Knole's state beds
The three state beds at Knole are some of the most significant surviving pieces of royal furniture in Britain.
The Spangle Bedroom
The Spangled Bed is furnished with rare late 16th- or early 17th-century silk hangings embellished with appliqué strapwork and the silver and silver-gilt spangles or sequins from which the bed takes its name. These textiles are believed to have been part of a canopy of state acquired as a perk of office by Lionel Cranfield, 1st Earl of Middlesex. They were used to create a suite of lying-in furniture for Lady Cranfield at Chelsea House in London for the birth of their son James Cranfield in 1621. The suite consisted of one large bed, a smaller bed and a canopied cradle. The textiles from these three beds were then re-used to produce the bed-hangings for the Spangled Bed. Recent conservation work has shown that they have been patched and cut-down to fit with the current bed frame. The bed was taken to Copt Hall in 1625, and brought to Knole in 1701.
The Venetian Bedroom
The state bed in the Venetian Bedroom was made for James II around 1688. Together with its suite of matching armchairs and stools, it is attributed to royal joiner Thomas Roberts. Hung with high-quality Genoese fabrics, it is carved with the Lion and the Unicorn and James’s monogram, JR. It was acquired as a perk of office by Charles Sackville, 6th Earl in 1695.
Conservation work has done much to improve the condition of the fragile fabrics and original gilding, which had suffered from unsympathetic work carried out by the Rural Industries Bureau in the 1960s. Changes have been made to the bed throughout its history, but especially during the 19th century. An armchair and cushion in the Brown Gallery are upholstered with a matching embroidered silk, and an entry in the 1864 Knole inventory listing the bed’s silk counterpane has been struck out and annotated with ‘This has been cut up to cover chairs stools &c’. This may have been done by Victoria Sackville-West, Vita Sackville-West’s mother, in the late 19th century in an effort to prolong the life of fragile and fading furniture.
The King’s Room
The state bed in the King’s Room, decorated with cupids, bows, arrows and flaming hearts, was made for the marriage of the Duke of York (the future James II) to his second wife Mary of Modena in 1673. Hung with magnificent silver-gilt woven and embroidered French textiles, it may have been produced in Paris perhaps by Jean Peyrard, upholsterer to Louis XIV. It was removed from Mary of Modena’s apartments at Whitehall Palace in 1694 by the 6th Earl of Dorset, together with its set of en suite armchairs and stools. The Duke of York’s wedding suit, which survives in the V&A collection, is designed to match the set. The bed was brought to Knole from Copt Hall in 1701, and has been on display in the King’s Room since 1730.