Lambeth Palace in London is not only the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is also a treasure trove of artefacts from some of the most momentous occasions in British history.

These treasures include the death warrant of Mary Queen of Scots, who was executed by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire in 1587, and the gloves that King Charles I wore on the scaffold in 1649.

The artefacts are to be showcased at the palace and in a new book...

Palace of treasures: Archbishop of Canterbury's exhibition tells Britain's story

By Paul Harris (external - login to view)
12th May 2010
Daily Mail

The death warrant of Mary Queen of Scots... the gloves that King Charles I wore on the scaffold - just a few of the treasures of Lambeth Palace, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Over centuries the palace library has accumulated a hoard of historic items - now to be showcased in an exhibition and a book.

These are some of them, many representing key moments in our nation's story...

Mary Queen of Scots

The royal execution warrant for Mary Queen of Scots, signed by her cousin Queen Elizabeth I, is part of the exhibition

The royal execution warrant for Mary Queen of Scots is a single faded sheet.

It orders the 6th Earl of Kent 'to repair to our Castle of Fotheringhaye where the said queene of Scottes is in custodie, and cause by your commaundment execution to be don uppon her person'.

The Roman Catholic queen was beheaded on February 8, 1587. The signature at the top is that of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.

King George III

George III reigned from 1760 to 1820 and went completely and utterly stark raving bonkers

George's declining mental health led to one of the most turbulent periods of the monarchy. Hand-written medical reports chart his demise into incapacity in 3,075 bulletins.

One portrays his pitiable state: 'Lost in mind, perverted in his ideas... irritable and violent.' He died in 1820.

Henry VIII

Many exhibits relate to the reign of Henry VIII, who split from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534. He accumulated a vast library that reflected burning questions of the day.

Hand-written margin notes express his disapproval of some of the texts.

On one, he wrote: 'Fundamentum hujus libri vanum est' (This book is worthless).

Charles I

Charles was executed on January 30, 1649, a freezing day. He was worried that if he was seen to shiver, the crowd might mistake it for fear.

Cold comfort: Gloves worn by Charles I on the day of his death in 1649

So he insisted on wearing thick underclothes - and kept his gloves on until the last moment.

Elizabeth I

The gilt-edged prayer book depicts Queen Elizabeth kneeling with hands clasped, and contains prayers and meditations especially composed for the her.

Many of them are in the first person, as if written by Elizabeth herself.

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth from her prayer book (left) and a scene from the booklet How to Die Well

How to Die Well

Ars Moriendi (How to die well) is a 15th century booklet featuring scenes depicting a dying man being challenged by devils, who have prompted him to commit a deadly sin. A guardian angel comes to his defence.

Chronicles of England

A manuscript from the 1480s illustrated by 70 miniature images, describes the 'history' of Britain from the legend of its discovery by the evil Queen Albina, its conquest by the mythical Trojan hero Brutus, to the very real siege of Calais in 1436.

Battleground: A rather fanciful depiction of Julius Caesar's invasion of Britain from The Chronicles of England

The narrative is shamelessly pro-English.

The Mothers' Union

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams with Queen Elizabeth I's prayer book

The potentially damaging influence of cinema on society was a recurrent concern for right-thinking women in the Mothers' Union.

Its 'Watch and Social Problems Department' created a cinema sub-committee in the 1930s to discourage portrayal of immoral behaviour.

But two decades later, a 1955 pamphlet entitled 'Shall we go to the Pictures?' extols the virtues of the medium, even for the purposes of sex education.

Tortoise Shell

Among the more bizarre exhibits is an ancient tortoise shell. When inhabited, it contained a beloved pet owned by William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633 to 1645 and lived at Lambeth.

In 1753 it was accidentally unearthed by a gardener during hibernation and died in the winter of 1753.

Richard III

In August 1485, at the age of 32, Richard III became the last king of England to die in battle. He was slain at Bosworth Field in Leicestershire.

Before he went into battle he consulted prayers in a specially composed Book of Hours, a devotional manuscript.

The colourfully illuminated book was found in his tent at Bosworth and bears his date of birth, October 2, 1452, written in his own hand.

The exhibition at Lambeth Palace runs until June 23.