Thursday, June 16, 2011

How King William III kept warm

Thursday, June 16, 2011
Loretta reports:

As our readers know, the Nerdy History Girls are fascinated by the ordinary details of everyday life, even (or perhaps especially) when we’re talking about those who are not everyday people.  Monarchs, for instance.  That’s why, while visiting Hampton Court Palace, I admired the magnificent architecture and the paintings, yes. But my camera was also strongly attracted to some of the more mundane articles about me.

Part of the palace is clearly Tudor era, bearing the distinct imprint of Henry VIII.  Another part belongs to the reign of William and Mary (reigned 1689-1702 and 1689-1694 respectively).

Unlike other furnishings in the king’s (that is, William III's) apartments, these two braziers are plainly utilitarian.  The other pictures give a sense of their context: the King’s Presence Chamber, the first reception room of the King’s apartments.  I did like their homely look, among the rich tapestries from King Henry VIII’s collection, the silver chandelier, the mile high canopy, and the grandiose equestrian portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller.

Servants could roll the braziers to wherever his majesty, who was frail and asthmatic, required the most warmth, or roll them away if he was too hot.  Not that he spent much time here.  Apparently, the Presence Chamber had become something of a relic by his day, and courtiers were more likely to bow to a chair as empty as the one we visitors see.

This part of the palace was still being built when Queen Mary died, at which point the work was abandoned.  Five years later, the king came back to complete the work and furnish the rooms.  He personally selected the art and tapestries for his palace—and I have a poignant image of a solitary man (he was not an extrovert) carefully choosing this and that for a palace his wife hadn’t lived to see finished, which he had no children to pass on to—and which he’d live to enjoy for only two years.

Inept photos courtesy me.


Caroline Clemmons said...

Thanks you so much for sharing your lovely (not inept) photos and the info on Hampton Court. I've seen it from the outside, but never toured it. I also have had asthma since I was a baby and find it interesting that King William III also suffered from the disease. Seems to me that's why Windsor Castle was built, because someone had asthma and needed to escape the smog in London. I could be wrong. By the way, Loretta, I love your books and your and Susan's blog.

ZipZip said...

Dear Two Nerdy History Girls,
Another pinpoint view of daily life. Your posts are just about always fascinating and frequently wryly funny. A consistent best read.
Thanks so much,

Isobel Carr said...

Ooo, rolling braziers! I too love this kind of stuff. I think adding tiny details like these to books gives them a special flavor and helps immerse the reader in the world you’re building.

Dainty Ballerina said...

Mr Adrian Tinniswood and I were admiring those very braziers last week. And making childish jokes about sausages. Aren't they wonderful!

Rosi said...

Charming post, as usual. I, too, visited Hampton Court but wasn't able to tour the inside. You'd think tour groups would plan better! I found this fascinating and agree with Caroline that your photos are anything but inept.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

I, too, think Lorreta's being to modest about her pix - they're excellent! Because most people think of Hampton Court as only a Tudor palace, it's great to see the late Stuart rooms, too.

Dainty, I agree with you & Adrian about the sausages - those braziers look exactly like a pair of Weber grills. Bring out the royal hot dogs!

Unknown said...

Very interesting. I wouldn't mind having a bed like that. Looks excessively comfortable. Where is Mr. Darcy when you need him?

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