The Gloves of Charles I?

Last Sunday (30th January 2022) was the feast of Charles King and Martyr in the Calendar of Commemoration of the Church of England. Lambeth Palace Library has a number of items associated with Charles I, including a copy of his works expurgated by the Portuguese Inquisition, his personal copy of William Prynne’s A breviate of the life of William Laud Archbishop of Canterbury (London,1644), in which he wrote ‘Dum spiro spero’ (while I breathe I hope) while imprisoned, and reports by William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, concerning the province of Canterbury with notes in the King’s hand in the margins. Yet, it is not the contemporary documents associated with Charles that seem to capture the imagination of visitors to the Library, but rather the pair of gloves that were reputedly worn by him on the scaffold and which were handed by him to William Juxon, Bishop of London (later Archbishop of Canterbury), who attended him at his execution.

The gloves of Charles I

The gloves were purchased for Lambeth Palace Library in 1963 by the then Librarian Dr Geoffrey Bill, from the Royal United Service Institution (RUSI) after they dispersed their museum. The collection had up to that point been on display in the Banqueting Hall, Whitehall, outside of which was placed the scaffold on which Charles I was beheaded on 30 January 1649, and which is the last extant part of the Palace of Whitehall that burned down in 1698. Dr Bill researched the provenance of the gloves carefully and concluded that ‘the tradition that the gloves belonged to the King does … seem well founded’.[1] Yet, several other pairs of gloves lay claim to be those that Charles I wore at his execution, and Dr Bill determined that it could not be proven with certainty that the gloves in the possession of RUSI had been given by the King to Juxon leading to RUSI dropping their asking price.

Notes showing how thee gloves descended through the Landor family

While we cannot be certain that Charles I wore the gloves, we can be reasonably certain that the gloves were owned by Juxon. He gave them to his friend Jeremy Taylor, through whom they eventually came into the Landor family. Papers housed with the gloves trace the path the gloves took through the Landor family.[2] In 1928 Miss Caroline Landor gave the gloves to RUSI.

The gloves were displayed in the Great Hall at Lambeth Palace for many years, and have been loaned to several major exhibitions, the most recent being Samuel Pepys: plague, fire, revolution at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich in 2016. When the gloves went on loan to the British Museum for the Treasures of Heaven exhibition in 2011, the Museum undertook conservation work on them as part of the loan agreement, ensuring that future generations can look upon them and wonder if the stories told about them are true.

Further reading

Martina Bagnoli (ed.), Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe (London, 2011)

Margarette Lincoln (ed.), Samuel Pepys: plague, fire, revolution (London, 2015).


[1] LR/L/19/17 Correspondence regarding the acquisition King Charles I’s gloves, 1928-1963.

[2] ARTEFACT/5 Gloves of Charles I and notes on provenance from Landor family.