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Friday, 27 October 2017

I want a bed like that.

When Harewood House was first built they had a state-room for visiting royalty and the most expensive Chippendale bed ever commissioned. The bed with its green silk has been used twice, once in 1816 for the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia, a second time in 1835 for the Princess Victoria on a tour of the country she would very soon rule.

I was just about to take a picture of the bed – a golden moment when no one else was in view — when a burst of infectious laughter brought me back to reality, a young black couple behind me waiting to take a picture when I’d done.  The woman studied every aspect of the bed and then posed in front of. “I want a bed like that,” she said.
“I’ll get you one then,” her partner said and both laughed even louder at the absurdity of it all. It lifted the spirits along with the fact that so much beauty and wealth was now being shared – visually at least. No testing the mattress here.

I particularly liked this Chinese themed bedroom . . . 

 . . . as well as the spacious toilet with a ceiling to stare at 

But the room I found most interesting was the one dedicated to the Countess Louise.

Between 1828 and 1848 the Countess Louise had thirteen children with Henry Lascalles, the last one born when she was a grandmother at the age of forty seven.
In between popping out children, the Earl and Countess administered a 50,000-acre estate and several villages. They modernised village houses, supported the local school, established a savings bank and a Literary and Scientific Institute, which included a library and regular lectures. They founded a village cricket club and provided the field still used today, supported a local doctor and gave regularly to the poor.
Nor was the house forgotten, renovated at the cost of £37,000  or £21 million in todays money. And here is where the story becomes a tad bitter and illustrates the futility of sanitising or covering up history like knocking down statues or disguising the provocative legs of a piano with fabric.
Where did the money come from?

Britain abolished slavery throughout the empire in 1833 but did so at a cost and by the letter of the law. Slaves were regarded as property and confiscation without compensation went against common law. The Lascalles with their large West Indies plantations were compensated handsomely as a result. And everything gelled at that moment, the young black couple enjoying the fruits of centuries, the countess Louise popping out children like there was no tomorrow, along with their manifold good works and house restoration. History is a rich pick and mix, and yes, my reaction might have been a little more mixed had my ancestory been different.


Maria Zannini said...

Life is quite circular, with a lot of hiccups along the way.

It never ceases to amaze me the way the rich spend their money. What with celebrities buying gold toilets and having $30k a month wine bills, I think it would be exhausting spending all that money.

Mike Keyton said...

Brussels has no problem, Maria