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    The First and Second Prayer Books
of Edward VI



THE few pages at my disposal for an introduction to the two Prayer-Books of Edward VI. will be best utilised by a brief sketch of the circumstances under which the books in question were issued, and an indication of their leading characteristics.

I. In the early part of the sixteenth century there was a very general feeling throughout the Church, on the continent as well as in this country, that some liturgical reform was an imperative necessity. The revival of learning had brought into discredit many of the accretions and much of the legendary matter which in course of time had found their way into the services of the Church; the multiplication of festivals had seriously dislocated the system whereby the whole Psalter was required to be recited in the course of the week; there was no little confusion in the complicated rules which governed the use of the Breviary; while the doctrinal reformation which followed on Luther's early protests against the system of indulgences called, in the opinion of many persons, for drastic and far reaching changes, especially in the Eucharistic Service of the Church. We are not concerned here with the continental movements for liturgical reform, except in so far as they have influenced our own Book of Common Prayer. It will be sufficient to notice that such movements were not confined to those who broke away from the Roman obedience. One remarkable book stands out pre-eminently as having been drawn up and used with the sanction of the Pope for more than thirty years. This was the Reformed Breviary of the Spanish Cardinal Quignon, the first edition of which was issued in 1535, being followed by a second and revised edition in 1537. The book was designed to facilitate the private recitation of the hour services by the clergy rather than to be publicly used in choir. It met with considerable success, and was evidently widely used for a time, since more than a hundred editions of it were published before its suppression In 1568; and it is noteworthy as having furnished Cranmer with guidance for that revision of the Hour Services of the Sarum Breviary, which has resulted in "the Order for Morning and Evening Prayer" in our own service book. Indeed no small part of the Preface of the first Prayer-Book of Edward VI. (which still finds a place in our present book under the title "Concerning the Service of the Church") is a literal translation from the preface of the first edition of Quignon's work, showing conclusively that it was from this that Cranmer adopted the main principles which guided him in his treatment of the Hour Services.
    One other continental book must also be mentioned, the Simplex ac pia deliberatio of Hermann von Wied, Archbishop of Cologne. This, which was actually the work of Bucer and Melancthon, was published in German in 1543 and in Latin in 1545. Two years later an English translation appeared in this country (1547, 2nd ed. 1548), under the title of A simple and religious Consultation of us Herman, by the Grace of God, Archbishop of Colone, and Prince Electoure, &c., by what meanes a Christian reformation, and founded in Gods worde, Of doctrine, administration of Divine Sacramentes, Of Ceremonies, and the whole cure of soules, and other ecciesiasticall ministeries, may be begon among men committed to our pastorall charge, etc. This was not strictly speaking a service book. It was rather a book of doctrine and discipline. Incidentally, however, it contained much guidance for the Church's worship, and several forms of prayer, taken to a great extent from the Kirchen Ordnung, drawn up in 1533 by Osiander for Brandenberg and Nuremberg. The work was well-known to Cranmer in its various forms, and there is no doubt that he took several suggestions from it, notably in the Communion Service, and also in the Baptismal Office.

II. In England the same need of reform was felt as on the Continent. During the reign of Henry VIII., however, but little could be done, as, though the king had broken with the pope, he had no intention of committing himself to a doctrinal reform on a wide scale. A revised edition of the Sarum Breviary was, however, issued in 1542, in which slight changes were made, and in the same year a Committee of Convocation was appointed to consider a further reformation of the service books. In the following year (1543) it was ordered that one chapter of the English Bible (which had been directed to be set up in all parish churches as early as 1536) should be read publicly every Sunday and holy day after Te Deum and Magnificat. Still more important, perhaps, so far as liturgical revision is concerned. was the issue of the English Litany in 1544, to be used "in time of processions." This was not a mere translation of the medieval Latin Litany. It was a revised and expurgated version. .All the invocations of saints except three clauses were omitted and there were various other alterations adapting it for popular use. This was, however, the utmost extent to which liturgical change was carried in the reign of Henry VIII. The latter years of the reign were marked by a decided reaction, and Cranmer was forced to content himself for the time with preparations for further changes when times should prove more propitious; and there remains in existence more than one draft of his, belonging apparently to this reign, showing clearly his projects, and indicating the direction in which his mind was moving.

