On this day in history, 25th April 1544, Queen Catherine Parr’s English translation of John Fisher’s Latin work Psalms or Prayers was published.
The book was published anonymously by the King’s printer, Thomas Berthelet, but Janel Mueller, editor of Katherine Parr: Complete Works and Correspondence points out there is “considerable circumstantial evidence” to point to Catherine as the translator:
- 12 May 1544 Thomas Berthelet submitted a bill to Catherine’s clerk of the closet for twenty copies of the book.
- The two extant copies from this print run were gifts from Catherine to her husband Henry VIII and her brother William Parr.
- The book’s two concluding prayers appear “timed to coincide with Henry VIII’s military expedition against France.” “A prayer for the King” was adapted from Fisher’s original work and “A prayer for men to say going into battle” may have been composed by Catherine Parr. Mueller points out that these two prayers were contained in the book “Prayers or Meditations” which was published in 1545 under Catherine’s name.
- Nicholas Udall, who worked with the queen on an English translation of a work by Erasmus, praised Catherine in a letter for her work on “godly Psalms”, although he could have been commenting on Catherine’s other works.
Susan James, Catherine’s biographer, concurs with Mueller’s conclusion that Catherine was responsible for this translation: “Fourteen presentation copies ‘of the psalm prayers’ ordered by the queen from the king’s printer, half of them sent to her almoner, who was presumably the inspiration for the project, less than a week after the publication of the English translation of Psalms or Prayers, and including prayers known at court to have been written by the queen, is a fairly strong indication of the royal source of the translation.” James also notes that there were a number of bills in the queen’s accounts that summer for further copies of “a book” which were presentation copies that Catherine sent out. James also states that Catherine ordered four crimson velvet bound copies of the book in June 1546 and that she kept one of those copies with her until her death in 1548.
You can read more about Catherine Parr in the following articles:
Notes and Sources
- ed. Mueller, Janel (2011) Katherine Parr: Complete Works and Correspondence, p198-200
- James, Susan (2010) Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love, p188