7 Royal Beds and Bedroom Moments that Made History

The royal bed sometimes was as important as the throne.

In the golden days of monarchies, just about every move the monarch made became a matter of public concern, from the moment he rose in the morning till he rested his head at night.

During the days of famed “Sun King” Louis XIV, the getting-up ceremony was witnessed by dozens of spectators who considered it a privilege to watch their ruler go about his morning rituals. In the United Kingdom, George II was closely watched by an intimate audience in what they called the “The King’s Rising.”

The bedroom served as the holiest place for those climbing the rungs of the monarchy’s ladder of influence: Once they had secured an audience to witness the king’s morning shave, then they knew they’d made it. At the center of it all was the state bed, an inctricately designed bed where the monarch’s rising rituals took place.

In those days, the royal bedchamber was almost as important as the throne. Apart from the rising, it was also where marriages were consummated, kingdoms were united, and kings and queens were born.

Here's what royal beds looked like in the past and what happened in them.

King Henry VIII and Catharine of Aragon

When the Tudor king wed his first wife, bedroom business instantly became public scrutiny, as revealed on BBC4’s Tales From the Royal Bedchamber in 2013. On Henry and Catharine's wedding night, a small party of courtiers assisted the king in de-robing and the room was full “until the very last minute.” The next morning, the ladies of the bedchamber examined the sheets to confirm if the marriage had been consummated.


King Charles II

King Charles II of the 17th century cared for a little more personal space. He was the first to install a bed railing around the chamber to keep spectators at a distance, reports Express. They were only permitted in via an invitation. It was also a known fact that the closer someone was to the actual bedchamber, the more important he was to the crown. Charles shared this feature with his wife, Catherine of Braganza. The railing was carved with the letter ‘C’ to indicate the king’s name.

Outside the bedroom, Charles partook in a number of trysts and had 12 illegitimate children through several mistresses. Queen Catherine suffered miscarriages and produced no heir for Charles, but the monarch stayed with her until death.

Edward I

During the medieval period, the royals liked to travel in style and comfort, so many of them preferred a portable bed. Edward I’s bed is a prime example. While the original is no longer around today, the bed was recreated and is now on display at the Tower of London.

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King Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth of York

The book The Tudors in 100 Objects describes how Henry VII’s first state bed was salvaged from a hotel car park and sold at auction before its value and significance was discovered by a craftsman after restoration.

The prominent state bed was where Henry and his wife Elizabeth of York had lain, with their union bringing the end of the War of the Roses.

Some background on this: Elizabeth of York was the daughter of the Yorkist king Edward IV, and to many, the heir to the throne. That was until her uncle Richard III claimed that she and her siblings were illegitimate to acquire the crown for himself. In 1845, Henry Tudor of the House of Lancaster defeated Richard in the battle of Bosworth and married Elizabeth, thus uniting the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster and bringing peace to the dynastic war. Their marriage also founded the Tudor dynasty.

King James II and Mary of Modena

The practice of ministers attending royal births began after the scandalous “bedpan incident” in 1688. When Mary of Modena, the second wife of James II, was pregnant, rumors circulated that the pregnancy was fake and that a baby was to be smuggled into the birthing room in a bedpan. Other accounts say that Mary’s baby had been stillborn and that a servant’s baby was exchanged again by way of a bedpan. The rumors came about after the king’s conversion to Catholicism, sparking fear in the Protestant community, who worried the new heir would bring the nation back to the Church of Rome.


Thus began the public’s longstanding worry that baby impostors could be a possibility. James and Mary’s bed, where the incident occurred, is preserved until today.

Queen Anne

In the 2013 exhibition held at Hampton Palace entitled “Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber,” it was revealed that Queen Anne, the last monarch of the Stuart dynasty, commissioned a deathbed that was only finished a year after her death.

Before her death in 1714, the Queen had experienced a series of illnesses, suffered from gout at the time of her coronation, and later, had a stroke. She had known her end was near and so she commissioned an extravagant deathbed. Its maker, Richard Roberts, upholstered the bed with crimson fabric and lined the ceiling with silk. The 57-part bed was of carved wood covered in white and gold-cut velvet. Bed mattresses were placed on the bed and curtains hung from the top rails. One of the finest beds of the 18th century has never been slept in.

King George III and Queen Charlotte

The last of the elaborate state beds was commissioned by King George III’s consort, Queen Charlotte. Being the last, its design was so crucial that Sebastian Edwards of Historic Royal Palaces thinks that the craftsman poured out their ideas into it. With an English country garden theme, the bed’s design took a more classic approach. The bed’s curtains had 4,200 embroidered flowers on it, as was the queen’s interest. Each of these flowers took a day or more to stitch, Edwards tells Tales From the Royal Bedchamber host Lucy Worsley. But by Charlotte’s time, the rising of the monarch was no longer observed or attended by droves of people, so the state bed’s creation was pointless. The King and Queen never spent a night in it.


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Hannah Lazatin
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