III. Henry VIII. died on January 28, 1547, and was succeeded by the boy king, Edward VI., who was completely in the hands of the party of reform; and now changes came in rapid succession. The Royal Injunctions, issued in the first year of the new reign, ordered among other things that for the future the Epistle and Gospel at High Mass should be read in English; Compline was sung in the Royal Chapel in English; and the First Book of the Homilies was published. In the following year a step even more significant than any of these was taken by the abolition of one of the abuses which was attracting most attention, viz., the denial of the cup to the laity at the administration of the Holy Communion This reform was ordered by an Act of Parliament for receiving in both kinds (1 Edw. VI. c. i.), and for the purpose of carrying out the Act an "Order of the Communion" was prepared and issued by a Royal Proclamation dated March 1548. The "Order" was not a complete Communion Service. It was merely supplementary to the Latin Mass, which was to be celebrated as formerly up to and inclusive of the priest's communion, "without the varying of any other Rite or Ceremony in the Masse (untill other order shal be provided)," only at this point the priest was to turn to the people and address them briefly in English. Then followed the Confession, Absolution, Comfortable Words, a Prayer of Humble Access, also in English--practically in the form in which we have them. There were plenty of medieval precedents for such forms of preparation for reception in the vernacular, but the particular forms adopted were new, and appear to have been suggested to some extent by similar ones in Hermann's Consultation. What was a novelty to that age, though really a return to the universal custom of earlier times, was the administration of the Communion in both kinds; and the form of words ordered was this:--

"The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee,
    preserve thy body unto everlasting life."

and,-- "The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee,
preserve thy soul unto everlasting life."

and the service was closed with the benediction in English. This "Order of the Communion" was obviously intended as merely a temporary expedient, to be employed only until a more complete English service was ready; and it can only have been used for little more than a year. In the following year it was superseded by the first complete English service, viz., that which is contained in the first Prayer-Book of Edward VI.

