King Charles I's Execution Vest To Go On Display At Museum Of London

King Charles I's Execution Vest To Go On Display At Museum Of London
Miniature portrait of Charles I in armour in an oval gold pendant. A memento of Charles I produced for his supporters after his execution. © Museum of London

The vest believed to have been worn by King Charles I for his execution is going on display at Museum of London.

The museum describes the pale blue silk vest, which it acquired in 1925, as "one of the rarest and most intriguing objects" among its 7 million-strong collection. The royal garment — thought to have been worn by the King for his death outside Banqueting House in January 1649 — is usually kept off-display in the museum's stores, due to its delicate nature, but it's getting an airing as part of a new exhibition, Executions.

The vest said to have been worn by Charles I at his execution on 30 January 1649. © Museum of London

Gloves, a sash, and a handkerchief are among the other items said to be from King Charles I's execution, but it's the vest which will take centre stage in Executions. Visible stains on the front 'fluoresce' under UV light like body fluids — it's not known if it's sweat, vomit or another substance.

Embroidered cross stitch with the letters 'CR' surmounted by a crown in one corner of the handkerchief said to have been used by Charles I on the day of his execution. © Museum of London

Public execution from 1196 to 1868 will be the focus of the exhibition. Stories and objects from people who witnessed executions first hand, as well as those who died by execution, will go on display. The museum won't shy away from exploring our uncomfortable history of capital punishment.

Pair of gloves made of kid leather, fitted with deep gauntlet cuffs of pink silk, trimmed with gold and silver lace and embroidery. Said to have been worn by Charles I at his execution. © Museum of London

Meriel Jeater, Curator at the Museum of London, said:

Being able to include this incredibly rare vest in a major exhibition is exciting as it is key in telling the story of one of the most infamous executions that occurred in the capital. However, it’s important to remember that public executions were not reserved only for the distinguished, but that thousands of ordinary Londoners were sentenced to death for many types of crime, from the most serious offences to those that we would consider minor today.

Executions is at Museum of London, 16 October 2020-18 April 2021. Tickets go on sale at 9am on 1 February. Recommended age 12+.

Last Updated 30 January 2020

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