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A prayer book once owned by Mary, Queen of Scots estimated at £250,000-350,000 at Christie’s on July 29. Image: Christie's 2020.

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Estimated at £250,000-350,000, it is illuminated and decorated with an impressive cycle of 40 miniatures painted by the Master of François de Rohan, one of the most sought-after artists of the court of King Francis I (r.1515-47).

Eugenio Donadoni, Christie’s specialist in Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, said: “This is a fleetingly rare opportunity to acquire a lavishly illustrated royal prayer book that was owned and affectionately inscribed by one of the most intriguing figures in Scottish and European history - Mary Stuart - at a time when the Queen of Scots had already become Queen of France and was soon to meet her tragic fate.”

The manuscript was written and illuminated for Louise de Bourbon-Vendôme, abbess and head of the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud (1534-75).

According to Christie’s, between 1558-61, the manuscript was given by Louise de Bourbon to her grand-niece Mary, who left a signed token of their mutual affection on one of the endleaves, along with her monogram, and her motto.

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The inscription by Mary, Queen of Scots in her prayer book that is to be auctioned on July 29 at Christie's with an estimate of £250,000-350,000. Image: Christie's 2020.

Mary spent her childhood at the French court and became queen consort on her marriage to Francis II. However, his early death in 1560 led to her return to Scotland a year later.

After years of religious and political conflict she was found guilty in 1586 of plotting to assassinate her cousin and rival Elizabeth I and was beheaded the following year.

The prayer book came with Mary to Scotland in 1561 but it is not known who kept it immediately after her death. It is believed in the 18th century it was owned by the Hale family of Alderley, Gloucestershire. However, details of the vendor have not been made public by the auction house.

It will be offered on July 29, during Classic Week which this year is a combination of online and live sales running from July 1-29.