and the Tudor Book Trade. London: Ashgate, 2008

Leah S. Marcus, Janel Mueller, Mary Beth Rose (eds.),  Elizabeth I: Collected Works. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000

R. S. Luborsky and E. M. Ingram,  A Guide to English Illustrated Books 1536-1603. Tempe: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies,1998

S.W. May, ‘Queen Elizabeth Prays for the Living and the Dead’, in P. Beal and G. Ioppolo (eds.), Elizabeth I and the Culture of Writing. London: British Library, 2007

S. W. May (ed.) Queen Elizabeth I: Selected Works. Washington Square Press: New York, 2005

With a little help from our Friends: the Audley Psalter

Psalterium, first half of 15th century, Lambeth Palace Library MS 3285, The Audley Psalter

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library. During the past half-century the Friends have been very generous in helping the Library acquire books, manuscripts and prints of the highest quality for its collections. Of all the wonderful items which the Friends have helped us to acquire one of our particular favourites is the Audley Psalter. Acquired in 1982 it represented the first addition to the Library’s collection of illuminated medieval manuscripts since the 18th century. It was written and illuminated in England in the first half of the 15th century but has 16th century additions and its illuminated title-page dates from the 19th century.

King David with Harp

The end of the Calendar and the start of the Psalms with King David playing his Harp. LPL MS 3285 ff. 6v.-7r.

It once belonged to Edmund Audley (d.1524) who, when Bishop of Salisbury (1502-24), gave it to his niece Anne Audley, then a nun at Shaftesbury Abbey. There is an ex dono inscription on f.191 which reads:

Liber iste pertinet domine Anne Awdeley, moniali monasterii shaston’, ex dono reverendi domini domini (sic) Edmundi Awdeley, Sarum episcopi as avvnculi predicte domine.

Ex dono inscription from Bishop to Audley to his niece. LPL MS 3285 f.191

Ex dono inscription from Bishop to Audley to his niece. LPL MS 3285 f.191

The name Anne Awdeley also appears on f.2. In her turn, Anne gave it  to the convent and it is one of only a handful of manuscripts that survive from the Abbey library.

It is very attractively decorated and, as well as a number of accomplished borders, it also contains eight historiated 5 to 6-line initials, most of which depict King David, the traditional author of the Psalms. These are: David playing the harp ; David slaying the Lion ; David and Goliath ; the Annointing of David ; David in the waters ; David before the Ark and David with a group of clerics before a lectern. The final initial is a representation of the Trinity. They may not be of the highest artistic quality but they are lovely just the same.

David and Goliath. Note the sling in David's hand. f.61v.

David and Goliath. Note the sling in David’s hand. LPL MS 3285, f.61v.

We are grateful for the support of the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library and over in the coming year we will be presenting more treasures from our collections which they have helped us acquire.

Further reading

David N. Bell, What nuns read: books and libraries in medieval English nunneries (Cistercian Publications,1995)

J. Luxford, The Art and Architecture of English Benedictine Monasteries, 1300-1540: A Patronage History (Boydell, 2005)

Richard W. Pfaff, The liturgy in medieval England: a history (CUP, 2009)

Kathleen L. Scott, Later Gothic Manuscripts, 1390-1490 (Survey of manuscripts illuminated in the British Isles, Vol. 6) (Brepols,1996)

The negligent choir of Westminster

Lambeth Palace Library regularly loans items from its collections to other institutions for their exhibitions. For example, in 2013 the Death Warrant of Mary, Queen of Scots was lent to the National Museums Scotland for a major exhibition on the life of that ill-fated Queen and a copy of Basilika: the workes of King Charles the Martyr, that had been expurgated by the Inquisition in Lisbon, was lent to Tate Britain for their exhibition Art under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm. We have had many requests for exhibition loans for this year and next and earlier this month one of our conservators installed a book at the Foundling Museum as part of an exciting new exhibition.

