Thinking allowed

For The Queen

For the Coron­a­tion of Queen Eliza­beth II in June 1953, the Arch­bish­op of Can­ter­bury, Geof­frey Fish­er, com­mis­sioned a small book of private devo­tions to be used by the Queen and her close fam­ily (the Duke of Edin­burgh, Queen Eliza­beth the Queen Moth­er, and Prin­cess Mar­garet). A very small num­ber of cop­ies was pro­duced, nine­teen in total.

The story of its pro­duc­tion is told by Brooke Crutch­ley (print­er at the Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, which prin­ted the book), and is appen­ded below the images. The images are pho­to­graphs of the copy in the lib­rary at Lam­beth Palace and are not for pub­lic­a­tion, but for private use only. Click on any image for a lar­ger version.

From To Be A Print­er, by Brooke Crutch­ley, The Bod­ley Head, 1980. Brooke Crutch­ley was Uni­ver­sity Print­er at the Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press in 1953.

The most rushed job of all, how­ever, was still to come. It is one of the duties of the Arch­bish­op to pre­pare the mon­arch for the coron­a­tion, but he appeared to have giv­en no par­tic­u­lar thought to the mat­ter until about two months before the event. On East­er Monday, which fell on 6 April, his chap­lain Dr Eric Jay informed Noel Dav­ey, edit­or­i­al sec­ret­ary of the Soci­ety for Pro­mot­ing Chris­ti­an Know­ledge, that His Grace inten­ded to offer the Queen a book of pray­ers and med­it­a­tions, based on the com­pon­ent parts of the coron­a­tion ser­vice and arranged for her use day by day dur­ing the month before the cere­mony. Would it be pos­sible to get it prin­ted in time?

Dav­ey was spend­ing the East­er hol­i­day in Essex. He rang me at home on the Monday after­noon and arranged to come to Cam­bridge on the fol­low­ing day. He explained that copy for the book did not yet exist but the Arch­bish­op had charged two reli­gious com­munit­ies to pre­pare drafts. He hoped to have it ready in a week’s time and it was essen­tial that the book should be prin­ted and in the Arch­bish­op’s hands before the end of the month. No more than five cop­ies were wanted – for the Queen, the Queen Moth­er, the Duke of Edin­burgh, Prin­cess Mar­garet and the Arch­bish­op him­self. With my assur­ance that the job could and would be done Dav­ey set off for Lon­don, while I dis­cussed the pro­ject with the man­ager of Gray’s, the hand bind­ers off Green Street [in Cam­bridge]. That same after­noon a let­ter went off to Dav­ey giv­ing him our pro­pos­als. We had thought in terms of large type on a quarto page, but the Arch­bish­op pre­ferred some­thing smal­ler and more intim­ate and this is what we even­tu­ally produced.

It was the after­noon of 14 April when we were able to col­lect from the SPCK office the first batch of copy. Com­pos­i­tion star­ted next morn­ing and when Dav­ey called at the Press at noon on the fol­low­ing Sat­urday there was a com­plete set of proofs await­ing him. He drove off with them to Ashby-de-la-Zouche where the Arch­bish­op was stay­ing. A few days later, when Dav­ey and I called at Lam­beth Palace to col­lect the cor­rec­ted proofs, we ven­tured to sug­gest that a few addi­tion­al cop­ies should be prin­ted – for nation­al lib­rar­ies, for our respect­ive organ­isa­tions, and (this we put for­ward tent­at­ively) for those per­sons who had been primar­ily con­cerned in see­ing the work through. His Grace was pleased to quote from the scrip­tures: ‘Thou shalt not muzzle the ox,’ he said, ‘that treade­th the corn.’ In the end nine­teen cop­ies were prin­ted and bound; the whole work – set­ting, cor­rect­ing, print­ing in red and black, and bind­ing in full morocco – took exactly two weeks.

In his inside account of the organ­iz­a­tion of the Coron­a­tion, When the Queen Was Crowned, Rout­ledge & Kegan Paul, 1976, Bri­an Bark­er writes in a chapter on the Archbishop:

The Arch­bish­op felt that there was anoth­er aspect of his respons­ib­il­ity – the duty of pre­par­ing the Queen for the act of reli­gious ded­ic­a­tion which the ser­vice involved.

Dr Fish­er could preach a very fine ser­mon on the ten­ets of the Chris­ti­an faith. He was not, how­ever, one of those cler­ics who could eas­ily dis­cuss reli­gion on a per­son­al basis. He would nev­er enquire, so it seemed to me, about the degree of your reli­gious con­vic­tions. I think he also felt this per­son­al reserve in rela­tion to what he felt to be his pas­tor­al duty to the Queen. I also believe, from my own obser­va­tions, that he stood, in the old phrase, some­what ‘in awe of Majesty’.

At the end of March he went for a hol­i­day in the Peak Dis­trict. He settled down to pre­pare a book of devo­tions for the Queen, which she could read day by day in the month before the Coron­a­tion. There was a page for each day, which was related to some aspect of the Coron­a­tion liturgy, fol­lowed by a short pray­er or med­it­a­tion. It was prin­ted and bound by the Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press into a book the size of a church pray­er book. He gave a copy to the Queen, and oth­ers to the Queen Moth­er and the Duke of Edin­burgh. I heard that he was very con­tent with what he had done.