King’s prayer book on display

A prayer book owned by King Richard III has gone on display at New Walk Museum.

Made of parchment and beautifully decorated, the Book of Hours was created in London in 1420, with handwritten prayers added for King Richard III around the time of his reign, from 1483-85.

It was loaned to the city for use in King Richard III’s reinterment ceremony at Leicester Cathedral last week (26 March), and is now on show at New Walk Museum.

The book is a collection of prayers to guide devotion throughout the day.  It includes several additional hand-written prayers for Richard’s personal use, with his name attached.  The date of the king’s birthday also appears, which is believed to have been written in by Richard himself.

One prayer reads, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, deign to free me, your servant King Richard, from every tribulation, sorrow and trouble in which I am placed…’  As Richard’s personal prayer book, it is thought it may have been in his tent at the Battle of Bosworth.

It is known to have later belonged to Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, before eventually being passed into the library of the Archbishop of Canterbury during the early 1600s.

King Richard’s Book of Hours has been loaned to Leicester by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, and the Trustees of Lambeth Palace Library.

Liz Blyth, Director of Culture and Neighbourhood Services at Leicester City Council, said: ‘We’re very grateful to Lambeth Palace Library for loaning this fascinating book to us, to coincide with our commemorations of King Richard III.  This will give visitors to Leicester a fantastic opportunity to view this unique object, in the impressive surroundings of New Walk Museum.’

Giles Mandelbrote, librarian of Lambeth Palace Library, said: ‘Richard III’s Book of Hours is one of the medieval treasures preserved in the collections of Lambeth Palace Library.  We are delighted to lend it for this historic occasion and for the enjoyment of visitors to the New Walk Museum.’

The Very Revd David Monteith, Dean of Leicester, said: ‘King Richard was clearly a devout Christian.  The annotations show that this book was in regular use and it offers us an insight into King Richard as a man of prayer.’

The book will be on display at New Walk Museum until Sunday 28 June.