hand-painted 16th century prayer book is tipped to fetch up to £350,000 at auction
Mary, Queen of Scots' gold leaf prayer book is expected to fetch up to £350,000 at auction next month. The hand-painted book dates back to the 16th century and would have been kept close by the devout Catholic queen, who reigned over Scotland from 1542 to 1567. It was gifted to her by her great-aunt Louise de Bourbon-Vendôme around the time of the short reign of her first husband, King Francis II of France, who ruled from 1559 until his death in 1560.The manuscript contains 40 exquisite paintings by a miniaturist dubbed the Master of François de Rohan, one of the most sought-after artists of the court of King Francis I.
This is a fleetingly rare opportunity to acquire a lavishly illustrated royal prayerbook that was owned and affectionately inscribed by one of the most intriguing figures in Scottish and European history
Notably, it also includes a short verse written by Mary in French to her great-aunt, which is translated as: 'Since I want them to complain in your prayers and devout prayers, I ask you first that you know what share in my affections'.
She signed it alongside her anagrammatic motto, ‘Va Tu Meriteras’, and her monogram, 'M', a variation based on the initial M of Mary and phonetic initial of Francis, whom she married in 1558.
On Francis II's death in 1560, Mary left France, where she had spent much of her life until that point, and returned to Scotland. In 1565 she married her half-cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, and in June 1566 they had a son, James.
She eventually fled to England in 1568, where she became a political pawn in the hands of Queen Elizabeth I and was imprisoned for 19 years in various castles in England. Mary was found to be plotting against Elizabeth; letters in code, from her to others, were found and she was deemed guilty of treason. She was taken to Fotheringhay Castle and executed in 1587. While it is not known who the prayer book was passed to immediately following Mary's death, it was held in England in the late 18th or early 19th century, where it was rebound by the Edwards family of Halifax, Yorkshire. Christie's declined to identify the seller, a European collector, according to the Financial Times.
Eugenio Donadoni, Christie's Specialist in Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts said: 'This is a fleetingly rare opportunity to acquire a lavishly illustrated royal prayerbook that was owned and affectionately inscribed by one of the most intriguing figures in Scottish and European history: Mary Stuart, at a time when the Queen of Scots had already become Queen of France. Daily Mail