In the 13th century King Henry III made several important alterations to the Palace of Westminster. Three of his splendid apartments survived until the 19th century: the Queen's Chapel, the Queen's Chamber and the King's Chamber or Painted Chamber.
The Painted Chamber around 1799
The Painted Chamber
The Painted Chamber was perhaps the most spectacular of these rooms. It was built by the King as a private apartment on foundations in parallel to the present-day St Stephen's Hall, and it is said that St Edward the Confessor had died in a room which previously occupied the site.
The room was as grand and as colourful as the King and his craftsmen could make it. It was long and narrow, and housed a canopied state bed at one end.
It also served as a reception room, and was chiefly remarkable for the magnificent paintings that covered its walls.
The King's craftsmen began work on the paintings in 1226 and continued for nearly sixty years. In 1263, a fire destroyed the original decorations and they had to be repaired.
The paintings were reworked again in 1267 after a mob broke into the Palace and wrecked everything they could lay their hands on.
Several later kings also made additions to these painted murals. They depicted many biblical scenes in vivid colours, and were accompanied by a series of explanatory texts.
King Henry lay in the splendid state bed which stood against the wall, its posts painted green with gold stars, and he apparently complained about the draughts. Above his bed was a large painting of Edward the Confessor, to whom he was particularly devoted.
This wall of the Chamber contained a small opening known as a squint, thus giving the King a view of the altar in the adjacent chapel.
Although it was much degraded and damaged over the centuries, the Painted Chamber lasted more than six hundred years until it was demolished after the fire of 1834.
Ceiling fragments discovered
Two fragments from the ceiling of the Chamber, depicting a seraph and three prophets, were discovered in 1993 which testify to the quality of the other lost paintings within the Chamber.