False Prophets and Messiahs Henry James Prince

About the false prophet or messiah Henry James Prince, biography and history of the man.



Born in Bath, England, Prince was ordained an Anglican minister in 1840. Within just three years after his ordination he became convinced of his own divinity, and in 1849 he established the Abode of Love, or Agapemone, whose congregation lived and worshiped on a 200-acre commune near Spaxton in Somerset. The estate included a chapel equipped with a billiard table. "Look on me," he told the faithful of his newly created sect. "I am one in the flesh with Christ. By me, and in me, God has redeemed all flesh from death, and brought the bodies of breathing men into the resurrection state." About 50 believers, mostly middle-aged, middle-income folk, were charter members of the Abode of Love. In the late 1850s Prince the Messiah--who was already married to a woman old enough to be his mother--took a virgin bride, claiming it was his religious destiny. It was supposedly a purely spiritual union, and his followers were shocked when the young woman became pregnant. The baby, a girl, was denounced as the devil's offspring and grew up in the Abode as an outcast and an example of Satan's work. This incident led to rumors of orgies at Spaxton that caused a sensation in the press, and outside contributions quickly dried up. But a wealthy benefactor came forth in time to save the Messiah from bankruptcy. Despite his claims of immortality, Prince died in 1899. A few years later a second Messiah, John Hugh Smyth-Pigott, took up the fallen scepter at Spaxton, which continued to serve as the spiritual home of about 100 worshipers, virtually all women by then. After Smyth-Pigott died in 1927, the Abode of Love gradually flickered out with the deaths of its members. In 1962 the estate was sold.

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