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Telling the story of a beheaded king at Harley Foundation museum

Posted onPosted on 22nd Jan

Historic objects telling the story of a beheaded king are on show at the Harley Foundation, Welbeck, until July.

Marking 375 years since his execution, the Harley Foundation will show a rare miniature painting of Charles I with mica overlays, alongside a pair of black silk gloves said to have been worn by the king on the scaffold.

The objects on show at the foundation’s museum tell the story of Charles I’s trial and execution, giving context to permanent museum exhibits that include the pearl earring taken from his severed head, his gold toothpick and emerald seal.

The miniature shows Charles I at his trial, wearing a black hat and cloak. This portrait can be transformed by 10 painted mica overlays – much like a modern paper doll.

Visitors can see Charles surrounded by spectators at his trial, the executioner raising his severed head and Charles as a martyr.

Lisa Gee, director of the Harley Foundation, said: “Objects like these provide a fascinating insight into the cult of Charles I. His miniature tells a bloody story and was made to be treasured and carried around. It seems ironic that a deeply unpopular king gained a new kind of status from his execution. It also points to the deep loyalty felt by royalists towards the King.”

The pearl earring worn by Charles I at his execution is on permanent display in the museum.

It was taken from the ear of the severed head of the king and given to his daughter, the mother of King William III, who in turn gave it to the 1st Duke of Portland.

Also on show at the Harley Foundation is Charles I’s gold toothpick, a silver cup used to give Charles’ last communion, his emerald seal, and personal collection of family miniatures.

These objects are on show in Unseen Treasures of The Portland Collection, a major free historic art exhibition at the Harley Foundation.

Artworks include a drawing by Michelangelo and Van Dyck’s portrait of Charles II when a young boy. A highlight of the exhibition is a picture gallery stacked with Tudor and Jacobean portraits.

Unseen Treasures of The Portland Collection is sponsored by Bonhams.