Royal bed offers a warm welcome in Rhyl, North Wales
By Ceidiog Hughes
A bed in which the much-married monarch Henry VIII is believed to have shared with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, has found an unusual resting place at a North Wales hotel. The wooden section of the bedstead of Catherine, the first of Henry’s six wives, is now part of the grand fireplace at Barratt’s of Tyn Rhyl in the North Wales seaside resort of Rhyl.
Guests at the fine dining restaurant and bed and breakfast are always surprised to learn that as they cosy up to the fire in the couple’s hall, they are sitting beside a remarkable piece of Tudor treasure. Historians believe the saucy sovereign slept with Catherine in this same bed during their 21-year marriage. They say there is a compelling case for believing the tradition – she was, after all, pregnant six times.
David and Elvira Barratt, the husband and wife team who have run Barratt’s for 20 years, certainly believe it is the genuine article. Stories passed down through the generations refer to the old, wooden carved surround and its royal connection to Catherine, who married the memorable monarch in June 1509. Mrs Barratt said: “I found it unbelievable when I first heard about it. Why would Catherine of Aragon’s bedstead be in Rhyl? But once we understood a bit more about the history, I suppose it is like anything. We have things from our parents and they had things from their parents and slowly, things make their way down.”
Catherine, a Spanish princess, lived from 1485 to 1536 and had six children with King Henry, but all died apart from a daughter, Mary, who later became queen herself, the terrible Bloody Mary who burned Protestants as heretics. Poor Catherine, having failed in her duty to produce a living male heir, was divorced so that Henry could wed his second wife, the ill-fated Anne Boleyn. The terrible Tudor had Anne beheaded for adultery, saw wife number three, Jane Seymour, die, divorced Anne of Cleves, had Catherine Howard beheaded, again for adultery, and was survived by a relieved Catherine Parr who only lived until the following year herself.
Mrs Barratt said she understood the bedstead had been passed down through the family of Pierce Griffith, Sergeant at Arms to King Henry VIII and usher to Catherine of Aragon. He was one of many Welshmen who did well when the Tudors came to power and the bed is thought to have found its unlikely spot at Tyn Rhyl because Mr Griffith was an ancestor of the noted historian and writer Angharad Llwyd who lived at the house in the 1800s.
A prize winner at the National Eisteddfod of Wales, Angharad moved in high circles. It is thought that both John Ruskin, the poet and social thinker, and William Gladstone, Liberal politician and Prime Minister both visited her there. She died at the house in 1866. The Grade II listed house dates back to 1608, just 60 years after the death of Henry VIII and five years after the last of the Tudors, Elizabeth I, and is believed to be the oldest house in Rhyl. Queen Catherine’s bedstead is not the only historic item at the property – beneath the bedstead in the centre of the fireplace is a panel with a picture of an exotic bird made from marble.
Mr Barratt, 57, said: “A valuer from Sotheby’s said it was either Roman or Florentine marble and probably worth more than the fireplace on its own.” Living in such a historic house has been very special for the couple who have two grown-up daughters and previously ran a restaurant in Ruthin called The Buttonhole. Mrs Barratt said: “We love the sense of it being so old and the fact there have been generations of people here before us. I am not saying I have ever seen anyone but sometimes when you are sitting here quietly, it has that feeling that there are other people there with you, in a friendly way. We are members of the National Trust and we pay to go to places like this with this sort of history. Sometimes I have to remind myself, this is my house and how fabulous that we live here!”
More information at: Barratt’s of Tyn Rhyl, or call 01745 344138