Visiting the exhibition
These are beds – but not as you know them
Christopher Wren's 'new' Hampton Court Palace was designed in Baroque fashion, with the state bedchamber as its focal point. However, unlike your personal bedroom, the monarch’s state bedchamber was a very public place and the real seat of power.
Breathtaking Baroque beds
The state bed was the crowning glory of the state bedchamber and their magnificent design and exorbitant cost reflected their importance. Each of the royal beds on display in the exhibition has a story to tell.
The ultimate destination at court for all courtiers and politicians was the bedchamber; it was from here that the monarch ruled the country, heirs were conceived and born, and monarchs died. A fascinating cast of characters populated the bedchamber and its drawing rooms – and only those who successfully negotiated court etiquette would be rewarded with an audience with the monarch.
The public and private bedchamber
The state bedchamber had its own department of staff to run it efficiently. From the highest ranking servant – the Groom of the Stole - to the lowliest servant, a position in the Department of the Bedchamber was considered a privilege. Find out more about the servants of the bedchamber and the duties they had to fulfil.
The truly ‘private’ activities between King and Queen had to take place in the private bedchamber – but even here, privacy was relative.
From the waking and dressing of the King each morning to retiring him to bed each evening, each ritual was elaborate and public. Find out more about Bedchamber rituals.
Power and politics
This exhibition spans 100 years of turbulent British history and the emergence of modern Britain. Find out about the ruling monarchs of this period.
Behind the scenes
Conserving the beds and preparing them for display has been a massive project for our conservators involving painstaking work and pioneering methods.
Making the costumes featured in the exhibition also presented creative challenges for our costume designers.
Talks and special events
Learn more about the stories explored in Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber through our programme of adult learning events:
- Exhibition study afternoon with curators Sebastian Edwards and Polly Putnam
- 'Henrietta Howard and Marble Hill House', a talk by Chief Curator Tracy Borman
- 'Births, marriages and deaths: Rituals of the royal bedchamber', exploring the significant events that occurred in the state bedchamber
- 'Reunion: The Glorious Revolution', a panel discussion with costumed interpreters playing James II, Queen Anne and a parliamentarian
For more information, see Adult learning at Hampton Court Palace.