See the bed where King Henry VIII was said to be conceived and learn about the dramatic rise to power of the Tudors at a captivating new exhibition in County Durham.
This year Auckland Castle, a beautiful bishop’s palace dating back to the 12th century, is the focus of a £50m renovation project that hopes to turn it into an important arts destination in the northeast of England.
Part of the castle’s Renaissance is its current exhibition, The Power and the Glory: how religious Art Made Tudor England, which explores how the Tudors used religious art as propaganda to stake their claim to the English throne following the War of the Roses.
The starring exhibit is the 528-year-old State Paradise Bed, thought to have belonged to the first of the Tudor monarchs, King Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth of York. It is believed the oak bed, which has a headboard depicting the King and Queen as Adam and Eve – a symbol of fertility – was where some of the royal couple’s seven children were conceived, including the future king, Henry VIII.
Rediscovered by Ian Coulson of the Langley Collection, the bed is possibly the only piece of furniture to survive from the Tudor palace of Westminster, and is perhaps one of the most significant artefacts of early Tudor history.
The bed was discovered in a hotel car park in Chester before being bought by Coulson at auction for £2,200 in 2010 and is now thought to be worth in the region of £20m.
Also on display are two casts of the funeral effigies at Westminster Abbey of Henry VII’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, and Elizabeth of York, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery.
Dr Chris Ferguson, head curator at Auckland Castle, said: “It is very exciting to be opening Auckland Castle’s new visitor season with such a high profile and enthralling exhibition. The Tudors were a very captivating dynasty and we are still fascinated with them all these centuries later.
“Part of the reason for this is that Henry VII was a consummate PR person before people even knew what PR was. Henry knew right from the beginning that he needed to do more than win a battle to win over the doubters. He used the rock and roll of the day, religion, to endorse the Tudors to remarkable effect.”
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