Hours of Henry VIII

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The Annunciation on f. 30v

The Hours of Henry VIII is a 15th-century illuminated book of hours, painted in Tours. It is housed under shelfmark MS H.8 in the Morgan Library & Museum, New York.


The Hours of Henry VIII, one of Jean Poyer's best-known works,[1] receives its name from King Henry VIII of England, second monarch of the House of Tudor. The manuscript later belonged to several later English kings. For example, between the 18th and 19th centuries it still belonged to George III.

The artist[edit]

Poyer's career as a painter was short —from 1483 to 1503— but in his time he was famous for being a master colourist and a genius at composition and perspective. In the Hours of Henry VIII, the Franciscan Calendar is good proof of his reputation. Other remarkable sections of the manuscript are the Office of the Dead and the Hours of the Virgin.

The binding[edit]

The manuscript is bound in red velvet.[2] Its clasps contain Henry VIII's coat of arms (three fleur-de-lis quarterly 1 and 4, three lions passant guardant quarterly 2 and 3). They also contain his monogram H.8.R (Henricus Octavus Rex) and his famous motto, HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE (Shame on him who evil thinks).

On the manuscript's last blank leaf, there is a note supplied by George Wade (1673–1748), one of its owners: In the Year 1723, being at Mons and hearing of This Book as the greatest Curiosity of its Kind, I found it in the hands of Mons[ieu]r Charle Benoit Desmanet, a Gentl[lema]n of that Town, (and after his Death procured it from his Executors) he Shew’d it me with great care and precaution not Suffering me to touch it, but tur’d over the leaves with a Small pair of Silver Tongues made for that purpose, And perceiving me to Smile at this Nicety, he said with some Warmth, Sir In this manner my Ancestors for above a hundred Years past have preserved this Book from blemish and in the Perfection you now see it; He told me likewise That the Tradition of the Family was That it was formerly A Persent from the Emperor Charles the Fifth to Henry the Eighth King of England […]


  1. ^ Roger S. Wieck et al., The Hours of Henry VIII, George Braziller/The Morgan Library & Museum, p. 1
  2. ^ Roger S. Wieck et al., The Hours of Henry VIII, George Braziller/The Morgan Library & Museum, p. 184

External links[edit]