A prayer book with immense historical value, belonging to Father John Huddleston, has been made available for public viewing at Moseley Old Hall in Wolverhampton, England. Father Huddleston, known for his role in safeguarding King Charles II and assisting in saving his life, possessed the missal, which is nearly four centuries old. After the Battle of Worcester in 1651, where Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians emerged victorious over the Royalists, the defeated monarch, Charles II, found sanctuary at the residence of the Whitgreave Family, who were Catholics. Father John Huddleston, a Benedictine priest, resided there disguised as a servant. With the danger of discovery looming, Huddleston agreed to shelter Charles II in a hidden compartment beneath a cupboard floor and thus saved his life.
Catholic News Agency reports:
A historic prayer book belonging to the priest who protected King Charles II and helped save his life, has gone on public display at one of England’s famous stately homes.
Father John Huddleston’s personal missal, which is almost 400 years old, is now on display at Moseley Old Hall, Wolverhampton which is situated in the West Midlands region of the country.
Following the Battle of Worcester in 1651, in which the Parliamentarians under Oliver Cromwell, defeated the Royalists, the defeated monarch sought refuge at the home of the Catholic Whitgreave Family, where the Benedictine priest also resided, dressed as a servant.
Huddlestone agreed to hide Charles II in his first-floor room, which featured a trap door beneath the floor of the cupboard, where a priest hole was accessible. Charles II was able to hide there when soldiers turned up at the house, looking for the king.
The historic missal was purchased by the conservation charity, National Trust, at auction due to a substantial donation from a volunteer and the support of the organization Friends of the National Libraries.
It is believed that the Missale Romanum, published in Paris in 1623, might have been instrumental in bringing about the king’s deathbed conversion to Catholicism in 1685.
Once the monarchy was finally restored in 1660, Charles made Huddlestone chaplain to his mother, Queen Henrietta Maria, and to his wife, Catherine of Braganza.
On his deathbed at Whitehall Palace in 1685, Charles asked for Huddlestone, who heard the king’s confession, gave him holy communion and finally received him into the Catholic Church.
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Picture by Edward Scriven