From the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, special prayers, fasts and thanksgivings were an important means by which the Established Churches of England, Scotland and Ireland responded to natural occurrences. Although war prompted the largest number of special religious observances in this period, environmental calamities – instances of plague, famine, drought, earthquakes and storms — led civil and ecclesiastical authorities to order prayers, or to call national fast days, requiring subjects to cease work and attend worship on a specific day. Natural blessings, such as seasonable rain, successful harvests and the abatement of plague, were also marked by prayers, and sometimes by days of national thanksgiving. In Reformation England, the appointment of special observances can be traced back to 1541, when Henry VIII ordered Archbishop Cranmer to organize prayers in response to drought. Henry’s successors developed the practice of ordering special prayers and days in response to natural events and man-made calamities. In Scotland, national fasts were observed at the appointment of the church courts from 1566; they were not regularly under the control of the Crown until the Restoration period.