This table passed by direct descent in the Wrey family of Tawstock Hall, North Devon. The present house was largely built after a disastrous fire in 1786 or 1787, although the family or their ancestors have held the estate since the mid-15th century. Until the mid-17th century the estate was the central part of the vast North Devon holdings of the Bourchier Earls of Bath, with their tombs at Tawstock itself. Those Earls of Bath were also Lords Fitzwarine (pronounced Fitzwarren). With the death of the 4th Earl of Bath in 1637 without a son, the Barony of Fitzwarine lapsed. The Earldom continued in the person of a cousin, Henry, 5th and last Earl of Bath (d.1654).
It seems most probable that this table was commissioned by his wife Rachel, 5th Countess of Bath (d.1679). The daughter of Francis, 1st Earl of Westmoreland and Mary Mildmay, Rachel was born at Mereworth, Kent and married Henry Bouchier, 5th Earl of Bath in 1638. Following her husband's demise in 1654, she married Lionel, 3rd Earl of Middlesex, who also prdeceased her in 1664. She remained, however, immensely proud of her precedency as Countess of Bath, as the Middlesex Earldom was a later creation, and in 1660 she petitioned and obtained a Royal Warrant to be styled Countess of Bath. In view of her pride in this historic Bourchier ancestry, and the magnificent heraldic tombs that survive to this day at Apethorpe and Mereworth as a result of her patronage, she would seem a most convincing candidate for the commission of this heraldic table. Ths table almost certainly dates from post-1660 and it seems probable that its carving and its coat-of-arms (the only one ever applied) were created to emphasise and celebrate the antiquity of the Earls of Bath and Lords Fitzwarine.
Rachel, Countess of Bath died without issue and it was thus through a parallel Bourchier/Middlesex/Wrey union that Tawstock - and ultimately this table - passed to the Wrey's. Anne Bourchier (d.1662), the 3rd daughter and co-heir of the 4th Earl of Bath, married Lionel, 2nd Earl of Middlesex (d.1651) in 1645/6. On the latter's death Anne remarried Sir Chichester Wrey (d.1668), bringing the estate of Tawstock to that family.
The Charles II table was presumably originally conceived as a stand for a magnificent cabinet or monumental marble slab with heavily shaped underside. The palm-flowered escutcheon is ensigned with coronets borne at the side by youthful satyrs perched among fruit-and-flower festoons emblematic of the Golden Age of Peace and Plenty. More coronets are borne at the side by youthful genii, while festive lions emerge from the legs scrolled and acanthus-wrapped corner trusses.
THE MARBLE TOP
The marble top is certainly Italian as it is made on a ground of peperino stone, a type of volcanic rock typical of 18th century Roman table tops. The Roman tops of the Borghese tables, sold in these Rooms, 5 July 2001, lot 50, were on the same ground. Sir Bourchier Wrey, 6th Bt. (c.1714-84) undertook an extensive Grand Tour in 1737-40 and was in Rome at Easter 1740 and it would seem highly probable that this top was a prized trophy of his Grand Tour.
Paint tests taken at the time of the table's sale at Christie's in 2002, when the table was painted black, showed that this table has been painted seven times. The table has now been dry-stripped back to its earliest scheme of white that lay beneath; the change to dark colours probably took place at the end of the 19th century.
There is just one paint scheme on the coat-of-arms itself. The blue is Prussian blue, the red is vermilion and the green is a mixture of Prussian blue and ochre.