Featured Image: The Annunciation from the Book of Hours of Richard III
This image of the annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is taken from the Book of Hours of Richard III, which now forms part of the Library's manuscript sequence (MS 474, f.15r). Books of Hours formed an important aspect of lay devotion in mediaeval England and included a series of prayers to be recited at specific hours of the day, paralleling the offices recited by monks, nuns and clergy, and thus helping the laity to unite their devotions to the church's liturgy.

The image forms part of the frontispiece of the ‘Hours of the Virgin' from King Richard's prayer book, a special section of prayers and devotions in honour of the Virgin Mary. The historiated initial portrays Mary wearing a blue robe (a colour suggesting purity and traditionally associated with her) kneeling at a desk draped in scarlet. Her hands are held in a posture of prayer and she appears to have a prayer book open before her, all of which can be seen to suggest her piety and openness to the angel's message. The angel Gabriel is also portrayed kneeling, and looking up towards Mary, a posture which points to the reverence due to her as well as her special vocation to become the mother of Christ. On her head Mary is wearing a wreath of flowers, which can be seen to allude to her traditional title of ‘Queen of Heaven'.

This particular Book of Hours is of special significance as its first known owner was King Richard III and it is thought that it would have been kept in his tent at the Battle of Bosworth. The volume includes a prayer which was apparently written by Richard in the first-person singular, praying for deliverance from various forms of affliction, sickness and danger. According to Professor Eamon Duffy, this was, in fact, a variation of a prayer which was included in many fifteenth-century primers and could be traced back to the Valois Dukes of Burgundy. However, an adaptation of this was included in Catholic prayer books following the Council of Trent, and came to form an important aspect of lay piety in the Counter-Reformation period. [E. Duffy, Marking the Hours: English People and their Prayers, 1240-1570 (Yale, 2006), 100]