Curator's Choice: Dr Ellen McAdam on Henry VIII's bed head at The Burrell Collection

By Ben Miller | 09 July 2013

Curator's Choice: Dr Ellen McAdam, of Glasgow Museums, on a reminder of one of Henry VIII's wedding nights at The Burrell Collection...

A photo of a woman standing next to a large bed head framed on a wall
"This is the head made for the bed of Henry and Anne of Cleves in 1540, and we can see from the illustrations that Henry has an enormous codpiece.

Not much sleeping went on, because they played cards that night. I'm pretty certain that she was so diplomatic she would have let him win.

He later decided he didn't really fancy her, but Anne managed to negotiate her way out of being beheaded, which was his usual method of dealing with his wives. He actually gave her a pension for life.

There's a symbol of a baby, reflecting the hope of fruitfulness and producing children.

It is a naughty little bedhead. All Henry's titles are in the middle - King of Ireland, King of England, King of France, Defender of the Faith. The couple's initials are also entwined.

It's made of oak. You have to be careful with paint this old.

The little bits of carving are quite delicate. What a pity it can't talk and tell us what it saw that night."
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