Rewriting ritual memory

After the Act of Supremacy in 1534, some space was gradually made for Reformed devotional and liturgical material. A number of ‘primers’ (books of hours) were issued, beginning with William Marshall’s of 1534. In 1545 the King’s Primer was printed (in both Latin and English) to establish a degree of uniformity of usage. The contents to some extent followed the pre-Reformation model, but with significant changes of emphasis. Remembering the words of prayers is a highly significant form of religious memory. The Pater noster was said in Latin in the pre-Reformation Roman rite, but was also memorised by the laity in English. The vernacular Reformed term ‘lordes prayer’ is first found replacing the Latin Pater noster in a Primer in 1537. Up to 1545 it existed in a number of variants. Here we see the Lord’s Prayer for the first time in the exact verbatim form ultimately adopted in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549, and standardised up to the 1960s. Below it is the Ave Maria, which followed the Pater noster in Matins in Sarum, but was excluded from the Book of Common Prayer in 1549. Later in this same copy, there are examples of defacement: the prayers for the dead contained here were outlawed by later Protestants. Other prayers are marked in the margin for special remembrance; and prayers from the later Book of Common Prayer are added by hand. The presence of these handwritten annotations indicates the inability of print to keep up to date. BC

[King’s Primer.] The primer, set foorth by the Kynges maiestie and his Clergie, to be taught lerned, & read: and none other to be vsed throughout all his dominions (London: Richard Grafton, 1545).

CUL: Peterborough.Sp.28, sig. C2v-C3r

Further Reading

C. C. Butterworth, The English Primers (1529–1545) (Philadelphia, 1953), pp. 301–3.

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