The incredible story of the bed where Charles III could spend the night of his coronation
Installed in the Palace of Westminster, which houses Parliament, in the part reserved for the Speaker of the House of Commons, the “state bed” is a stone’s throw from Big Ben, in a dedicated room that can be visited. Its historical origin dates back to Henry VIII.
The history of this bed is extraordinary but, in more than 150 years, it has never fulfilled its primary purpose. His fate could change if King Charles III decided to spend the night there before his coronation.
Installed in the Palace of Westminster, which houses Parliament, in the part reserved for the Speaker of the House of Commons, the “state bed» («state bed“) is a stone’s throw from Big Ben, in a dedicated room that can be visited, and whose windows overlook the London Ferris wheel. The whole is monumental: the upper part of the bed, whose frame is in walnut bearing gilding and royal symbols, sits more than three meters high.
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It has its origins in a millennial tradition observed up to the time of Henry VIII in the 16th century. The night before the coronation, the sovereign spent the night at the Palace of Westminster, then the royal palace. A tradition revived two centuries ago for the coronation of George IV in 1821. But this bed was destroyed in the fire that ravaged Parliament in 1834. Another, which is installed in the apartments of the “speakerof the House of Commons, was therefore fabricated. This bed, which dates from 1858,was never used the night before the coronation“, explains to AFP Mark Collins, historian of the Parliament.
Disassembled for protection during World War II
He was obviously not ready for Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838 and subsequent sovereigns chose not to spend the night in Westminster. When the Second World War broke out, the bed was disassembled and stored to sink into oblivion to the point of extinction, when the Victorian era was totally out of fashion. His trace was thus lost during the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953.
It was not until the very end of the 1970s that an expert from the V&A Museum, Clive Wainwright, launched an appeal during a conference to try to find the bed, relayed in the press. The call bears fruit: a family comes forward, confirmation is not long in coming, the bed still exists. It is in a woolen mill in Wales.
It was bought at auction in the 1960s for £100 by the parents of Richard Martin, now 70. “They knew it was a special piece, they knew it was something important, but they had no idea where it came from.», explains the historian. And for about twenty years, the bed had a most animated life. One of the children of the family, Benedict, was even born there in 1965.
Rose for England, a thistle for Scotland, clover for Ireland
This incredible bed let the imagination of the child that was then Richard Martin wander: “It was thought that those who spent their life in bed slept there and could put their cigarettesinto small orifices, whether they’re reading a book or drinking tea. “No one else had a bed like this“, he explains, seeing in this piece of furniture “a kind of night throne“.
The bed was bought from the family and then restored. The original hangings, which had disappeared, were recreated in 1984. Red and purple, royal colours, they are adorned with the rose for England, the thistle for Scotland and the clover for Ireland.
Will King Charles III be tempted on the night of May 5 to 6? Historian Mark Collins reserves his prognosis. “Preparations for the coronation are underway“, he observes, “we shouldn’t have to wait too long to find out if it will be used“. Anyway, the bed isquite ready, just in case»…