More than a century after it left the royal household, five years after Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, a travelling mahogany bed used by the monarch has been acquired by Historic Royal Palaces (HRP). The relic is set to feature at a May exhibition marking the bicentenary of the Queen’s birth.
Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge, from Henry Aldridge & Son auctioneers in Devizes, Wiltshire, described the collapsible single bed as a ‘heavy and sturdy’ item.
Made in 1826 and measuring 196cm by 107cm (6ft 5in by 3ft 6in), the piece features arched head and end boards, a wooden slatted mattress base, and two pull-out storage drawers.
‘It wasn’t exactly travelling light to take this bed on her travels, but then, she wouldn’t have been the one who had to carry it, or put it together or take it apart,’ Aldridge said.
Indeed, a plaque attached to the bed states that Victoria mainly used it as a Princess, on childhood holidays to Broadstairs, Kent. There, she stayed at Pierremont Hall with her mother, the Duchess of Kent, between 1826 and 1836.
In her journal from 1832, the princess describes: ‘my own little bed which travels always with me.’
After successfully bidding £4,250 for the antique. HRP said: ‘It is a very important and unusual personal relic of the young Queen Victoria’s life, which illuminates her unique royal upbringing under the direction of her mother and Sir John Conroy, the domineering master of her household.’
The bed will return to prominence as the centerpiece of the upcoming exhibition Victoria: A Royal Childhood, which will open at Kensington Palace in May of this year.
The Queen was born at the palace on 24 May 1819 and to mark the 200th anniversary of her birth, HRP has announced the major exhibition alongside an interactive re-presentation of the rooms the young Victoria called home.
Among the remarkable objects to be displayed at the place so central to the shaping of the monarch, is a scrapbook of mementos created by her German governess, Baroness Lehzen, which will go on public display for the first time.
Visitors will be able to explore the young princesses’ education, family life, friendships and struggles—following the story of how she escaped isolation through story-writing, doll-making and drawing, all fuelled by a love of ballet and opera.
In the palace’s Pigott Gallery, a new exhibition will look at the public monarch’s private later life and legacy. Kensington Palace will be home to rare survivals from the Queen’s private wardrobe, on display for the first time. The selection includes a simple cotton petticoat dated around the time of her marriage, and a pair of silver boots—both so different to the black satin gowns we usually associate her with.
Diary entries, exquisitely-crafted relics of an empire, and examples of cultural identity related to 19th century British politics will also be showcased at the major exhibition, which will be included in standard admission to Kensington Palace, and free for Historic Royal Palaces and National Art Pass members.
‘Although considered one of the most famous women in history, Queen Victoria’s personality, passions and politics remain little known,’ said Polly Putnam, exhibition curator at HRP.
‘To mark the 200th anniversary of her birth at Kensington Palace, in 2019 we’ll be re-examining the life of this fascinating and contradictory monarch, whose cultural legacy and impact on world affairs are still felt to this day.’