A BOOK more than 400 years old and written in St Albans is to be auctioned off by the Queen's cousin, the Duke of Gloucester, as he is forced to raise funds to pay taxes.

The volume is a 16th Century copy of The Gentlemans Academie' or The Booke of St Albans', first printed in the city in 1486 and written by Juliana Berners, who may have been prioress of Sopwell Nunnery.

Split into three parts, it describes itself as: "Three most exact and excellent Bookes: the first of Hawking; the second of all the proper termes of Hunting and the last of Armorie; all compiled by Juliana Barnes, in the yere from the incarnation of Christ, 1486."

The copy was produced in 1595 in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, just seven years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

It is expected to fetch about £3,000 when it is auctioned by Christies, one of 800 family treasures being sold by the 61-year-old duke to pay tax bills.

The whole collection is expected to fetch between £1.3 and £2 million when it is auctioned on January 26 and 27.

The duke's father, the first Duke of Gloucester who died in 1974, was a brother of the Queen's father King George VI.

The ruins of Sopwell Priory, are still visible off Cottonmill Lane, St Albans, by the River Ver.