The Hours of Henry VIII, Jean Poyer’s masterpiece, receives its name from King Henry VIII of England, second monarch of the House of Tudor. It is documented that the manuscript belonged to a series of later English kings. For example, there is proof that between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it still belonged to the library of George III (1738-1820). It is a lavish work of incomparable dramatic force, fit for England’s most fascinating and passionate monarch.
Jean Poyer’s career as a painter was short, from 1483 to 1503, but he was famous for being a master colourist and a genius at composition and perspective. In the Hours of Henry VIII, the beauty of the Franciscan Calendar is good proof of his reputation and, among other sections as the Office of the Dead and the Hours of the Virgin, makes this manuscript a peerless treasure.
The manuscript is bound in red velvet. 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 Present from the Emperor Charles the Fifth to Henry the Eighth King of England […]