The importance of furniture
Underneath many seats are printed the marks HC (for Hampton Court) or WP (for Whitehall Palace) – the great Tudor powerhouse that burned down in 1698 and of which the Knole collections contain the last survivors.
Furniture, mostly now mass produced, has lost its intense association with wealth and status. The furniture at Knole would be among the most expensive status objects of their time, the result of thousands of artisan hours, the finest woods, the most expensive fabrics, drawn from across the known world.
Not only the price, but the significance of furniture has also diminished over the centuries, and we now struggle to understand the reverence that a chair might have commanded or its association with rank and privilege. Although the legacy of the importance is to be found in the title Chair – as in Chair of the Board.
The X-frame chairs
Among the most important pieces and sets of furniture at Knole are the X-framed armchairs, fashioned on folding Roman military chairs taken on campaign. Placed beneath a canopy and accompanied by stools and footstools, these chairs were know as Chairs of State and were used as thrones. From here the king of the day would give audience.
The Knole settee
Built after 1660, the original Knole settee (which launched a thousand imitations across the world) is covered in its original red velvet. This, too, would have been used almost like a chair of state. It is possible that a post-restoration queen would have received guests on the settee, sitting beneath a canopy in a state dressing-room, beyond her bed chamber in the palace. The Knole settee is on display in the Leicester Gallery, currently kept behind glass to preserve it in environmentally stable conditions.