Annotated Coronation Service

Annotated copy of Coronation service of George II

The book in question was presented to the Library by Archbishop Secker in 1767 and is entitled The form and order of the service that is to be performed and of the ceremonies that are to be observed, in the coronation of their Majesties King George II and Queen Caroline, in the Abby Church of S. Peter, Westminster, on Wednesday the 11th of October, 1727 (London:  John Baskett, 1727). It is known as Lambeth Palace Library MS 1079b, as it is heavily annotated by Archbishop William Wake, who presided at the coronation.

The service does not seem to have gone as well as it might have, as Wake’s annotations in the book make clear. He notes, for example, that the first anthem was omitted due to “the negligence of the choir of Westminster”and describes a later anthem as being sung “in confusion”. Even Zadok the Priest, the  anthem composed especially for the Coronation of George II, and sung at the coronation of every British monarch since, was sung in the wrong place.

If you would like to see this fascinating book it is on display in By George! Handel’s Music for Royal Occasions, which runs from 7 February to 18 May 2014 at the Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AZ.

The Will of Dick Whittington

The tale of Dick Whittington and his cat has become part of traditional folklore and is especially popular in pantomime form at this time of year. Although the real story of Richard Whittington may differ from the familiar classic in many ways it is no less inspiring. Details of his life and work can be gleaned from historic documents including his last will and testament which is recorded in the register of Archbishop Henry Chichele and held at Lambeth Palace Library.

Register of Archbishop Chichele containing Whittington’s will

Register of Archbishop Chichele containing Whittington’s will

Richard Whittington began his time in London apprenticed to a mercer. On completing his apprenticeship he became a freeman of the Mercers’ Company. He went on to become a leading merchant, accumulating a large fortune and playing an important part in London civic life including being elected Lord Mayor of London on four occasions. He died in 1423 and was buried with his wife at the church of St. Michael Paternoster, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Richard Whittington made his will in 1421 and it was proved after his death in March 1423. Before the establishment of a new Court of Probate based in London in 1858, a complicated network of more than 200 church courts across the country were responsible for proving wills. During the first half of the 15th century the Archbishop of Canterbury also had the unique authority to prove wills of his own accord.  As a result the Archbishop’s registers for this period contain a number of significant wills including those of royalty such as Edward III and Edward, Prince of Wales (more commonly known as the Black Prince) as well as notable citizens such as Whittington.

Wills can be illuminating historical sources, providing valuable insight into the lives of individuals and the time in which they lived. Concern for the welfare of the soul was paramount during the medieval period and charitable giving was a common feature in testaments of the time. Richard Whittington’s will is no exception citing some thirty separate bequests, most of which obliged the recipient to offer up prayers for Whittington and his wife.

Start of Whittington’s entry in the register

Start of Whittington’s entry in the register

Whittington gave to a plethora of causes including donations to monastic houses, towards the fabric of several London churches, legacies to poor prisoners in Newgate Gaol, and other London gaols, as well as inmates of assorted London hospitals. The rest of his estate was left to his executors to dispose of in works of charity for the good of his soul. They used it to set up a trust which contributed to various causes including the rebuilding of Newgate Gaol, the founding of a library at the Guildhall and improvements to the City’s water supplies. It was also used to establish a College of Priests and an Almshouse for poor men and women. The government of the College and Almshouse was assigned to the Mercers’ Company and although the College no longer exists the Almshouse (although essentially re-founded in the 19th century) continues to be administered by the Mercers’ Company under the name Whittington College.

The will of Richard Whittington can be viewed at Lambeth Palace Library on microfilm (ms film705, Register of Archbishop Chichele, folio 354). The register of Archbishop Chichele is also available published as part of the Canterbury and York Society series and also as an edition by Clarendon Press. More information on the Mercers’ Company and their history can be found on their website at:

A Tale of Two Churches

St Paul’s Church, Bow Common, has recently won an architectural award for best modern church, awarded by the National Churches Trust.

Reading this while thinking about a subject for a blog post that would illustrate the variety of material held at the Church of England Record Centre, I thought how wonderful it would be if we had some information about St Paul’s to further illuminate the history of this unique church building.

As I made my way through the files in the Record Centre holdings for St Paul’s, I began to notice that the material was leading me in a slightly different direction to the one that  I had expected.

