Seeing Richard III’s prayers
Why do supporters want to see a new Richard III film adaptation with Richard Armitage in the leading role? You can vote on this question here. And if you haven’t signed the petition in favor of him doing it, you can still do that here.
It’s going to be the second summer in a row with no Europe for Servetus. I was there every summer from 1999-2010 (and much of the year in between, sometimes), so it still feels like an adjustment not to be rushing off to Frankfurt. I miss it, but at the same time, I’m not ridiculously sad. My family needs me, and Europe isn’t going away. I’ve got more than enough microfiche of books I’ve been working on to keep me happy for the present. Also, I have to say: not spending every summer going into financial deficit to do research has had a great impact on my pocketbook. For the first time in a decade, “impecunious” is an inaccurate descriptor for me. So, it’s not so bad not to be going.
However, one of the many fantastic things about European summers (apart from twilights that last forever, wonderful seasonal foods, especially berries, gorgeous landscapes, and the opportunity to delve into amazing centuries-old library collections) is the museum exhibits. Museum tourism is an important aspect of the European economy, and in summertime, big museums put on amazing shows with cultural and culinary and tourist programs organized around them. I only follow German announcements. My first stop this summer would be the Kulturhistorisches Museum in Magdeburg for the Sachsen-Anhalt Territorial Exhibit on Otto the Great (and then I’d try to find a friend who wanted to drive around and visit the many Romanesque churches in the area); that museum in particular has developed a strong reputation for exciting medieval exhibits. Also on my list for this summer would be the Bavarian Territorial Exhibit in Burghausen, on the shared history of Austria and Bavaria; the Germanisches National Museum in Nuremberg for an exhibit on the early Dürer; and if I were going to Berlin, I wouldn’t miss a the famous bust of Nefertiti at the Neues Museum in Berlin. I’d visit for a day or two of close looking, a great meal, and a wonderful walk around an interesting cityscape. And probably some local coffee and cake delicacies. The train system makes all but the Burghausen exhibit incredibly convenient to get to via rail.
I don’t keep track of English exhibits because work doesn’t take me there all that often, but sometimes I fly via LHR or have to use the British Library and so I stop over. If I’m in England for a conference, of course, I definitely look for interesting possibilities. Frankly, for me the Olympics would make 2012 a summer to stay away from London, but I just saw a neat announcement today, at the Lambeth Palace Library (Lambeth Palace is the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury). It’s called “Royal Devotion: The Monarchy and the Book of Common Prayer,” and it runs from May 1 to July 14. The notice in The Guardian is here.
It’s an exhibit timed to run with the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II this summer, and includes a bunch of materials associated with her coronation, but of course, the stuff that interests me is older. The Book of Common Prayer has been the authorized prayerbook of the Church of England since 1549 — and is the ultimate source of the text that we associate (for instance) with Gerry and Harry’s marriage ceremony in Vicar of Dibley. Think: “Thereto I give thee my troth” or “According to G-d’s holy ordinance”, both of which were published originally in the 1662 edition. Even the normally unromantic Servetus sighs when she hears those words. Lutherans where I grew up said a prosaic “I will,” and traditionally, Jewish brides don’t say anything — they’ve already signed a marriage contract by the time they get to the ceremony. Historians are interested in the texts of prayers and the liturgy not because of their dramatic value so much, however, but rather because the cultural and religious sentiment vested in them often caused political ferment when they were altered, and this pattern is nowhere clearer than in English history. Charles I went to the scaffold at least partially because of popular sentiment that developed against him in opposition to his support for the use of particular texts in the Book of Common Prayer; so this exhibit will display the gloves he wore to the scaffold (blood-spattered, the curator hopes), as well as his own personal revisions for some prayers.
Anyway, what I’d want to see is this:
(Yes, I know the copyediting of the online Guardian is egregious, though two typos in two sentences is extreme even for them. I forgive Latin typos, having made them myself, but it’s embarrassing when a publication purporting to be British can’t spell “Plantagenet” correctly.) I read about this book (officially known as Lambeth Palace Library MS 474) a few years ago for the first time when it was exhibited as part of the library’s 400th anniversary celebrations. Richard bought it used, and entered his own birthday into its calendar; you can see a picture of his entry here.
It’s also pretty:
The Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, from Richard III’s book of hours, folio 15, recto. Source: Lambeth Palace Library Digital Resources
Anyway, Servetus thinks that’s SO cool. If you’re in London, go see it!