Prayer Book with a Secret

The beautifully illustrated prayer book once belonging to Yolande of Anjou, wife of Francis I of Brittany, had been commissioned by her mother as a gift at the occasion of her marriage to Francis. Unfortunately, 9 years into the marriage, having produced two daughters, Yolande died.

Francis soon married again, taking to wife Isabel or Isabella Stewart of Scotland, daughter of James I and Joan Beaufort, and he presented Yolande’s prayerbook to his new wife as a gift. There was even a picture of Isabel kneeling in prayer within. Yolande was nowhere to be seen.

But Francis’ first wife was still there too, hidden until recent technology discovered her lost image. Infrared lighting and examination of the paints, which showed two different types were used, soon revealed the truth. Instead of inserting a new page for Isabel, as had been done for one of Francis’ daughters, Yolande’s figure had been over-painted by that of the new wife.

One can only wonder what the commissioner of the original book, Francis I’s first mother-in-law, the princess Yolande of Aragon, would have thought if she had known!

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