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King James II's State Bed

attributed to Thomas Roberts (fl.1686-1714)

Category

Furniture

Date

1685 - 1688

Materials

Silk, Velvet, Wood

Measurements

3880 x 1980 mm; 2390 mm (Length)

Place of origin

'The Royal Chair', Marylebone Street, Westminster, London, England

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Collection

Knole, Kent (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Not on show

NT 129447

Summary

This impressive state bed was ordered by the Great Wardrobe for James II’s apartments at Whitehall Palace in August 1688 – only three months before the King was exiled to France. The richly carved and gilded bed, with fine hangings of blue-green Genoa velvet comes en suite with two armchairs (129448.1 and 129448.2) as well as six matching stools (129449.1-129449.6), forming one of the most spectacular and historically important sets of late Stuart furniture in existence. The carving, including James II’s royal cipher and the crown, lion and unicorn on the tester of the bed, was almost certainly executed by the joiner, carver and official royal chairmaker Thomas Roberts, who supplied the royal household with bed frames, seat furniture and miscellaneous items from 1686 onwards. The revolutionary events surrounding James II sudden departure from England in December 1688 may explain why the subsequent Wardrobe accounts, which might have revealed the name of the upholsterer, were never made up. The Huguenot Jean Poitevin is perhaps the most likely candidate, since he received most of the other large commissions of this sort during James II’s brief reign. Because it bears the cipher of James II, the bed was ‘entirely unsuitable for the new monarchs, William and Mary’, as Olivia Fryman put (Fryman 2014). Therefore, it must have been virtually new and untouched when Dorset claimed it as his perquisite around 1694.

Makers and roles

attributed to Thomas Roberts (fl.1686-1714), chairmaker attributed to Jean Poitevin, upholsterer

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