THE events leading up to the beheading of Charles I in 1649 are among the most discussed in British history, as befits a monarch whose association with central London can still be glimpsed in its streets, buildings and monuments. His influence even extends to its historic artefacts, although, sadly, the silk vest the King wore at his execution—which the Museum of London was primed to grant a rare public display of this autumn—will not soon be seen, as the exhibition in which it was to feature has been cancelled owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It’s not known through which window of Banqueting House the shivering, but dignified King stepped onto a makeshift scaffold, erected in front of the north annexe on a bitingly cold January day in Whitehall. A bust and plaque on the wall draws attention to the event. The irony is that Charles once enjoyed Court entertainments within the building, which Inigo Jones had designed for his father, James I, in 1619. Charles himself commissioned Peter Paul Rubens to create the ceiling paintings for central London’s first truly Classical building, although Jones’s earliest surviving work is the Queen’s House, Greenwich, built between 1616 and 1635.
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October 07, 2020