A Prayer Roll Fit for a Tudor Prince

  • John J. Thompson
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In An Apology for Poetry, Sir Philip Sidney describes the historian as “loaden with old mouse-eaten records, authorizing himself (for the most part) upon other histories, whose greatest authorities are built upon the notable foundation of hearsay; having much ado to accord differing writers, and to pick truth out of partiality.”1 In mocking the scholarly enterprise upon which the academic careers of so many contributors to this volume have been based, Sidney quotes from Cicero before him who had insisted that it is only when time itself has somehow been transcended that history can boast its disciplinary utility as testis temporum, lux veritatis, vita memoriae, magistra vitae, nuncio vetustatis (the witness of the ages, the light of truth, the life of memory, the governess of life, the herald of antiquity).2 In its new context in An Apology for Poetry, the repurposed borrowing implies the solipsism and pedantry of the historical commentator rather than the science of the Ciceronian discipline. And Sidney’s words still hold their sting for modern historians of the early book where much of our understanding of real, and not simply imagined, medieval readers and reading practices is reconstructed from the surviving material remnants of a bygone age and earlier attempts to deal with them as scientifically as possible, building upon whatever “notable foundation of hearsay” one can comfortably link to the surviving texts through the associated evidence of provenance and ownership, often deduced from later inscriptions or in casually added marginalia and underlinings or other readerly attempts to mark the text.3


Diffi Cult Great Matter British Library Reading Practice Henry VIII 
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  1. 4.
    See the recent description in Neil Ripley Ker and Alan John Piper, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, IV Paisley-York (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 538–40Google Scholar
  2. also Edward Charlton, “Roll of Prayers Formerly Belonging to Henry VIII When Prince,” Archaeologia Aeliana n.s. 2 (1858): 41–45.Google Scholar
  3. For the purchase of the roll by the British Library, see the newsletter of the Association for Manuscripts and Archives in Research Collections, AMARC Newsletter 55 (October 2010) [“New Arrivals” section]; (accessed April 23, 2011).
  4. 10.
    Sean Cunningham, Henry VII (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007), 117–19Google Scholar
  5. see also Margaret Condon, “God Save the King! Piety, Propaganda and the Perpetual Memorial,” in Westminster Abbey: The Lady Chapel of Henry VII (Woodbridge, Suff.: Boydell & Brewer, 2003), 59–97.Google Scholar
  6. 16.
    See also Robert Swanson, Indulgences in Late Medieval England: Passports to Paradise? (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 278–348.Google Scholar
  7. 17.
    For the problems of writing a convincing history of intimacy for the later Middle Ages, see also Eamon Duffy, Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers 1240–1570 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), esp. 3–64.Google Scholar
  8. 18.
    Don Skemer, Binding Words: Textual Amulets in the Middle Ages (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1986), 156–62.Google Scholar
  9. 21.
    Frank Arthur Mumby, The Youth of Henry VIII: A Narrative in Contemporary Letters (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1913).Google Scholar
  10. 22.
    Ralph Griffiths, The Principality of Wales: The Structure and Personnel of Government, I South Wales, 1277–1536 (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1972), 205–06.Google Scholar
  11. 24.
    William Robinson, “Henry VIII’s Household in the Fifteen-Twenties: The Welsh Connection,” Historical Research 68 (1995): 178–79 [173-190].Google Scholar
  12. 28.
    Henry Ansgar Kelly, The Matrimonial Trials of Henry VIII (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1976).Google Scholar
  13. 30.
    James Carley, The Libraries of King Henry VIII (London: The British Library in association with the British Academy, 2000), xlvi–lv.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© R. F. Yeager and Toshiyuki Takamiya 2012

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  • John J. Thompson

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