King Charles I’s execution vest to go on display in new major exhibition

30 January 2020

Executions
Museum of London
16 October 2020 – 18 April 2021
Tickets go on sale through the Museum of London website on Saturday 1 February at 9am

The Museum of London is pleased to announce that one of the rarest and most intriguing objects of its 7 million object strong London Collection will go on display as part of a brand new major exhibition, Executions, opening October 2020. The pale blue silk vest was said to have been worn by King Charles I at his execution which took place 371 years ago today.

While usually kept in restricted access in the Museum of London’s dress and textile store due to its age, rarity and importance, its inclusion in Executions will play a key part in exploring the capital’s uncomfortable yet undeniable past of public execution from 1196 to 1868.

King Charles I was found guilty of treason and subsequently beheaded outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London on 30 January 1649 in one of London’s most high-profile public executions. Following the monarch’s decapitation, his body was undressed and items of his clothing were distributed to people in attendance. When the vest was presented to the Museum of London (then the London Museum) for acquisition in 1925 it came attached with a note of authentication that stated the vest was worn by King Charles I on the day he was beheaded and it was given to the physician who attended him.

The vest is knitted of fine, high-quality, pale blue-green silk with visible stains on its front. They 'fluoresce' under UV light like body fluids but could be sweat, vomit or another substance. The Museum of London also holds other items said to be from Charles I’s execution including gloves, a sash, fragments of a cloak and a handkerchief - all of which will also be on display in Executions.

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. The exhibition covers nearly 700 years, a time when public executions were more frequent in London than any other town, attracting huge crowds several times a year at locations across the capital. Public executions became embedded in the landscape and culture of London, influencing people’s everyday lives. Hints of this uncomfortable past can still be seen in the city’s streets today and Executions will allow visitors to explore this grim but fascinating aspect of London’s history through a major exhibition for the first time.’

Executions, opening 16 October 2020 at the Museum of London, will explore the phenomenon of public execution in London’s history through the stories, objects and legacies of those that lived, died and witnessed the events first hand from 1196 to 1868.

Tickets will be available through the Museum of London website from Saturday 1 February at 9am. Book online in advance for discounted ticket prices. The recommended age for the exhibition is 12+. For further details about the exhibition and pricing, please visit: https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/executions.


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Notes for editors
For more press information please contact Emily Brazee, Media Officer at the Museum of London on 020 7814 5502 / 07713 565 805 or [email protected] / [email protected]

About the Museum of London
The Museum of London tells the ever-changing story of this great world city and its people, from 450,000 BC to the present day. Our galleries, exhibitions, displays and activities seek to inspire a passion for London and provide a sense of the vibrancy that makes the city such a unique place.

The museum is open daily 10am – 6pm and is FREE to all, and you can explore the Museum of London with collections online – home to 90,000 objects with more being added. www.museumoflondon.org.uk.