Charles II's own 'King's Speech' goes under the hammer at Bonhams

A remarkable hand-written speech delivered by Charles II in Perth on 6 October 1650 is for auction at Bonhams in London on March 29 as part of the Roy Davids sale of Papers and Portraits.

Written down the side of one page and folded into four panels to make it easier to deliver, the speech takes the form of an apology to members of the Scottish Parliament for a bizarre episode in which Charles had attempted to escape from their control.

The King's handwriting shows unmistakable signs of the pressure he was under. It is estimated at between £8,000-12,000.

The Scottish Parliament recognised Charles II as the legitimate King soon after the execution of his father Charles I in 1649 and he arrived in Scotland in June the following year to reclaim the throne.

The Scottish Parliament was dominated by Covenanters - Protestants whose objective was to spread Presbyterianism throughout Britain. They forced Charles, reluctantly, to agree to this as a condition of its support.  

In September 1650, Oliver Cromwell, at the head of the English Commonwealth army, routed Charles and his supporters at the Battle of Dunbar. Charles escaped to Perth (then known as St Johnstone) but soon wearied of the Covenanters and their demands and on 4 October tried to flee, telling them he was going hawking.

 This escape, known in Scotland as 'The Start', was short-lived. He was counting on Royalist supporters to rally to his cause but they failed to show up in strength and, after a miserable and damp evening squatting in a cottage in the village of Clova, Charles was discovered on 6 October, taken back to Perth and made to apologise.

Finally recognising that they needed each other, Charles and the Covenanters patched up their differences and, in 1651, Charles was crowned King of Scotland at Scone Palace. An abortive invasion of England followed, ending in defeat at the Battle of Worcester in September of that year, and Charles fled to France, via the famous Oak Tree in which he hid at Boscobel House.

In 1653 Cromwell was proclaimed Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland and it was not until after Cromwell's death in 1658 that Charles was invited back to take the throne. He entered London on 29 May 1660, his 30th birthday, and ruled for the next 25 years.

A letter written to his favourite daughter, Charlotte, is available elsewhere.


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