Aesthete's papal slipper fetches pounds 580: Sale of relics and Stuart memorabilia draws collectors. Simon Midgley reports

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The Independent Online
A SLIPPER worn by Pope Pius IX (1846-78) lined with a blood-stained muslin bandage that protected the papal foot from over-zealous kissing was sold for pounds 580 at auction in London yesterday.

A representative of a venerable aristocratic Roman Catholic family paid almost three times the estimate for the red leather embroidered slipper at Bonhams in Kensington. It was one of several religious relics and items of Stuart memorabilia from the estate of the late aesthete Charles Felix Otho Victor Gabriel John Adrian Hope- Nicholson sold to devout Roman Catholics, ardent Royalists and ever hopeful Jacobites.

Felix, a dilettante and genealogist, was custodian of a rich collection of Stuart relics built up by his father Hedley Hope-Nicholson, an ardent Jacobite in More House, a Queen Anne-style house in Chelsea.

Yesterday a man who declined to give his name said he had bought the slipper for the Gibbons-Holliss family, whose ancestors include Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore, appointed bishop by Pope Pius IX at 29 and went on to become Primate of the US.

A 10mm-long, dried splinter from the heart of James II was bought on behalf of a Catholic Royalist collector by Andrew Martindale for pounds 380. Mr Martindale's collector was also keen to acquire a fragment of Charles I's coffin ('some worming') once owned by Oscar Wilde but this went to a Wilde collector from Oxford.

Two Roman Catholic priests, Father Michael Clifton, archivist of the Archdiocese of Southwark, and Father Ian Dickie, archivist for the Archdiocese of Westminster, acquired several pieces of holy masonry ( pounds 210) and a fragment belonging to a martyred nun's garment ( pounds 75) for the Church.

Father Dickie is to present his scrap of cloth to a Carmelite house in Ware, Hertfordshire, while Father Clifton said he was preventing the relics from falling into secular hands.

Adrian FitzGerald, Conservative chief whip for Kensington and Chelsea council and the son of Sir George FitzGerald, 5th baronet and 23rd Knight of Kerry, paid pounds 550 for a napkin given to James II. Mr FitzGerald, who bought the napkin because it once belonged to an ancestor, describes himself as 'a great Jacobite supporter'.

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