• National Emergencies, Public Worship, and Private Worship: Begging for Help in Thomas Cranmer’s “Exhortation” and Litany (1544) and Katherine Parr’s Psalms and Prayers (1544)

    Micheline White (see profile)
    Sixteenth century, Women, History
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    16th century, Religious studies, Women's history
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    All accounts of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer begin in 1544 with Thomas Cranmer’s production of an English Litany, a Processional rite used during times of crisis. Historians have always assumed that the Litany was the sole war-related devotional innovation in 1544, and Cranmer’s new rite has always been treated diachronically, without reference to other contemporary texts. This chapter argues that the Crown actually produced two intertwined wartime devotional texts in 1544: the second was a translation of Psalms or Prayers which was undertaken by Queen Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth and final wife. Through a detailed literary analysis I demonstrate that Parr’s text was a strategic companion to Cranmer’s Litany and made unique contributions to the military and devotional challenges of the day. Parr’s “Psalms,” for example, are lengthy, eloquent, and affective pieces that allowed for a more intense and personalized engagement with sin and supplication than was possible in the new (or in any) public rite, and they were seen as effective preparations for public worship. Second, while Parr’s “A Prayer for the King” and Cranmer’s Litany offered innovative celebrations of Henry VIII’s obedience and fear of God, Parr’s longer prayer aligned Henry with David and provided a more reassuring monarchical image as the nation prepared for war. Finally, I demonstrate that while Parr’s “private” prayer book complemented Cranmer’s public Litany, three different parts of her book moved into the realm of public worship alongside the Litany while she was still alive, probably in the spring of 1544 and then again probably in 1548. I demonstrate that Parr's translated "prayer for the King" was based on a prayer for the Holy Roman Emperor penned by Georg Witzel in 1541. As I discuss elsewhere, Queen Elizabeth I added Parr’s prayer to the BCP in 1559, where it remains to this day.
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