A lavishly illuminated Book of Hours, gifted to Henry VI by the Duke and Duchess of Bedford.

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’.

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.

View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.