iPlayer Radio What's New?

In Our Time: The Book of Common Prayer

Thursday 17 October 2013, 14:42

Melvyn Bragg Melvyn Bragg

Tagged with:

Editor's note: In Thursday's programme Melvyn Bragg and his guests discussed The Book of Common Prayer. As always the programme is available to listen to online or to download and keep.

The Book of Common Prayer The Book of Common Prayer


I hate to say anything in the slightest critical about Diarmaid MacCulloch. He's an extraordinarily fine writer and a wonderful broadcaster and invariably a tremendous guest on the programme.

BUT. When I pointed out this morning that Cranmer (later Archbishop of Canterbury) while at Cambridge had made pregnant and married a barmaid (which meant that Cranmer was stripped of his fellowship at the college and only reinstated after his wife died in childbirth), Diarmaid queried whether the word 'barmaid' was appropriate. I said that it was in the notes of one of the three people before me around this table. She was more, Diarmaid maintained, the daughter of the hotel keeper. (I'm not too sure that there were hotels in Cambridge in that period. The word is French and didn't come over – both the word and the building – until later.) But anyway, part of the job is to get egg on your face and keep going.

BUT AGAIN. As Diarmaid left the studio to flee back to Oxford to get on with his day job, he confessed that it was he in his notes who referred to the first wife of Cranmer as a barmaid.

What do we make of that?

After he left, Martin Palmer talked about the consolation of parts of the Book of Common Prayer. He mentioned particularly the Nunc Dimittis which he had referred to as his grandfather lay dying: "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace..." He also pointed out that the confession in the prayer book had been described by Graham Greene as sounding like an old lag pleading his case before the bench yet again.

And yet again we had someone on the programme who had not done radio before. Alexandra Walsham followed in the triumphant paths of Caroline Petit and Suzanne Aigrain in sweeping in, sweeping up and sweeping out again. I think it's because they are with two other academics of equal stature and equal enthusiasm that they can relax on a live programme, which they know will be heard by some of their friends and a number of their contemporaries. Anyway, Alexandra was, I thought, tremendous.

Tom Morris, the producer, came in afterwards to chat and was quizzed by Martin as to which type of programme got the strongest reaction. He said that the strongest electronic reaction came from science programmes. Martin wanted a few facts at his fingertips about the programme, so Tom told him that since we started to be podcast we have had e-mails from about forty countries. The latest coming from Pakistan.

After the programme Tom and I went across the road to have a cup of coffee and deep study about the next eight programmes. That done, I set off back to the office. Not much time to talk about walking through the streets or the parks these days because I do not want to bring down on myself the wrath of Ingrid. Been in the Lords very regularly to go through the Care Bill. Off to a wrap party this evening, i.e. everybody who worked on the films we made for BBC Two on John Ball and Tom Paine.

Now I myself will depart in peace.

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg


Download this episode to keep from the In Our Time podcast page

Visit the In Our Time website

Follow Radio 4 on Twitter and Facebook


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

Tagged with:


Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I have collected all the IOT podcasts back 15 years since October 1998 and over the past 3 months have relistened to every one of them (1998 was the bad old days when we only had a 30 minute fix and only 2 contributors). Who needs school when you have IOT, my teachers at my school in Essex, never matched the quality of the guests on this program.
    I wish there was a place on the this site where we could vote for our favourite episode, or 5 best episodes, as well as our favourite guests, as I would like to hear others views on the best of the best. For me it was probably The Industrial Revolution, back in Dec 2010...Melvyn is at his best when the note of irritation is in his voice, and it certainly was in those 2 episodes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Chris (Message 1)

    "The Industrial Revolution, back in Dec 2010...Melvyn is at his best when the note of irritation is in his voice, and it certainly was in those 2 episodes."

    One of my favs. as well. The contretemps between Lord Bragg and Prof. Patricia Hudson was an extremely powerful piece of radio. I was on the side of Lord Bragg’s causal argument (I’m an engineer), but was also attracted to Prof Hudson’s co-existent analysis. I admired Prof. Hudson for standing up to Lord Bragg. The Industrial Revolution would be a great topic for a Reith Lecture series and I’d nominate Prof. Hudson as the presenter.


This entry is now closed for comments

Share this page

More Posts

Brazilian Bonanza: The Dumbo List

Wednesday 16 October 2013, 10:50

Feedback - Should the BBC always be impartial?

Friday 18 October 2013, 15:34

About this Blog

Behind the scenes at Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra from producers, presenters and programme makers.

Blog Updates

Stay updated with the latest posts from the blog.

Subscribe using:

What are feeds?

Follow Radio 4

Follow BBC Radio 4 & BBC Radio 4 Extra on Twitter for programme highlights and interesting retweets. 

Woman's Hour Power List 2014

Identifying the top ten game changers operating in the UK today.
See the latest on our blog
Find out about this year's panel and theme
Woman's Hour Power List judges, 2014 Woman's Hour Power List judges, 2014


Identifying the top ten game changers operating in the UK today.


See the latest on our blog


Find out about this year's panel and theme