Letter: Prayers for monarchs and their families

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Sir: Robin Alden (Letters, 24 August) queries whether the concept of prayers for the Royal Family is as old as Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer - his own 1935 book includes prayers for Queen Mary and Edward, Prince of Wales.

Prayers for the Royal Family were not included in Cranmer's 1549 and 1552 Prayer Books for the simple reason that the sovereign was a young boy who it was hoped would grow up to have a family of his own. Edward VI died unmarried, Mary I, his half-sister, had no children, nor had his other half-sister, Elizabeth I. So the Prayer Book as authorised by Elizabeth included no prayer for the Royal Family, but only for the sovereign (following Cranmer's usage in the Litany and the 1549 Communion service).

The State Prayers for use at Morning and Evening Prayer, including a prayer for the Royal Family, were added to the Prayer Book as authorised by James I, who had a family of children, and have remained ever since.

It is a very great pity that the Alternative Services authorised in 1980 have curtailed the prayers for the sovereign and made praying for the Royal Family entirely optional, with the result that many churches no longer do this. Who can say how much the prayerful support of clergy and laity might have been helpful in forestalling and preventing the very sad events that have befallen the Royal Family in recent months.

Yours faithfully,


Hon Secretary

The Prayer Book Society

London, EC4

28 August