15th January 1549.

The English Prayer Book goes back to the reign of the Protestant Edward VI, when a Commission was set up to oversee a uniform Order of Service for the Church of England.(1)

At a time when Catholics and Protestants were battling for supremacy, Today in 1549, the House of Lords passed Edward VI’s Act of Uniformity establishing the Cranmer Book of Common Prayer and abolishing the Latin Mass.(2)

This Prayer Book issued on Whit Sunday superseded the Sarum, Hereford and York Uses and Bishop Gardiner of Winchester, leader of the unreformed party, said he could still read the old Mass, as the reservation of the sacrament still appeared and in fact permitted the Roman doctrines.(3)

1549 and the later 1552 introduced congregational singing of The Psalms, and the first Book of Homilies were to be used in pulpit exposition; previously priest-centred Catholic worship involved Latin chants, dirges and wailing.

So previously in the reign of Henry VIII, the Psalms were in Latin and his daughter Queen Elizabeth was happy for learned men of Oxford, Cambridge and Eton to use a Latin version of the Common Prayer and even the 1662 Book had each psalm headed with the first words of the Latin Vulgate.

In the June 1549 Cranmer Prayer Book now for the first time all the services, in the new Church of England, were to be in English, though prayers in English had already been included in the Latin Service at St Paul’s and other London churches.

A Rubric of Cranmer’s 1552 edition and that of Charles II’s of 1662 stated: the priest stands at ‘north side of Table’. After Mary’s death in 1558, came the 1559 Prayer Book edition including the Rubric: ‘The priest shall make a Crosse upon the Childe’s forehead’, no doubt in a nod to the Catholics.(4)

So to accommodate differing and deeply felt belief, we had the 1549 1552, 1559 and 1662 Acts of Uniformity and attendant Prayer Books which required parishes in England and Wales to make them available.

But it was the 1662 Prayer Book which finally condemned Catholics and Dissenters to loss of civil liberties disabilities for 200 years, and an unholy alliance between parson and squire.

From now on tensions grew between different factions, which eventually became political in its consolidation into the two-party political system.

The 42 Articles of Faith intrinsic to the Prayer Books, formulated by Cranmer in 1553 (based on the 1538 13 Articles), were eliminated by Mary I, and the 39 established in Elizabeth’s reign. by Convocation in 1563, was made by Parliament in 1571, a legal requirement, though a statute no longer in use.

By 1865 Church of England priests only had to declare that the doctrine of the Articles ‘Agree with the word of God’. In 1977 the Articles were consigned to the Appendix.

(1) 23rd September 1548

(2) Cranmer’s Prayer Book was ecumenical in its attempt to include disparate traditions including prayers inspired by the Mozarabic also known as Visigothic or Hispanic Rite.

This was the rite derived from Mozarab, the term for the Christian population which had been tolerated in southern Spain in the early days of the Muslim conquest in the 7thc.

(3) In the Sarum Library in Salisbury there are over a hundred books, the so-called ‘Sarum Primers’ which were 16thc Prayer Books used for devotions of the Laity.

(4) Mary died on 17th November 1558.

Ref: britainexpress.com/history/tudors/39 articles.

Ref: britannica.com/forty-two-articles.1553_cranmer.

Ref: British-history.ac.uk/report.

Ref: churchsociety,org/issues/2nd prayer book.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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