Files at CERC

Files at the Church of England Record Centre, before work began

Starting at the beginning, the first file on St Paul’s opens with a letter dated 1855 from a Mr William Cotton who writes to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners that he has a plot of ‘about 70 acres of land situated in the large and populous parishes of Limehouse and Stepney which I am about to offer for building purposes.’

At this point, St Paul’s did not yet exist and Cotton does not want to just build a new church, but to create a whole new parish.

While the area at that point had a very small population of  around 100-200 people, Cotton was offering sites for 1300-1400 houses, the rents of which would support the incumbent. The population was largely made up of working people and Cotton was keen that this new parish church be ‘like our ancient parish churches, free to all the inhabitants of the proposed parish.’

It is tempting to speculate about the motivation behind this generous bequest. Cotton proposes that the church will be built at a cost of £5000 and that he will endow it with a parsonage and a stipend for the first clergyman of £150 per annum. There is a clue in one of his letters where he mentions that two of his sons are in Holy Orders, but the material in the files gives us precious few insights into the man himself – that would be a different archive and a different story.

Map showing the land bequeathed by Mr. William Cotton, edged in green

Map showing the land bequeathed by Mr. William Cotton, edged in green

The BBC News website explained that the award-winning church was built around 1960. This made me think that the original church must have been heavily damaged in the Second World War, but the only mention of the church in the files is in the form of an Order in Council of 6th January 1944, deferring restoration of the church of St Paul’s for 5 years until 10th May 1948. This Order was then extended ‘until the Commissioners otherwise direct.’

It was surprising then, to find this note on file dated 8th June 1961:

The new church of St Paul was built to an entirely new design almost entirely on the site of the old church. I do not know whether this can properly be classed as restoration (not needing the Commissioners’ approval) or whether it should be regarded as a new church (requiring the Commissioners’ approval). However, I am inclined to think the former and in any case the church has now been built without the Commissioners’ approval and I imagine it is unnecessary at this stage to seek it.  

Turning the page, I then found this somewhat sheepish letter from the London Diocesan Fund dated 20th July 1961:

I am very sorry that inadvertently the Reorganization Committee did not notice that the Order on the 6th January, 1944, had not been rescinded.

These two finds were very suggestive of the chaos of post war Britain, a wonderful piece of pragmatism on the part of the Commissioners and point to the success of Cotton’s new parish in that the strength of the community necessitated a new church to be built. Exploring the files, it was interesting to be led by the material and to see a story begin to emerge that could only be fully completed by exploring other archives with complementary material. From the glimpses of its history that the Church of England Record Centre holds, it seems that St Paul’s has some more interesting stories to be told.

Amy Finn, Archivist, Church of England Record Centre

Records cited:

ECE/7/1/8947 Part 1

The Society of Saint John the Evangelist archive now catalogued

Fr. Benson SSJE

Fr. Benson SSJE

The end of November marked the completion of an 11-month project to catalogue the records of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE). The Cowley Fathers, as SSJE were more popularly known, were founded by Richard Meux Benson in Oxford in 1866, when Benson and two other Fathers took vows of silence, poverty and obedience and began the first Anglican male monastic order since the Reformation. The brotherhood would last almost 150 years before, sadly, coming to a close in England in 2011 (although a thriving community still exists in America).

The Society expanded from its Oxford base and established houses in London, India, South Africa, America, Canada and Japan. From each of these houses the Fathers ventured out into the community, ministering wherever asked, as well as welcoming people into their midst – providing safety and education for children and places of retreat and contemplation for clergy and lay people alike.

It is from India and South Africa that perhaps some of the most fascinating material in the collection emanates, with letters sent back from the ‘missionary frontier’ by pioneering Fathers in the 1870s and 1880s providing a vivid recollection and glorious image of the early work of the missions of the Society. Under particularly harsh conditions – cholera was just one ever present threat – the Fathers would cover large swathes of land carrying out the work of God wherever and whenever the opportunity arose.

