History of the Royal Bedchamber
With a Royal wedding soon to come, there is a renewed interest in the private rooms and private lives of royals. Anna Whitelock, Director of the London Centre for Public History and Heritage, and author of “The Queen’s Bed: An Intimate History of Elizabeth’s Court,” says it’s only natural to be this curious.
“Everyone loves a wedding, but this one is significant [due to] marriage of an American into the family and also great affection for [the Prince,] says Whitelock. “[It’s] a feel-good news story at a time of often bad news.”
Royal bedchambers historically have been lush, decadent rooms with couches, tables, chandeliers and room for servants, writes Whitelock. The beds also traveled with the royals. No hotels needed!
“While the current Royal Family is a big tourism driver, many visitors are intrigued by kings and queens throughout English and British history, and to what lengths they would go to retain power – from the cut-throat Tudors, to the famously lavish Georgians,” says Sally Coffey, freelance journalist and former editor of BRITAIN magazine. “Seeing inside their bedchamber is the ultimate glimpse into their private lives. Where did they sleep? Where did they bathe? It’s a chance to humanize these legendary figures.”
Read on for interesting bits of royal bedchamber history.
Childbirth Was Public
This practice of public royal birthing occurred up to the early 1900s, which was when the parents of present monarchs decided that the world didn’t need to see a royal baby physically being pushed out. Still, Whitelock agrees, the tradition – in a way – still holds today as some royal couples get dressed and show off the new prince or princess within hours of birth.
If you move over to review the history of The Queen’s Apartments in the Chateau de Versailles in France, the birthing story is slightly different. The queen would give birth in her bedchamber, but she would labor upon a special bed brought in for that purpose as opposed to her royal bed. She was also allowed to labor behind a screen while only a handful of people were present.
Meanwhile, other ladies in waiting and dignitaries overall waited in the Queen’s Apartments. Elegant, flowered wallpaper and matching bedclothes covered this room, which also had partitions that dropped down from the ceiling.
Princess Bedrooms Were Like Modern-Day Great Rooms
Princess Victoria’s bedroom, currently preserved at Syon Park in England, is outfitted in gorgeous fabrics. The bed itself has a canopy and across from that is a table that could be used for breakfast. Syon Park was the Duke of Northumberland’s London residence.
Politics Were Paramount
That’s according to Anna Whitelock, whose book details the work of the “ladies of the bedchamber.” “Monarchs would spend a lot of time here, and certainly from Henry VIII on, they were staffed by trusted intimates/friends, not just bodyservants,” reports Whitelock. “So, all kinds of informal counsel.” Adds Coffey: “Here from the comfort of a grand bed, the monarch would conduct official business, including debating crucial political policies – even waging wars.”
Luckily for today’s royals and royal children, the bedchamber is a private affair; at least it appears that way from the outside. Servants no longer sleep within reach of the king, queen or prince. And, as civilization has modernized, that innermost royal sanctuary remains private and safe.
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