IV. The history of the preparation of this book is some what obscure, but there is no doubt that Cranmer had the chief hand in it. There are traces of the existence of a Committee which sat at Chertsey and later on at Windsor to prepare it, and it has been thought that their work was subsequently submitted to Convocation for its sanction. The records of Convocation perished in the great fire of London in 1666 and consequently it is not possible to speak with complete certainty on this point. There is indeed a certain amount of evidence that such sanction was given, but it is not sufficient to be conclusive, and our best authorities are divided as to the weight that should be attributed to it. The book received, however, the authority of Parliament, being attached to the first Act of Uniformity (2 and 3 Edw. VI. c. i.), which speaks of "the Archbishop of Canterbury and certain other learned men of this realm" as having been appointed by the king to "draw and make one convenient and meet order, rite, and fashion of common and open prayer and administration of the sacraments, to be had and used in his Majesty's realm of England and Wales." This Act, which passed both houses by January 21, 1549, ordered the book to come into general compulsory use not later than Whitsunday (June 9). The earliest published edition bears the date "the viiith daye of March in the third year of the reign:"- and in some places the book came into use at once. Thus in the contemporary chronicle of Charles Wriothesley, after a notice that Parliament was prorogued on March 14, we read as follows:--
    "Memorandum: at this session of Parliament one uniform book was set forth of one sort of service with the administration of the holy communion and other sacraments to be used in this realm of England, and other the King's dominions whatsoever. To be observed after the feast of Pentecost next coming, as by an Act of Parliament against the transgression of the same doth appear. Howbeit Paul's quire, with divers parishes in London and other places in England, began the use of the said book in the beginning of Lent, and put down the private masses as by the Act is ordained."1
    A little later on the same writer notes:--
    "The one and twentieth day of July, the sixth day after Trinity Sunday, the Archbishop of Canterbury came to Paul's, and there in the quire after mattins in a cope with an alb under it, and his cross borne afore him with two priests of Paul's for deacon and subdeacon with albs and tunicles, the dean of Paul's following him in his surplice, came into the quire, etc."2
    The service on this occasion is also described with a touch of regret at the diminished splendour of it in the Grey Friars' Chronicle:--
    "Item the xxi. day of the same monythe (July) the wyche was Sonday, the byshoppe of Cauntorbery came sodenly to Powlles . . . . and soo was there at prosessioun and dyd the offes hym selfe in a cope, and no vestment nor mytter, nor crosse but a crose staffe; and soo dyd alle the offes, and hys satten cappe on hys hede all the tyme of the offes; and soo gave the communyoun hym selfe unto viii. persons of the sayd churche."3
    Of the character of the book which thus came into use it may be said that it was an honest attempt to get rid of medieval corruptions and to go back to what was primitive and Catholic. It contained the ancient services of the Church condensed, simplified, purified, and published in English. It was not intended to provide a brand-new scheme of worship, or to break rudely with the past. Indeed Cranmer declared that he was ready to prove that it was the same service which the Church of England had used for 1500 years; and when a rebellion arose in the West, and the rebels clamoured for the abolition of the new service which they quaintly said was "but like a Christmas game,"4 the Royal message to them spoke as follows:--
    "It seemeth to you a new service, and indeed it is none other but the old: the selfsame words in English which were in Latin, saving a few things taken out."5
    This perhaps minimises the amount of change introduced; but a comparison of the book with the Sarum Breviary, Missal, and Manual will show very clearly how conservative was the revision, and how little was introduced which was actually new. What was really done was to make the services intelligible to the mass of the people by their being said in English, and to purify them from anything that savoured of false or uncertain doctrine.
    It should be added that the book as published in 1549 did not contain an Ordinal. The omission was supplied in the following year, when an Act of Parliament (3 and 4 Edward VI. c. xii.) empowered the king to appoint a commission to prepare one, "to be set forth under the great seal of England before the first day of April." This was accordingly done and the book was published early in March.

