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The Book of Common Prayer: a Timeline

Chronologie du Book of Common Prayer

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The Henrician Reformation

1534: Act of Supremacy, recognizing that Henry VIII is rightfully head of the Church in England, enforced by an oath taken by all clergy.

1538: Royal Injunctions ordering all parishes to buy a Bible in English.

Thomas Cranmer starts work to revise, translate and simplify the breviary (morning and evening services instead of seven daily offices).

1547: Death of Henry VIII, accession of Edward VI.

The Edwardian Reformation

1548: Order of Communion: introduction of some English in the mass.

Convocations of Clergy and House of Lords debate Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer.

1549: Book of Common Prayer published (March) and its use made compulsory (June).

Rebellions against the Prayer Book in Devon, Cornwall and East Anglia.

1550: Introduction of new Ordinal (ordination liturgy) and abolition of minor orders.

First Vestarian Controversy: Hooper refuses to wear traditional episcopal vestments (rochet and chimere) for his consecration as Bishop of Gloucester.

1551: Hooper consecrated bishop in required vestments.

Book of Common Prayer translated into Latin.

1552: Act of Uniformity orders use of second Book of Common Prayer (March).

John Knox objects to kneeling at communion.

1Printing of the second Book of Common Prayer halted and a ‘black’ rubric (in black ink instead of traditional red ink) added to specify that kneeling does not imply belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

French translation of the 1552 Book of Common Prayer published.

The Reign of Mary Tudor

1553: Death of Edward VI (July). Jane Grey proclaimed Queen, Mary rallies support and is proclaimed Queen (July).

Parliament passes Act of Repeal, undoing Edward VI’s Reformation.

1554: Mass exile of English Protestants to the Continent.

Second Act of Repeal: undoing Henry VIII’s Reformation; England reconciled to Rome.

The Elizabethan Reformation

1558: Death of Mary and accession of Elizabeth (17 November).

Elizabeth leaves the royal chapel when bishop Oglethorpe elevates the host despite her command.

1559: Act of Supremacy and Act of Uniformity (Mary’s religious legislation undone, Elizabeth granted the title of Supreme Governor of the Church of England, conformity to Book of Common Prayer ordered).

Restoration of the Book of Common Prayer combining elements of 1552 BCP with elements of 1549 version (kneeling at communion but black rubric omitted, ornaments rubric amended, 1549 and 1552 words of adminstration combined in a single formula, creating some latitude on Eucharistic doctrine).

Queen orders restoration of crucifix to Chapel Royal.

1563: Calls for further ecclesiastical reform (abolition of holy days, sign of the cross, compulsory use of surplice, kneeling, organ music).

Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion passed by the Convocations of Clergy.

Book of Common Prayer translated into Welsh.

1564-66: Second vestarian controversy. Elizabeth and Archbishop Parker enforce conformity (clergy indicted or deprived for refusing to wear the surplice). Term ‘Puritan’ used for the more radical Protestants calling for further reforms in worship and church government and for an increased emphasis on preaching. 

1572: Parliament examines bill to allow dispensations from wearing vestments and observing ceremonies.

Queen bans bills on religious matters from being introduced in Parliament without support of bishops.

1581: House of Commons’ petition for Church reform rejected.

1586: Introduction of a Bill in the Commons to reform the Book of Common Prayer and establish a Geneva-style liturgy.

The Church of the Early Stuarts

1603: Death of Elizabeth, accession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne as James I.

1604: Hampton Court Conference meets to find agreement between bishops and Puritans. Book of Common Prayer of 1559 re-issued with minor changes. Enforcement campaign leading to deprivation of eighty ministers.

1607-10: Production of the first translation of the Book of Common Prayer into Italian, to encourage the Venetian Republic’s anti-Roman policies.

1611: Authorised Version of the Bible published.

1620s-1630s: rise of Laudianism (beauty of holiness, emphasis on ritualism, Arminianism, as a consequence church rails and altars restored in parish churches).

1625: Death of James I and accession of Charles I.

1637: Laudian version of the Book of Common Prayer (based on the 1549 edition) imposed in Scotland. Strong popular resistance to royal policy of Anglicanization of the Kirk.

1638: Book of Common Prayer and office of bishop abolished by Scottish synod. Widespread subscription to National Covenant launched armed resistance to king’s policy and led to the two Bishops’ wars.

1640-1: Resistance in England to Laudian policies in Parliament and ‘out of doors’. Calls to revise the Book of Common Prayer.

1642: Beginning of the Civil War

1645: Book of Common Prayer abolished and replaced with Directory of Worship.

1649: Trial and execution of Charles I

The Church of the Late Stuarts

1660: Charles II restored as king.

1661: Savoy Conference to revise the Book of Common Prayer.

