Where would a good Renaissance era Catholic be without a good prayer book, also known as a Book of Hours? I’ve looked at Henry IV of France’s prayer book earlier, but let’s not forget his illustrious predecessor, Francis I.
The British and French began fighting over it (of course they did) as soon as it went up for auction. The Louvre and the French were immediately in it to win it, soliciting donations from the public. In case you feel so inclined, the museum even has a video for you to watch about their campaign to win the book.
True to his nature, Francis embellished his prayer book with as much panache as he could manage. As you can see in the picture above, it’s not a particularly large item. Francis was notorious for packing up his court and traveling across France, so it’s entirely like him to have such a small prayer book to use during Mass.
I’m still trying to figure out how the book left France and ended up in Britain. According to a snippet from the Boston Herald, he gifted it to his “ten year old niece.” I’m assuming that would be Jeanne of Navarre. Perhaps it passed into Huguenot hands, and Elizabeth the I took over ownership of it during the French Wars of Religion. The only other niece I can think of is Anna d’Este, and if the book came to her possession, it would have probably returned to France and into Guise hands.
The biggest push for funding was back in 2017, when news organizations picked up the story. Although the museum hoped to raise the money through crowdfunding, it finally met the goal in 2018 through a combination of foundation funding and the profits from the campaign. That’s over eight million euros for the book. Today, the book sits at the Richelieu wing of the museum, and the Louvre says its as significant as the Mona Lisa.