A good night's sleep: Royal beds in our collection
‘The bed has become a place of luxury to me. I would not exchange it for all the thrones in the world.’
- Napoleon Bonaparte
Although many of the royal beds in our collection are an extravagance of unbridled luxury, some beds were a safe haven during times of war, others a welcome resting place for a monarch on a royal tour.
Find out more about our royal connections as we show you some of our best beds:
Queen Margaret of Anjou, the wife of Henry VI, is said to have slept in the oak ‘stump’ bedstead (a bed without posts) with linen hangings, at Owlpen Manor in Gloucestershire, before she led the Lancastrian army in the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. During the battle the Lancastrians were defeated and her son Edward was killed. After the battle Margaret was captured and sent to the Tower of London for several years before being exiled to France where she spent the rest of her life.
Although the base of the bed is thought to be original, the curtains and hangings are much later. In 1927 Mr Baron Ash bought the bed for Packwood House and it is now situated in the Queen Margaret’s Room.
King Charles II, then Prince of Wales, slept at Cotehele, Cornwall in 1644 in a bedroom now known as the King Charles’ Room, located in the Tower. The bed is thought to have been constructed from the legs of a table and the headboard from the overmantel of a fireplace. It was introduced to Cotehele in the 19th century.
The King also slept at Dunster Castle in 1645 during the Civil War where a secret escape passage behind the bed is proof of the dangerous times during these times.
Charles also hid from Cromwell’s troops at Moseley Old Hall after he fled the Battle of Worcester in 1651. He is said to have rested, ‘fully dressed’, in the four-poster bed in the King’s Room. The bedcover is an example of early eighteenth-century English needlework and was originally two bed hangings. Under the floor of a wardrobe in the room is a trap door which conceals a tiny hiding place where King Charles hid here from Parliamentarian soldiers. Although he must have felt very cramped being ‘over two yards high’ (1.8m), he was said it was the best place he had ever been in.
The superb collection of 17th-century beds at Knole, Kent, was acquired as a privilege of office from the royal palaces during the course of Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset’s post as Lord Chamberlain who inherited the estate in 1677 and lived a colourful life.
In Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, beautiful fabrics were created for use in the homes of the wealthy. Louis XIV of France, known as the ‘sun king’, filled his Palace of Versailles in magnificent rich-coloured silks, brocades, taffetas and elaborate trimmings. The English copied the designs, festooning their beds with lavish curtains and canopies in rich fabrics, embroidery and colours.
The bed in the King’s Bedroom is thought to be the most outstanding example of a state bed of the Louis XIV period to have survived anywhere in the world. Although the crimson and white ostrich plumes have disappeared, it remains one of Knole’s great treasures. It was made for James, Duke of York, the future King James II, for his marriage to Mary of Modena in 1673.
The four-poster state bed in the Venetian Ambassador’s Bedroom at Knole was made for James II in 1688. It bears his arms and monogram, carved and gilt figures and hangings of blue-green Genoa velvet on a background of white silk. It is probably one of the most important pieces of Stuart furniture in existence to have survived.
The state bed which dates from 1685 in the Queen Anne Room at Dunham Massey, Cheshire was made for the Duchess of Somerset, and has undergone a long period of restoration. Carved by James Gravenor, cabinet maker, the bed posts are formed as palm trees with gilt roots forming the feet. Large gilt foliage sprays support the canopy the corners with plumes of grey ostrich and heron feathers.
The state bed in the State Bedroom at Clandon Park was made around 1710, probably by a royal craftsman. In 1778 it was said to be ‘A noble costly bedstead with hangings beautifully worked in a great variety of colours lined with satin and superbly finished’. At some stage the bed was reduced in height and converted into a four-poster.
The last guest to sleep in the bed in 1791 was the Princesse de Lamballe, a friend of Queen Marie-Antoinette, who was torn to pieces by a mob during the French Revolution.
The future Edward VII once stayed in the elaborate State Bedroom at Powis Castle. The room survives from the 1660s although the bed was made around 1780 and is set behind a decorative balustrade, to separate it from the rest of the room. It's style is copied from the Palace of Versailles, at the time of Louis XIV, and is the only example of this feature still in existence in Britain. At Versailles, when the King held a reception, only royal princes were allowed within the spaces on either side of the bed beyond the balustrade. Although HRH Prince Charles stayed at Powis five times between 1995 and 1999, he chose to sleep in the Duke’s room instead.
The Queen’s Bedroom at Belton House, Lincolnshire was redecorated for Queen Adelaide who visited in 1841. The canopy bed dates from 1813 but was refurbished in the revived Rococo style with the queen’s monogram in silver embroidery on the headboard. The braids, fringes and tassels of the bed are original although the striped silk is rewoven.
Humble Queen Adelaide, a favourite aunt of Queen Victoria was the queen consort of King William IV. The king had ten illegitimate children during a 20-year affair with actress Dorothea Jordan. Although Queen Adelaide was willing to take on his step-children, she produced no heir to the throne, losing two daughters in early infancy and suffering from several miscarriages.
The Owl Suite of rooms at Cragside was specifically refurnished for the Prince and Princess of Wales (later Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) for their Royal visit in August 1884 when they wanted to see the ‘palace of the modern magician’. They would not have been disappointed. The owner, Lord Armstrong, was a brilliant inventor and engineer who provided the royal couple with a plumbed-in washstand in the bedroom plus a second washstand and a sunken bath in the adjoining dressing room.
The bed posts are finished with owl finials, of American black walnut, designed by Norman Shaw the influential Scottish architect and made by W.H. Lascelles.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed at Penrhyn Castle for three days in 1859. The queen is traditionally said to have slept in the slate bed which was probably made before her visit and pre-1845. It was almost certainly designed by the architect of the castle, Thomas Hopper, in the 1830-40s, and carved from highly polished slate from the owner’s slate quarry, perhaps by someone who normally produced slate headstones and chest tombs.
Treasurer’s House received a royal visit in June 1900 when Edward VII and Queen Alexandra visited as Prince and Princess of Wales along with their daughter, Victoria. The beds slept in by Queen Alexandra and Princess Victoria were said to have come from Houghton, Norfolk. The arms of Denmark were embroidered on one bed, and the arms of the princess on the other, as a memorial.