1662: Act of Uniformity restores the Book of Common Prayer with little accomodation to Puritan demands. 900 clergy ejected for refusing to accept the Book of Common Prayer.

1664: Conventicles Act outlaws Non-Conformist prayer meetings (i.e. worship with Book of Common Prayer is now mandatory).

1660-1685: Repression against Non-Conformists and failure of Charles II’s policies to secure toleration for Catholics.

1685: Death of Charles II, advent of James II, first Catholic king since 1558.

Publication in London of the Book of Common Prayer in Italian.

1688: William of Orange lands at Torbay, James II flees England.

Start of the Glorious Revolution.

1689: Parliament declares the throne vacant ; William and Mary crowned.

400 clergy (Non-Jurors) refuse to take the oath of allegiance, leading to loss of their livings some time later.

Toleration for Dissenters.

1690: Following the rejection of episcopacy by the Kirk, Scottish Anglicans reorganise in the Scottish Episcopal Church. They use the 1637 Laudian Book of Common Prayer.

The Church in the Georgian Era

1744: John Wesley calls the first Methodist conference in London.

1764: Scottish Anglicans publish the Scottish Communion Office, a revised eucharistic liturgy based on the Laudian 1637 Communion service.

1780: John Wesley publishes A Collection of Hymns for the Use of People called Methodists.

1784: Methodist Episcopal Church established in America.

Publication of Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America, with other occasional services (a revised version of the Book of Common Prayer).

1789: After reorganising within a newly created Episcopal Church, American Anglicans in the independent United States adopt their own revised version of the Book of Common Prayer, whose eucharistic rite owes a great deal to the 1764 Scottish Communion Office.

1797: Non-Wesleyans reject the use of the Book of Common Prayer.

The Nineteenth-Century Church

1828: Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts.

1829: Catholic emancipation.

1833: Beginning of the Oxford Movement with the publication of Tracts for the Times. Rise of Anglo-Catholicism: belief that the Anglican Church is a branch of the Catholic Church. Key figures in the movement: John Keble, John Henry Newman and Edward Pusey.

1836: Augustus Pugin publishes Contrasts, encouraging gothic revival in church building and return to medieval faith and social structures.

1840s-1870s: Rise of Ritualism (re-introduction of pre-Reformation rituals in church services).

1874: Public Worship Regulation Act, banning ritualism, a few members of the clergy prosecuted.

First Bonn Union Conference: first agreement between Anglican Church and German speaking Old Catholics (but the question of the validity of Anglican orders is not settled).

1874: French Reformed minister Eugène Bersier publishes Liturgie à l’usage des Eglises Réformées, inspired by the Book of Common Prayer.

1882: Publication of the Methodist Book of Public Prayer and Services.

1899: Percy Dearmer publishes The Parson’s Handbook, arguing for a strict compliance with the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer, including the use of pre-Reformation rituals (Sarum rite) and ornaments, thus normalizing High-Church ritualism.

The Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Church

1906: Commission established to revise the Book of Common Prayer.

1911: Creation of the Society of St Peter and St Paul by Anglo-Catholics in response to the popularity of ritualism as popularized by The Parson’s Handbook. The Society later published the Anglican Missal (1921).

1927-8: House of Commons twice reject Prayer Book Measure (revised version of the Book of Common Prayer).

1928: Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury authorise bishops to allow use of Deposited Book (revised version).

1936: Publication of the Methodist Book of Offices.

1931: Bonn Agreement, establishing full communion between the Anglican church and the Old Catholic churches.

1979: Latest revision of the American Book of Common Prayer in the Episcopal Church.

1980: Publication of the Alternative Service Book, a modern set of liturgies to be used as an alternative to the Book of Common Prayer in the Church of England.

1985: The Anglican Church of Canada authorises the Book of Alternative Services, a modern set of liturgies for use as an alternative to the Canadian version of the Book of Common Prayer (1918, revised in 1964).

1999: Publication of the Methodist Worship Book.

2000: Common Worship replaces the 1980 Alternative Service Book.

2007: Pope Benedict XVI issues the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum which reauthorises the use of the Tridentine rite in the Roman Catholic Church.

2009: Pope Benedict XVI publishes Anglicanorum coetibus: special provisions for Anglicans converting to Catholicism, including use of Anglican liturgy.

2This chronology is indebted to Rosemary O’ Day, The Routledge Companion to The Tudor Age, Routledge: 2010 and John Wroughton, The Routledge Companion to The Stuart Age, 1603-1714, Routledge: 2006.

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The Book of Common Prayer: a TimelineRevue Française de Civilisation Britannique [Online], XXII-1 | 2017, Online since 02 May 2017, connection on 15 June 2021. URL:; DOI:

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