On Christmas Eve 1430 Anne of Burgundy (d. 1432), the wife of John, Duke of Bedford (d. 1435), presented this lavish bilingual Book of Hours to her nine-year-old nephew, Henry VI (r. 1422–1461, 1470–1471). At the time, Henry was residing with the Duke and Duchess at Rouen, awaiting his coronation as King of France.
The manuscript includes several prominent reminders of the Duke and Duchess. Their joint heraldic arms, devices, and mottoes feature at various key points within the book. In addition, separate full-length portraits of Anne and John were placed before prayers to St George and St Anne respectively. The King’s personal tutor and physician, Dr John Somerset (d. 1454), also inscribed a record of the gift on the reverse of the Duke’s portrait.
The Bedford Hours is regarded as one of the most outstanding illuminated manuscripts to survive from the medieval period, with numerous illustrations, and extensive decoration, including over 1200 historiated roundels (decorative medallions containing images) that appear within the margins of each page. The artists responsible for the book’s production formed a particularly influential workshop in Paris during the first half of the 15th century, headed by an illuminator now known as the ‘Bedford Master'.
- Article by:
- Alixe Bovey
Art, music and literature blossomed in the Middle Ages, as evidenced by the wealth of sources in the British Library’s collections. Dr Alixe Bovey explores the evolution of art and culture in the Middle Ages.
- Article by:
- The British Library
Wonder at these amazing hand-painted books of past ages and marvel at the vibrant colours used – these are works of art that were made for kings and queens, monasteries, bishops and counts.