Bed Bought Online for £2200 May be 15th Century Bridal Bed of King Henry VII
A bed bought online by an antiques dealer in Britain for just £2200 (US$ 2500) may actually be the only surviving example of royal furniture from the Tudor Era. It is believed that the ornately designed four-poster bed frame belonged to the founder of the Tudor Dynasty, King Henry VII and his queen, Elizabeth of York. Not all are convinced by the claims, but if they are true it would make the bed the most important piece of furniture in Britain.
Ian Coulson, an experienced antique dealer, came across what he believed was a “profusely carved Victorian four-poster bed with armorial shields”, reports the National Geographic . He decided to purchase the item for 2500 dollars (2200 British pounds) at an auction in Chester in 2010. Initially he assumed the piece was made by the Arts and Crafts movement, from the late 1800s, that was founded by William Morris and was enormously influential.
A Bed of Roses at Hever Castle. ( The Langley Collection )
A Ten-Year Quest
Upon delivery of his purchase, Coulson, like any professional dealer, carefully examined the bed. It was clear that the wood, which had been blackened by age, had not been carved or planed by modern mechanized tools and it had been repaired many times. This suggested to Coulson that it was much older than he initially believed. What really interested the dealer was the designs and one ‘coat of arms’ in particular. After careful study he concluded that one design was an armorial shield representing the Tudors.
Coat of Arms of King Henry VII of England, the founder of the House of Tudor. (Wereldburger758 / CC BY-SA 3.0 )
The dealer began an almost obsessive decade long quest to identify who owned the bed. Coulson, after years of study and communications with experts, concluded that it was “the long-lost bed commissioned for the marriage of King Henry VII, the first Tudor king, and Elizabeth of York” reports the National Geographic . The dealer believed that the designs of the carvings were from the 15th century because of their motifs and imagery which indicate that it was made “for Henry and Elizabeth by 18 January 1486” according to the History Vault . For example, the York, Lancaster Roses, and symbols of fertility such as acorns.
Carved portraits. ( The Langley Collection )
History Vault reports that beneath the “first layer of Victorian varnish are extinct chambers of woodworm that had once channeled beneath an original painted surface”. This would prove that the bed was much older than the 19 th century. Then traces of ultramarine paint, which was incredibly expensive, were also found on the bed and could only be afforded by the very rich, which also backs up Coulson’s assertions.
The Wars of the Roses and the Founding of a Dynasty
If the dealer’s claims are true, not only is this the Royal bed but it is a very historic artifact as it was made to mark the occasion of a marriage that changed the history of England forever. The wedding between Henry VII and Elizabeth of York ended the Wars of the Roses , a series of dynastic civil wars, which had devasted England for some fifty years. Moreover, the marriage which proved to be a happy one also laid the foundations for the Tudor Dynasty, whose members included Henry VIII and Elizabeth I .
Double Portrait of Elizabeth of York and Henry VII Holding The White Rose of York. (Jappalang / Public Domain )
There are several leading academics that support Coulson’s theory but not everyone is convinced. There have been efforts to carbon date the wood, but this has not yielded any reliable information. One test claimed that the bed was made from Oak from North America in the 18 th century and another found that the wood came from 15 th century Europe. It has been so hard to date the furniture because of the thick varnish that was applied to the bed posts during the Victorian period.
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Carved portraits on the foot board of the antique bed. ( The Langley Collection )
Survived the English Civil Wars
There is a widespread belief among experts that royal furniture was deliberately destroyed by the Parliamentarians during the English Civil Wars (1642-1649). Many of the ‘Roundheads’ were vehemently anti-Royal and to set out to destroy any vestiges of the monarchy even their furnishings. There is some documentary evidence that indicates that the bed remarkably survived the English Civil Wars and that it was owned by the powerful Stanley family in the 16 th century before it was transferred to a long-vanished country house in the 1600s. This evidence could support the claims of the antique dealer and his supporters.
So confident are some groups and organizations that this was the actual bed that was made for the marriage that unified the Houses of York and the Tudors that they have put it on public display in the past. If the item is shown to be a bed made for Henry VII and his queen, then it could be very valuable. Moreover, it could be an English National Treasure.
Top image: The bed could be a possible English National Treasure. ( The Langley Collection )
By Ed Whelan