Bible belonging to priest who smuggled King Charles II out of England to fetch thousands at auction
The bible belonging to the priest who was able to smuggle King Charles II out of England during the Civil War is set to go under the hammer – and is expected to fetch thousands.
Father John Huddleston’s bible has an estimated sale price of at least £2,000, having been bought for today’s equivalent of just two and a half pence in the 1950s.
The ‘very rare’ item belonged to Father Huddleston when he arranged for King Charles II to be transported to the safety of France during the English Civil War in 1651.
With the help of the priest and a network of Royalist gentry, the monarch escaped the country, first by attempting to get out via Wales, then onto Bristol disguised as a servant, then to the south coast at Charmouth disguised as an eloping lover.
He finally rode east to Shoreham when he took a coal boat to France.
The ‘very rare’ item belonged to Father Huddleston when he arranged for King Charles II to be transported to the safety of France during the English Civil War in 1651
The ‘very rare’ item even features the signature of the priest, further increasing its value at auction
Auctioneer John Crane says it could be ‘assumed quite comfortably that this bible was present at the death of King Charles’
When did the English Civil War happen?
The English Civil War is a generic term for a series of wars between Royalists and Parliamentarians in England and Wales from 1642 to 1652.
In total, there were three conflicts, each with their own issues. The First English Civil War was fought in a bid to correct the balance of power between Parliament and King Charles I. It ended in June 1646 with Royalist defeat and the king in custody.
The victory exposed divisions in Parliament over the nature of political settlement. A second war began in 1642, with the aim of asserting Parliament’s fight to participate in Government. A stalemate was reached when King Charles I refused to make concessions. The Royalists were defeated in 1648 and King Charles I was executed in January 1649, resulting in the Commonwealth of England.
The third battle resulted in King Charles II’s crowning as King of Scotland, in return for creating a Presbyterian Church in England and Scotland. The war ended in a Parliamentary victory in 1651. Both Ireland and Scotland were incorporated into the Commonwealth, and Britain became a unitary state, until 1660, when King Charles II returned from exile.
Father Huddleston met the monarch at Moseley Hall in Wolverhampton, where the King was staying as a resting place during his escape. While there, the priest tended to his feet, which were bruised and bleeding.
He spent two days hiding at Moseley Hall, before Parliamentary troops arrived. Upon their arrival, Father Huddleston was one of many who hid him in a priest hole, secreted behind the wall of a bedroom.
No longer feeling safe at Moseley Hall, the King moved onto Bentley Hall, near Walsall, where he disguised himself as a servant and successfully made it to Bristol on onwards to France.
He would remain in exile in Europe until 1660, when he returned to Britain.
In return for the English crown, he promised a general pardon for crimes committed during the English Civil War and the Interregnum for all those who recognised King Charles II as the lawful King.
In 1685, Father Huddleston and the King would meet again, when the priest attended the monarch’s death bed to convert him to the Catholic faith. He heard his confession before administering his last rites, reconciling him to the Church and absolving him.
Auctioneer John Crane says it could be ‘assumed quite comfortably that this bible was present at the death of King Charles.’
And it is made all the more special by the fact is contains the signature of Father Huddleston.
‘To buy this item is buying a piece of history,’ he said. ‘The signature alone is probably worth £600 to £800 but the lift in the value would be the fact that it’s his personal bible.
‘Most other books you can put a commercial value on, because they’ve been sold before, but this book is so unique, there’s no track record to go on.’
Talking about the importance of the bible, Mr Crane added: ‘Its association with King Charles and the friendship between him and Father Huddleston makes it unique.
‘If it wasn’t for Father Huddleston organising King Charles II’s escape, it might have changed the whole course of history.’
Given its historical significance, it is hoped the bible will not be sequestered after purchase
Father John Huddleston’s bible has an estimated sale price of at least £2,000, having been bought for today’s equivalent of just two and a half pence in the 1950s
Given its historical significance, Mr Crane hopes the bible will not be sequestered after purchase.
‘I’m hoping that a public body or museum will buy it so that it can be on view for the general public to enjoy and see,’ he said.
‘This isn’t about money, it’s about trying to make sure it goes into safe hands and safe-keeping for the benefit of the general public.’
The bible is part of a timed international auction on thesaleroom.com/catocrane, which will close on March 30.
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