Prayer book of priest who converted Charles II on his deathbed to go on public display after auction sale

A rare prayer book owned by the priest who converted King Charles II to Catholicism on his deathbed has sold for £6,900 at auction.

Father John Huddleston’s personal missal far exceeded its £2,000 guide price in the online sale.

Published in 1623, it was owned by a Wirral family who bought it in a Liverpool book shop in the 1950s.

Auctioneer John Crane said the “very rare” book’s sale was “hotly contested by 25 experienced and keen bidders”.

Mr Crane said he could not reveal the identity of the purchaser other than it was a public institution.

He said it could be “assumed quite comfortably” the book was present at the death of King Charles II, after Father Huddleston converted the monarch to Catholicism.

Traditionally known as a missal, the book includes the priest’s signature and was bought for sixpence in the late 1950s.

Born in Lancashire, Father Huddleston was a Roman Catholic monk who arranged for Charles II to escape in 1651 at the end of the English Civil War between Royalists and Parliamentarians.

The priest’s actions are believed to have saved the young monarch’s life, two years after the execution of his father Charles I.

With the Royalists defeated and England temporarily becoming a republic, Charles II went on to seek safety in France.

Following nine years in exile, Charles II returned to London at the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

Father Huddleston also helped the king convert to Catholicism on his deathbed in 1685.

Mr Crane said the importance of the missal could not be overstated.

He said putting a commercial value on the book had been incredibly difficult since it was “so unique, there’s no track record to go on”.

He added: “All we can say about the buyer is despite there being many private bidders and collectors, it was eventually bought by a public institution, who I’m sure in due course will put it on display.”