King Charles I (1600-1649) took to the English throne in 1625. An unpopular monarch with a tyrannical bent, he soon turned the powerful institutions of government against himself. His marriage to a Roman Catholic (Henrietta Maria) was another black mark in a Protestant kingdom.
In 1642 the Parliaments of England and Scotland declared war on the king, under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. The English Civil War raged for four years, ending in a Royalist defeat. Charles I surrendered at Newark-on-Trent in May 1646 and was beheaded the following year.
Following his execution in London, Charles I’s head was sewn back on to his body. He was buried at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
Over time, the location of the king’s tomb was forgotten. It was only rediscovered in 1813, during renovation works to the chapel. Sir Henry Halford, then physician to King George III, carried out an exhumation of the remains that year.
It was during this process that Halford clipped these two locks from Charles' body.
A copy of Halford’s report of the process (titled An Account of what Appeared on Opening the Coffin of King Charles the First) accompanies this item.
Halford writes: “The pointed beard, so characteristic of the period of the reign of King Charles, was perfect”.
The hair remains well preserved and is stored in a 5.7 x 3.2 inch 20th century wooden box, lined with blue velvet.
The locks of hair on offer are believed to originate from the Meyrick Collection, owned by the renowned scholar Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick (1783 – 1848) who assembled one of England’s finest private collections of antiquities, arms and armour.
Meyrick was knighted in 1832 for helping to reorganise the Royal collections at the Tower of London and Windsor Castle, and his own collection was exhibited at the V&A in London, before many items were sold to other collectors after his death.
A wonderfully macabre curio connected with one of England’s most historically important rulers.
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