Dr Lucy Worsley: Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber

Uploaded by dcms on 20.01.2012

>> DR LUCY WORSLEY: People think of Hampton Court and Henry VIII. Yes that's true, but
that's only half of the story. The other half of Hampton Court was rebuilt at the end of
the seventeenth century by Sir Christopher Wren and it's England's Versaille, really.
It is baroque, it's brilliant and people just don't know about this whole other side of
the story. A King or a Queen sleeps in a special kind of bed, a state bed, and it's not really
for sleeping at all. They were public places - they would receive visitors in bed. That
sounds surprising but this really did happen. It was a treat to come into an eighteenth
century royal bedroom and to see the King or Queen being dressed in public. And the
people who did this were the top courtiers. They were great sort of places where people's
status, their dignity was expressed, if you like. And also in royal bedchambers we get
special events like the birth of an heir to the throne which has to be witnessed. Poor
Queen Caroline in the eighteenth century, she has great difficulty, she has all these
gynaecological difficulties but she has to give birth to her eight children in front
of her husband, the Archbishop of Canterbury and fifteen other members of the court just
to check that nothing went wrong. The other weird thing that happened in a state bed is
the public bedding of the bride and the groom after they've been married. So we have the
public bedding of Princess Mary in the seventeenth century aged 12. It sounds shocking and awful
and it wasn't followed up by physical union in her case but it was really important that
the young couple were seen in bed together. All the courtiers would troop in and that
gave it validity. The other key thing about a state bed is that it is an object of conspicuous
consumption. Thousands, millions, of pounds would be invested in something like this,
in the textiles, in the craftsmanship - in particular the embroidery. And some of the
beds, like Queen Charlotte's for example, it has years of needlework in it. In this
particular case the needlework was done by a special college of young girls of good family
but slender means that was set up for the purpose by Queen Charlotte. And even in modern
times, thousands of hours of conservation has been invested in these objects so it's
all gradually coming together for a great big explosion of 'bediness' in 2013. Now the
DCMS/Wolfson Fund have given us £150,000 which is brilliant and we're going to spend
it on rewiring. Now that sounds like the world's most boring project but it's essential because
it will enable us to use the Queen's apartments for display space. People will be able to
go in there and the first exhibition that they'll be able to see is called 'Secrets
of the Royal Bedchamber'. Now that is not boring. The secrets of the royal bedchamber
are very salacious and brilliant.