The personal prayer book of Henry VIII annotated in his own hand
In April 1509, when Henry acceded to the throne, he was the quintessential Renaissance prince: cultivated, courteous and highly educated, with a thorough knowledge of Latin and theology. Even in his later years, after the break from Rome, Henry retained many of the old customs, preferring to read the Bible in the Vulgate or Latin version rather than in English. Particularly important to him was a Latin Book of Psalms, presented to him in 1540 by the French artist Jean Mallard. Henry consulted it frequently and made over 100 notes in its margins. When we read these notes, in Henry’s square, confident hand, it is almost as if we are in his presence. We see what he saw, and we are privy to his innermost thoughts.
With friends and advisers like Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell executed and his marriages seemingly doomed to failure, Henry was feeling increasingly isolated. His notes in the margins of his Prayer Book show him pondering the question of whom to trust. Beside Psalm 36:1 in the Vulgate numbering, ‘Fret not thyself because of evildoers,’ he notes, ‘Excellent advice.’Henry was moved to place his trust in God rather than in those around him. He has marked Psalm 20:1, ‘The king shall joy in thy strength,’ noting the reason for such joy: ‘For the king trusteth in the Lord, and through the mercy of the most High he shall not be moved.’