A royal keepsake
This Catholic Book of Hours contains a handwritten inscription by Elizabeth of York, whose marriage to Henry VII launched the Tudor dynasty and ended England’s Wars of the Roses.
[Catholic Church. Hours.] Incipiunt hore beate marie virginis secu[n]dum usum sarum. Paris, [Philippe Pigouchet, 1498]. Folger call number STC 15889.
This book, with its handwritten inscription by Elizabeth of York, the wife of King Henry VII, is one of the Folger’s many “association copies,” books that are all the more valued because of the identity of those with whom they were once associated, whether through ownership or some other connection.
The leaf shown here bears Elizabeth’s inscription: “Madam j pray yow Remember me in yowr good prayers yowr mastras Elysabeth R.” (In modern English, “Madam, I pray you remember me in your good prayers. Your mistress, Elizabeth R”). The R stands for “regina,” or queen.
The marriage of Elizabeth of York to Henry VII launched the Tudor dynasty and ended England’s Wars of the Roses, the struggle between the houses of Lancaster and York that furnished so much material for Shakespeare’s history plays. This Catholic Book of Hours, however, relates more to the private sphere than to such causes of state. Such a book was meant for private devotions and contained prayers to be recited at hours laid down by the church. It was not uncommon to find a Book of Hours in homes that had no other books.
All printed editions or manuscript copies included a calendar of fixed religious festivals, an almanac giving the date of Easter, and the hours of the Virgin. The hours, however, were frequently interspersed with verses and responses that varied with local custom. These variations were called the “use” and were often named according to the region in which they occurred. The Sarum or Salisbury use was the most common in England and is the basis for this book, a handsome 1498 edition with hand-colored illuminated lettering.