History of Four Poster Beds


STUART AND COMMONWEALTH, 1603-1660

James 1 1603-1625
Charles 1 1625-1649
Commonwealth 1649-1660

The Elizabethan era had been eventful, turbulent and adventurous, led by a strong-willed, sensible monarch - Elizabeth, despite her numerous faults, guided the state through troubled times with a steady hand, aided by her innate commonsense and deep, unerring understanding of her people. The first half of the 17th century presented, in some aspects, an anticlimax. Internal strife, rather than the external wars with Spain which had characterised the latter half of the 16th century, was the keynote of this period. Brother was sat against brother, father against son, for the struggle was religious and civil. For much of this time the Church of England, as established under Elizabeth, was dominant, though the Puritan element in our life struggled constantly for recognition. Small outbursts of rebellion were evident, as instanced by the sailing of the "Mayflower" for the New World in 1620 - a comparatively small event at the time, but one which had great and lasting results. From 1649 to 1660 the Puritans, under Sliver Cornwall, held for a brief spell a greater power, but extremism of any kind has always been abhorrent to the Englishman, and reaction sat in after the death of Cornwall.

Bound up with this great religious problem was the struggle between King and Parliament, Royalist and Puritan. Neither James I nor his son Charles had the strength, power, commonsense and understanding of Elizabeth. They made a futile and final effort to maintain a fading monarchy that "Divine Right of Kings " to which they were sincerely convinced they were entitled. But what had been workable in feudal days was acceptable no longer, and one error led to another until Charles found himself in an unenviable and irretrievable position. England's last civil war followed a grim, bloody struggle, laying waste property, homes and man, setting families against one another, until, finally, Cornwall was victorious. The King was then tried and executed in Whitehall. On this occasion, Charles retained the dignity which had lost so often in his struggles with Parliament, and it is reported that he died bravely, as befitting a king, his head being severed at the first blow.

Jacobean Bedchamber circa 1610-20

Four Poster Bed Jacobean Bedchamber circa 1610-20

Viewing the broad picture as presented by these historical facts, the events seem largely destructive, not creative, in result. Nevertheless, much was being built in our social, parliamentary and economic structure, although a deal of it was not apparent until after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

Cradles

Examples of oak cradles of box form, supported on rockers, are preserved dating from the late sixteenth and seventeenth century. The cradle of James VI of Scotland (James I of England), which is of the hoodlums type, has turned rocking posts at each corner, and bands of inlay in dark and light woods on the sides. Later cradles have a raised back, or a gabled hood (Fig. 40), which is sometimes hinged. The side rails have occasionally knobs, for the purpose of fixing cords to tie in the child. A peculiarity of cradles is that they are frequently carved with a date and initials, which adds to their interest. A cradle in the Victoria and Albert Museum bears the inscription upon another cradle in the same collection the date 1691 appears with the initials F.M.G.

A SIMPLE CRADLE

Four Poster Bed FIG. 39. A SIMPLE CRADLE. THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

This cradle has the date 1141 carved upon the tipper panel. The uprights are crowned with finials, those at the head being egg shaped. It will is noticed that the knobs on the side rails are for the purpose of fixing cords to protect the occupant.

A CRADLE WITH HOOD

Four Poster Bed FIG. 40. A CRADLE WITH HOOD. THE PANELS ARE BEVELLED AND RAISED

A hooded cradle. The panels are raised, and the rails and uprights plain. The latter are capped with turned finials.