The Prince of Wales has praised the bravery of competitors of a unique speaking competition as he celebrated his 30-year involvement with the event.
Charles handed out the prizes in the Prayer Book Society’s Cranmer Awards – first staged in 1989 – and spoke of the importance of language.
Competitors, who must be aged between 11-18, are set the task of learning from memory and reciting prayers and readings from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
In the centuries since it was first published, phrases from the book have entered the English language from “ashes to ashes” to “till death do us part”.
In an impromptu speech to guests at the prize giving, staged at Lambeth Palace, Charles said about the book: “It is a crucial part of our heritage and this is, I think, the particular point; we mind about our churches, our cathedrals our buildings but also our language is important.
“When you think how much importance, fortunately, is paid to Shakespeare, the Prayer Book Society still works so hard to spread the word about the prayer book and its value.”
Charles, who is patron of the Prayer Book Society and attended the first Cranmer Awards ceremony, added: “And as I’m sure many of you understand, as I do, as you get older, the words in the prayer book mean more and more and more.”
The guests were treated to a performance by the winners in the junior and senior categories, and Charles paid tribute to all those who were “brave” enough to enter this year’s competition.
Joseph Oxtoby, 15, from Gresham’s school in Norfolk, won the senior award for his recital of text from the first chapter of the gospel according to John.
He said: “I chose it because it’s so well known and so important to the church, and it’s got a really nice flow to it.
“I memorised it first, got comfortable with it, then worked on how to say it, where to pause and stuff like that.”