In December 1545, King Henry VIII was presented with this carefully embroidered volume as a New Year’s gift. The prayer book had been assembled by his twelve-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who would herself ascend to the throne in 1558.
Why is the manuscript important?
The manuscript attests to Princess Elizabeth’s thorough education under the supervision of Henry’s sixth wife, Katherine Parr. The text contains a copy of Parr’s own work Prayers or Meditations, which Elizabeth has translated into Latin, French and Italian, copied skilfully onto vellum in a neat italic hand. This script owes its style to the writing master Jean Bellemain, tutor to Elizabeth’s brother, Edward VI. The volume’s Latin preface, in which the Princess expresses her obedience to the king, is the only surviving letter from Elizabeth to her father.
The volume’s embroidered binding emphasises Elizabeth’s close relationships within the royal family. Interlaced in the centre of the crimson cover are the initials of Henry VIII and Katherine Parr. In the corners, white roses serve as a reminder of the princess’s grandmother, Elizabeth of York. Embroidered prayer books were popular New Year’s gifts: as queen, Elizabeth received many devotional manuscripts, adorned with embroidered or jewelled bindings. By presenting such a volume to her father, Elizabeth demonstrated not only her skills at translation, composition and calligraphy, but also her piety and faith.
Browse through the entire manuscript on our Digitised Manuscripts website.
- Full title:
- Prayers and meditations (the 'Prayerbook of Princess Elizabeth')
- Manuscript / Prayer book
- Latin / French / Italian
- Queen Elizabeth I
- Usage terms
Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.
- Held by
- British Library
- Royal MS 7 D X
- Article by:
- The British Library
An overview of articles and British Library resources relating to Christianity.
- Article by:
- Susan Doran
Professor Susan Doran discusses Henry VIII and the Reformation, looking at the Catholic devotional texts that were owned by the king, his break with the Catholic Church and the development of the English Bible following the Reformation.