A SSJE mission poster

A SSJE mission poster

That is not to say the activities of SSJE were well received in all quarters, with letters revealing confrontations with the Indian establishment arising when Fathers took to the streets to distribute ‘religious material’. Further challenges came from within the life as a monk living under Rule, with Fathers tasked to undertake ‘active evangelicalization’ whilst at the same time adhering to their vow of silence. Nevertheless, the legacy left by SSJE is clear across several continents, with many of the schools and churches built by the Fathers still fulfilling the same functions as they had so many years ago.

In addition to the wonderful correspondence, the collection also features a comprehensive set of the Society’s Rule and Statue books and minute books which combine to explain the governance of the Society, a large number of photographs and slides showing the Fathers at work at the missions, and a large volume of religious texts, particularly from its renowned leader Fr. Benson, in the form of sermons, addresses and meditations.

The project was jointly funded by the charitable trust administering SSJE funds, the Fellowship of St. John, and the Trustees of Lambeth Palace Library, and the collection is housed at the Church of England Record Centre, South Bermondsey.  To access the material, please consult the Lambeth Palace Library archives and manuscripts catalogue.

Scottish Mothers’ Union

Scottish Mothers' Union Badges

Scottish Mothers’ Union Badges

It’s St Andrew’s Day and to celebrate the occasion we have a stunning image of Scottish Mothers’ Union badges which form part of the Archive of the Mothers’ Union held here at Lambeth Palace Library.  The Archive includes minute books, publications, correspondence, photographs, slides and ephemera including banners, badges and even a jigsaw.  It is invaluable to anyone interested in the organisation and more generally, the history of women in the Anglican Church.

The Mothers’ Union was founded by Mary Elizabeth Heywood who was born on 31st December 1828.  She was well educated and later married George Sumner with whom she had three children.  In 1876 Mary started meetings for mothers in her parish, and she later created a membership card and the first Mothers’ Union Prayer with her husband.  Her impromptu speech in 1885 at the Portsmouth Church Congress inspired other women to establish their own meetings and persuaded the Bishop of Winchester to make the Mothers’ Union a diocesan organisation.

Mary Sumner’s visit to Scotland in 1887 sparked the creation of the Scottish Mothers’ Union.  The Scottish MU’s affiliation with the organisation ended when the Mothers’ Union was granted a Royal Charter in 1926 which stipulated that all office bearers must be Anglican Church members.  In 1929 the Scottish MU became an Incorporated Society; however, in March 1984 it was dissolved and the remaining groups were affiliated with the Mothers’ Union.  A service to commemorate the Scottish MU took place at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh.

In 1912 the Mothers’ Union was incorporated as a church society and its new constitution expressed its primary aims:

  • To uphold the sanctity of marriage
  • To awaken in all mothers a sense of their great responsibility in their training of their boys and girls (the Fathers and Mothers of the future)
  • To organise in every place a band of Mothers who will unite in prayer and seek by their own example to lead their families in purity and holiness of life.
Mothers' Union Badges

Mothers’ Union Badges

The Mothers’ Union was originally represented by a drawing of a mother and child by the artist Heywood Sumner, Mary’s son, as can be seen in the image of a medallion and a brooch pin dated from approximately 1910.  Badges, brooches and other material items were important to members as treasured possessions while also embodying the spiritual motivation behind the organisation.

Model of Mary Sumner House

Model of Mary Sumner House

An unusual example of memorabilia within our collection is the card model of Mary Sumner House.  The model making kit, commissioned by the Mothers’ Union, was produced by the printers Edson Ltd and dates from the mid-twentieth century.  This model of the MU headquarters reveals an intention to promote the organisation’s work and mission.  It also shows a sense of pride and a conscious attempt to preserve their history.

After many years of fundraising, Mary Sumner House was opened in Tufton Street, Westminster, by Princess Mary on 21st July 1925.  It acts as a memorial to the MU’s founder and a spiritual home to its members, with a chapel designed by the architect Paul Waterhouse at the heart of the building.

The Mothers’ Union continues to thrive and describes itself as ‘an international Christian membership charity that aims to demonstrate the Christian faith in action through the transformation of communities worldwide’.  The Archive of the Mothers’ Union is available to view in our reading room and you can learn more about the organisation at