Object of the Week: The knitted silk waistcoat worn by Charles I at his execution in 1649

By Kris Martin | 30 September 2015

This week we bring you Charles I's final waistcoat - still stained by his bodily fluids

A photo of the stained, blue-green sleeved waistcoat worn by Charles the First at his execution
© Museum of London
On the bitterly cold morning of his execution, on January 30 1649, Charles I is said to have requested two shirts, fretting that any shivering would be misconstrued as fear.

This fine, originally blue-green sleeved waistcoat or vest - described as "an exceptional survival" by curators - has traditionally been identified as one of the garments he wore that day, probably over a linen undershirt.

After the beheading in Whitehall it was passed to the king’s physician, Dr Hobbs, who attended to the body. It's now a star object in the collection of The Museum of London.

The staining on the front of the waistcoat could be the faded remains of the king’s blood, the majority of which may have been absorbed by the shirt underneath.

Forensic tests have confirmed that the stains are bodily fluids.

  • Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution is at the National Maritime Museum, London from November 20 2015 – March 28 2016.

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His shirt still survives, completely blood soaked, in a country house in the Midlands.
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