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Catherine Parr, widow of Henry VIII, pens Prayer for the Monarch in 1662 BCP

Catherine Parr, widow of Henry VIII, pens Prayer for the Monarch in 1662 BCP

It has been a common assumption that men produced the first editions of the Book of Common Prayer. However, as with many modern discoveries regarding ancient events, a Canadian scholar, doing research in one area of history, has stumbled upon the unexpected. Micheline White, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of English of the College of the Humanities at Carleton University in Ottawa Ontario Canada. While researching one of Catherine Parr’s ladies-in-waiting, Dr White came across a book of prayers published by Catherine Parr. In the back of the book she found a prayer for the king which is obviously the original for the Prayer for the Monarch of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Catherine Parr was Henry VIII’s last wife.

O Lord Jesu Christ, most high, most mighty, king of kinds, lord or lords, the only ruler of princes, the very son of God, on whose right hand sitting, dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth: with most lowly hearts we beseech thee, vouchsafe with favourable regard to behold our most gracious sovereign lord, King Henry the eight, and so replenish him with the grace of thy holy spirit, that he always incline to thy will and walk in thy way. Keep him far off from ignorance, but through thy gift, let prudence and knowledge always abound in his royal heart. So instuct him (O LORD JESU) reigning upon us in earth, that his human majesty always obey thy divine majesty in fear and dread. Indue him plentifully with heavenly gifts. Grant him in health and wealth long to live. Heap glory and honour upon him. Glad him with the joy of thy countenance. So strengthen him, that he may vanquish and overcome all his and our foes, and be dread and feared of all the enemies of his realm. Amen.

Katharine Parr (1512-1548)

The prayer books of a number of nations which hold the monarch of England to be their head of state retain a version of this prayer.

O Lord, our heavenly Father, high and mighty, King of kings, Lord of lords, the only Ruler of princes, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth: Most heartily we beseech thee with thy favour to behold our most gracious Sovereign Lady, Queen ELIZABETH; and so replenish her with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that she may alway incline to thy will, and walk in thy way. Endue her plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant her in health and wealth long to live; strengthen her that she may vanquish and overcome all her enemies; and finally after this life she may attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer for the Queen’s Majesty, the Book of Common Prayer

Main image and story from Anglican Communion News Service.

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JC Fisher

Well, in praying for Henry VIII, perhaps Parr just kept her head! 😮

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Ric Schopke

Ouch!
That's one way to get ahead in life.

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Jim Pratt

The 2 prayers which Emma cites were part of the Communion service from 1549.

The altered Parr prayer, known as the "Prayer for the King's (Queen's) Majesty", seems to first appear in the Elizabethan (1559) prayer book, at the end of the Litany . Laud's book (1637) included a rubric directing it to be said at the end of Morning Prayer, and it was added to the order for Morning Prayer in the 1662 BCP.

(In the 1549, 1552 and 1559 books, Morning Prayer ended with the 3 Collects: collect of the day, collect for peace, collect for grace. In the 1662 revision, provision was made for an anthem following the 3 collects, and then 5 additional prayers: the Prayer for the King's Majesty, a prayer for the Royal Family, the Prayer for the Clergy and People, the Prayer of St John Chrysostom, and the Grace, which by 1604 had all been included at the conclusion of the Litany).

So its inclusion in the BCP pre-dates 1662, but the first appearance in 1559 suggests that Parr's version could still be the original.

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EmmaPease

In addition Catherine Parr was not the only wife to outlive Henry VIII. Anne of Cleves also did not die until 1557 (well after Catherine Parr who died in 1548 and Henry who died in 1547). BTW I'm not sure it is so obvious that Parr's prayer is the source of the 1662 BCP prayer; both might have come from an earlier source.

The 1552 prayer book has the following prayers for the king (Edward, Henry's son) and are not closely related.

ALMIGHTIE God, whose kingdome is everlasting, and power infinite: have mercye upon the whole congregacion, and so rule the heart of thy chosen servaunt Edwarde the sixth, our king and governoure, that he (knowing whose minister he is) may above al thynges seek thy honoure and glory: and that we his subjectes (duely considering whose aucthoritie he hath) may faythfully serve, honour, and humbly obey him, in thee, and for thee, accordyng to thy blessed worde and ordinaunce: Throughe Jesus Christ our lord, who with thee, and the holy ghost, liveth, and reigneth ever one god, world without end. Amen.

or

ALMIGHTIE and everlastyng god, we be taughte by thy holy word, that the heartes of kinges are in thy rule and governaunce, and that thou dooeste dispose, and turne them as it semeth best to thy godly wysedome: we humbly beeseche thee, so to dispose and governe the heart of Edwarde the sixth, thy servaunt, our king and governoure that in al his thoughts, wordes, and workes, he may ever seke thy honor and glory, and study to preserve thy people committed to his charge, in wealth, peace, and godlynes. Graunt this, O mercifull father, for thy deare sonnes sake Jesus Christ our Lorde. Amen.

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Marshall Scott

Remember, though, that Catherine was Regent during Henry's last military campaign; that she was close to Edward, and to Elizabeth; and that she was niece to Cranmer. It is conceivable that Edward heard her recite the prayer in her private devotions, or that Catherine shared her prayers with the younger Tudors long before she was ready to make them public.

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Michael Hartney

Catherine Parr was the last wife of Henry VIII, not Henry VII as the first paragraph says . Also, as she died in 1548, some 114 years before 1662, I would bet that her prayer was in use well before the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

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