King Charles I chess board sells for record £600,000

By Telegraph reporters

10:12AM GMT 11 Dec 2012

The chess board that King Charles I took with him to his execution has sold for a record £601,250. 

The board, made from amber, was owned by the controversial King who had either been given it by his father, King James I or his elder brother Henry Fredrick, Prince of Wales.

Charles was such an enthusiast for chess that he was engrossed in a game when a messenger told him he had been betrayed by the Scots to the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War.

The news sealed the royal’s fate and he was executed on January 30, 1649.

It is known that the King took with him to the scaffold two precious possessions; a Bible and an amber games board, believed to be the one that has now sold.

The items were passed on to his personal chaplain, Bishop William Juxon, and this board remained in his family until the 18th century. 

It was then acquired by British peer Sir Robert Hesketh and has now been sold by the Second Baron Hesketh’s Will Trust. 

It was bought at auction in London by a private collector for £500,000, which is the highest amount paid for an amber games board. With the addition of auctioneers’ fees and tax the total bill came to £601,250. 

Erik Bijzet, an expert in European sculpture at auctioneers Sotheby’s, said: “This board was made by Georg Schreiber who was known as the ‘King of the Gamesboards.’ 

“He was an amber worker in Koeningsberg, the capital of Prussia, where amber washed up on the shores of the East Sea in small amounts. 

“The board is dated 1607 and was given to either James I or Henry Frederick as Charles was only seven-years-old then. 

“When at the height of the Civil War a messenger arrived to inform Charles that he had been betrayed by the Scots he didn’t rise from his game of chess, even though his fate had effectively been sealed. 

“Charles took a Bible and a gamesboard with him to the scaffold where he was beheaded. 

“Bishop Juxon read him his last rites and Juxon’s loyal service up to and during this moment is likely to have moved Charles to give his most precious belongings to the Bishop. 

“It entered into the ownership of the Hesketh family and an inventory of their possessions is the earliest record that mentions that the board belonged to Charles. 

“Besides the provenance, this board is a tour-de-force of amber working and is of superb quality and was made by the maker of Royal chess sets. 

“We only know of four comparable boards, none of which have seemed to survive in such good condition.”
The board, that measures 27ins by 13ins, opens into two halves. 

It can be used for different purposes including chess, Nine Men’s Morris, backgammon, and draughts, depending on how it is opened. 

It would have been extremely sought after and expensive during the 17th century due to amber being found in small quantities. 

Mr Bijzet said: “Everyone in the saleroom seemed to hold their breath when the bidding went down to two collectors. 

“As these two reached the limits of their resources a third contender in the front row entered the bidding and won the object.”


Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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