Magazine article The Spectator

Master Bedroom

Magazine article The Spectator

Master Bedroom

Article excerpt

Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber Hampton Court Palace, until 3 November What exactly are the 'secrets of the royal bedchamber'? That the actual bed was seldom if ever slept in let alone used for romping sex (the latter took place in private bedchambers, often barred off by an ingenious system of locks). But the royal bedchamber was, as the organisers of this exhibition state, 'the equivalent of the modern-day boardroom', where government decisions were made and private access to the monarch gained. Those who controlled that access were the most important members of the court. They may have been awarded earldoms, but they vied for jobs that involved serving the monarch at the most intimate (and demeaning) level.

The point of the royal state bed was to emphasise the pomp and splendour of the room where you met the monarch in person.

These beds are very much the star items of the show, some as high as 18ft and bedecked with the most expensive silk hangings: those on Queen Anne's bed cost £674, the price of a reasonably large townhouse in 1714.

Sometimes it was associations that mattered: on display is Mary of Modena's bed, in which James II's unfortunate consort reputedly gave birth in 1688 to a son in full view of a host of ministers and courtiers. For all her pains, rumours abounded that someone else's baby had been smuggled through in a warming pan. After languishing at Chicksands Priory, Bedfordshire, for more than two centuries, the bed underwent so many alterations that the embroidered crowns and JM (James and Mary) monograms are about the only authentic features left. The exhibition also includes a highly practical travelling bed made in 1716 for the Prince of Wales, later George II. The bed is made up of 54 pieces and retains its original mattresses, webbing and much of the original hangings. …

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