V. Except in the extreme East and West the Prayer-Book appears to have been quietly, though not enthusiastically, received. But the reforms in the services did not go nearly far enough for the extreme school of reformers, among whom Bishop Hooper was the most prominent and outspoken. According to him the book was "very defective and of doubtful construction, and, in some respects indeed manifestly impious." Nor was it acceptable to the foreigners, many of whom about this time sought refuge in England. Among these the most influential were Martin Bucer and Peter Martyr, who were appointed Divinity Professors at Cambridge and Oxford respectively, and John a Lasco, a Polish divine, who was made superintendent of the foreign congregations in London. Cranmer's views were in a somewhat fluid state, but he gradually came more and more under the influence of the extreme party. In June, 1550, he "relaxed much of his Lutheranism" but was "not so decided "6 as Hooper could wish, being too much guided by Bucer, whom the more violent reformers always distrusted, denouncing him in no measured terms as a "hireling."7 By the end of the year his influence was believed to be on the wane,8 and though he lived to deliver a lengthy and reasoned criticism of the Prayer-Book in January, 1551, his death in the course of the next month removed a steadying and moderating influence from Cranmer's side.
    There was now no one left to urge the too pliant archbishop to resist the pressure brought to bear upon him. Ridley was not to be depended upon. He had already entered upon his crusade for the illegal destruction of altars in London. Peter Martyr had for some time gone with the tide of Zwinglianism. John a Lasco, whom his admirers regarded as "almost divine,"9 was "much with the Archbishop at this time;"10 and it is probably to his influence that the complete surrender of Cranmer to the views of Hooper and his friends should be traced. To these men, as has already been indicated, the clear sacramental teaching and the ritual of the first book were most objectionable, and they never rested until they had secured the alteration of it. Even so early as the autumn of 1550 there are traces that some revision was in contemplation; but of the course of the actual preparation of: the second book we know even less than we do of the first. It was certainly not brought before Convocation. Whether any formal Commission for its revision was ever issued is uncertain. All that we really know is, that it was authorised by Parliament. A bill to sanction its use was introduced early in 1552, and was passed in April of the same year--the second Act of Uniformity (5 and 6 Edward VI. c. i.). It is remarkable that this act begins by describing the former book as "a very godly order set forth by the authority of Parliament, for common prayer and administration of the sacraments, to be used in the mother tongue within the Church of England, agreeable to the Word of God and the primitive Church, very comfortable to all good people desiring to live in Christian conversation, and most profitable to the estate of this realm," and almost apologises for the existence of the book which was to supersede it, explaining that it was only required "because there has arisen in the use and exercise of the aforesaid common service in the Church, heretofore set forth, divers doubts for the fashion and manner of the ministrations of the same, rather by the curiosity of the minister and mistakers, than of any worthy cause."
    In spite of this, however, most drastic changes were introduced, as the reader can see for himself by comparing the two books together,--changes which are most marked in the Communion Service, and which were undoubtedly introduced to make the book acceptable to the Zwinglianizing party in the Church. Even so it would appear that they were not satisfied, for only little more than a month before the date (Nov. 1) when the book was to come into use, the printing was stopped by an order in Council (Sept. 27, 1552), and a determined effort was made to expunge the rubric which required kneeling at the reception of the Holy Communion. Happily, Cranmer felt that the limits of concession were reached; and in spite of the pressure brought to bear upon him by the Council he refused to yield the point. The dignified letter in which he declined to be a party to further change to satisfy "glorious and unquiet spirits which can like nothing but that is after their own fancy, and cease not to make trouble and disquietness when things be most quiet and in good order,"11 was successful. The Council was obliged to content itself with the addition of the "black rubric" or declaration concerning kneeling, and the posture of devout humility at the reception of the consecrated elements was suffered to continue. The book came into use, as provided by the Act, on All Saints Day, Nov. 1, 1552.
    "Item on Allhallow day beganne the boke of the new servis of bred and wyne in Powlles, with alle London, and the byshoppe dyd the servis hymself, and preechyd in the qwere at the mornynge servis, and dyd it in a rochet and nothynge elles on hym. And the dene with alle the resydew of the prebentes went but in their surples and left of their abbet of the universyte."12

VI. The character of the book thus imposed upon the Church will be obvious to the reader. It marks the extreme limit to which the liturgical changes proceeded England, though, had Edward's reign lasted much longer, it is probable that it would have witnessed a still wider departure from ancient usage in matters connected with public worship. The book was, however only suffered to remain in use for a very short time, as the young king's death took place in the summer of 1553, little more than six months after its publication; and the accession of Mary brought back the Latin services of an earlier day, and led to the repeal of the Edwardian Act of Uniformity. Of the subsequent history of the English Prayer-Book this is not the place to treat at any length. It will be sufficient to note that on the accession of Elizabeth the second Prayer-Book of Edward VI. was again brought into use with a few very significant changes, and that the subsequent revisions in the reigns of James I. (1604) and Charles II. (1661-2) have done much to stamp upon it a far more Catholic character than it possessed when it left Cranmer's hands, and have brought it practically into the form in which it is familiar to us all to-day.

[Edgar C. S. Gibson]

1. Wriothesley's Chronicle (Camden Soc.) vol. ii. p. 9.
2. Ib. p. 17.
3. Monumenta Franciscana, vol. ii. p. 222.
4. Strype's Cranmer, App. xl.
5.  Foxe, v. 732.
6. Original Letters, p. 89.
7. Ib. p. 666.
8. Ib. p. 575.
9. Ib. p. 378.
10. Ib. p. 576.
11. State Papers, Dom. Edw. VI., vol. xv. No. 15.
12. Grey Friars' Chronicle see Monumenta Franciscana, Vol. ii. p. 238



Originally published in The First and Second Prayer-Books of King Edward the Sixth, JM Dent & Sons, London, 1910.

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