Is Henry VIII's prayer book coming to auction?
A prayer book that may once have been owned by Henry VIII will auction in London next month.
The lavishly-decorated Latin and Middle English prayer book is expected to auction for up to £2.5 million ($3.1 million) at Sotheby's Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts sale on December 6.
Sotheby's senior specialist for western manuscripts, Mara Hoffman, believes the circa 1500 book may have belonged to Henry VIII when he was just Prince Henry – Henry was born in 1491.
Quoted in an article in the Guardian newspaper, Hoffman asserts the 50 full-page illustrations display a strong royal theme, including a man wearing a royal chain of office.
A picture depicting Henry VI as a saint is also telling. Although Henry VI was never canonised, Henry VIII and Henry VII are both known to have viewed him as a religious figure - and attributed several miracles to him.
Yet the fact the work exists at all perhaps suggests Henry VIII wasn't the owner. During the reformation, Henry demanded the obliteration of all images of Thomas Becket. Yet the prayer book features depictions of the 12th century Catholic saint.
Would such a book have survived in Henry's possession?
The cull on Becket images makes this book extremely rare today. This example last sold in 1983 for £154,000 – an indication of the growth in demand for rare pieces of history in the intervening years.
Proceeds from the sale of the Bute Book of Hours – named for its 20th owner, the 5th Marquess of Bute – will go to the Berger Collection Educational Trust, the charity set up by the present Denver-based owners.
Henry VIII's chain of office sold for £313,250 ($496,500) at Christie’s London in 2008.