Overview of the furniture collection
The furniture collection at Historic Royal Palaces contains some pieces which date back to the 18th century and are of national or international significance. Others have been brought in because they were owned by a person associated with one of the palaces.
Most of the furniture consists of Victorian antique items which were brought in for contextual displays at Kensington and Hampton court.
Artefacts from the furniture collection
Charles II Bed Rail
A unique survivor from any of the royal courts of baroque Europe. Bed rails were a French innovation of the early 17th century which Charles II introduced to Whitehall Palace after his time at the court of Louis XIV during his exile. They were an essential part of the ceremonial equipment used to keep ‘the company’ away from the Royal Body once they had been allowed access to see the King dress and undress each day.
The bed is richly carved and gilded oak, covered in vases of flowers and fruit, life-sized putti (or babies) and the cipher of Charles and perhaps his Queen, Catherine of Braganza after their marriage in 1662.
Mary of Modena’s Bed
Its rich 'Genoa' silk velvet, in five contrasting colours, was one of the most luxurious materials for beds and often the choice of queens in Baroque palaces.
The bed is actually a confection of royal and other parts from at least four beds, assembled and preserved as a relic by later country house owners. It is an extraordinary case history of how royal possessions achieve an iconic status and the story of an object is valued more than the physical object itself.