Monarchy and the Book of Common Prayer


Tuesday 1 May- Saturday 14 July 2012

15 February 2012 To mark a visit by HRH Queen Elizabeth II to Lambeth Palace for an inter-faith meeting lead by the Archbishop of Canterbury, tickets for Royal Devotion: Monarchy and the Book of Common Prayer, will today go on sale.

A celebration of the Diamond Jubilee and the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer, the exhibition is the first to bring together the Palace Library’s collections of items of royal provenance.  Curated by Brian Cummings, Professor of English at the University of Sussex and Hugh Cahill, Deputy Librarian, Lambeth Palace Library, the exhibition will give a unique insight in to the relationship between royalty and religion, from medieval times up until the present day.

For three hundred years, from the Restoration of Charles II in 1662 to the accession of Elizabeth II in 1952, 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.

Visitors will be able to see up close 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.

The exhibition will also show how this history has been controversial and sometimes violent: religion has been at the centre of political debate and sometimes monarchs have been put to death in its name; and the Book of Common Prayer, as well as bringing the nation together, has seen rebellion, civil war, and itself been banned and burned.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams commented:

“We are delighted to be able to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee year with this special exhibition looking at the close relationship between the monarchy and the Church. We hope that visitors to Lambeth Palace this summer will come away with a deeper understanding of this shared inheritance and connection, told through a series of exquisite and culturally significant artefacts held by the Library on behalf of the nation since 1610.”


For more information please contact:

Eleanor Hutchins or Tom Ville at Four Communications or 44+ (0) 870 626 9000



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.

In 2006 the collections held in Lambeth Palace Library were awarded Designated status under the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council’s Designation Scheme, in recognition of their  national and international importance.

Booking information:

  • Tickets cost £12 Adults, £10 Concessions (over 60s, student and unemployed), under 17s free
  • Price includes printed exhibition guide

Opening times:

  • Tuesday- Friday 11.00-13.30 and 14.00- 17.00 (last entry 16.00)
    • Saturdays and Bank Holidays- 11.00-16.00 (last entry 15.00)
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