Once hailed as the most beautiful woman in England and a famously close confidant of The Prince of Wales, Lady Isabella Hertford was certainly no stranger to the finer things in life.
So it’s not surprising that even after three centuries, looking after the flamboyant aristocrat’s beautiful bedroom is a task that requires the utmost care and attention.
Over the past few weeks, staff at Temple Newsam House have been painstakingly wrapping and covering precious objects and heirlooms in the house’s south wing, protecting them from dust, light and insects while the mansion has been closed to the public during lockdown.
Among the opulent rooms being conserved is the Hertford suite, named after Lady Hertford and home to her ostentatious bed, stylish portraits and prized possessions.
Believed to have been gifted to the former resident by the Prince of Wales at the beginning of the 1800s, the spectacular white and gold bed is the centrepiece of the suite and is lined with finest crimson silk.
Lady Hertford inherited Temple Newsam and its estate in 1807 and, although she was married, was widely known to have had a relationship with the Prince as well as being an influential voice behind several of his high-profile political decisions.
Although the modern-day upkeep of her suite and others in the house may be less glamourous, it is a vital part of protecting key parts of the house’s unique collection during the pandemic.
Visitor assistants, conservators and curators need to clean and wrap objects in specialist protective material as well as carrying out regular checks for cluster flies.
Maya Harrison, principal keeper at Temple Newsam House, said:
“Lady Hertford was quite a divisive and controversial figure in the early 19th Century and her relationship with the Prince of Wales was the subject of much debate and discussion among the aristocrats and politicians of her day.
“However, her legacy here at Temple Newsam today is mainly one of colourful and flamboyant interior design along with some quite spectacular examples of decorative arts and furniture.
“Protecting and preserving the many objects she and others left behind is a job that never ends, but it allows us to connect with and understand the history of the house and its former residents in a completely unique way.
“We’re also really looking forward to welcoming back visitors to the house as soon as we can and for them to once again enjoy all the collection we’re working to keep in top condition.”
As well as the bed, Lady Hertford was also responsible for the famous wallpaper which decorates the house’s stunning Chinese drawing room.
Another gift from the Prince of Wales, the wallpaper is decorated with exotic birds cut out of her copy of John James Audubon’s famous book Birds of America. Today, first edition copies of Birds of America have been known to sell for more than £7m.