Just in time for Halloween, an exhibition will be opening later this year all about how people were killed by the state.

And the centrepeice of the exhibition has been announced — one of the shirts worn by King Charles I on the day he was executed by Parliament following the English Civil Wars.

At least, it’s thought to be one of the shirts — he wore two on the day as it was cold — and the shirt is said to have been given to the physician who attended the King on the day.

The vest said to have been worn by Charles I at his execution. (c) Museum of London

Many of the Kings possessions were divided up amongst those who attended the execution, but considering that being close to the execution might have itself been terminal following the restoration, only a physician might have got away with retaining his head, let alone the shirt.

The other shirt worn by the King on the day is presumably lost to history.

The pale blue silk vest is usually kept in restricted access in the Museum of London’s dress and textile store due to its age, rarity and importance.

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 the exhibition.

17th-century painting of Charles I after his execution, shown with his head reattached to his body with stitches. (c) Museum of London

The exhibition, Executions, opens on 16th October 2020 at the Museum of London, and 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 cost £15.50 and are on sale now.


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