[This is an encore presentation of a post originally published in 2013 on the birth of Prince George.]
Mrs Daffodil joins the entire Empire in heartiest congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son and future heir to the Throne. It was rather amusing to see the Duke carefully placing the car seat in the approved rear-facing position in the back seat of the family car. Things were not always so regimented. Mrs Daffodil can recall how the present Duke of Edinburgh was evacuated from Greece in 1921 in an orange crate.
Undoubtedly the young prince will sleep in a modern, safety-tested cot. Let us look at some notes on royal cradles of the past. The newspapers were just as full of “gush” over the details of royal nurseries as those of today.
The Kaiser is always careful that when a birth takes place in his family the ancestral cradle of the Hohenzollerns shall be used. This celebrated cradle is over 200 years old, and is supposed to protect the baby from convulsions and all sorts of childish ailments. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 5 December 1908: p. 14
This passage tells of the birth of the future Prince Regent:
The ladies who went to see the young prince were admitted into the room, about forty at a time. The cradle in which the royal infant lay, was placed on a small elevation, under a canopy of state. The head and the sides, which came no higher than the bed, were covered with crimson velvet, and lined with white satin. – From the head rose an ornament of carved work, gilt, with a coronet in the middle. The upper sheet was covered with a very broad, beautiful Brussels lace, turning over at the top, upon a magnificent quilt of crimson velvet, and gold lace; the whole breadth of the Brussels lace appearing also along the sides, and hanging down from underneath. Near the cradle sat the nurse, with a small velvet cushion lying on her knee, for the babe to rest on; and on each side stood a fair mute, employed as occasion required, to rock the infant to sleep. Memoirs of Her Most Excellent Majesty Sophia-Charlotte, John Watkins 1819
The next cradle was prepared for Queen Victoria’s first child. You will find a shocking article about a purported royal baby switched-at-birth conspiracy here. In any case, history records that the cradle was occupied by the Princess Royal.
Under the heading
Accouchement of Her Majesty the Queen
Preparations to Receive the Royal infant
About three weeks since an order was transmitted from the board of green cloth to Messrs. Seddon, of Gray’s-inn road, the upholsterers to her Majesty, to design and make the cot and two baths for the expected scion of her illustrious house. The talents and ingenuity of the designer of the establishment, a distinguished French artiste, were accordingly called into operation; and a day or two afterwards a drawing was forwarded to the palace for the inspection of her Majesty and her royal consort, who were graciously pleased to signify their approval of the elegance and taste which had been displayed and to order the completion of these most useful appendages of a nursery with all possible dispatch. On Tuesday night the cot was sent home; and as a description of it will doubles be interesting to the public, the reporter attended at Messrs. Seddon’s, by whose kindness he is enabled to give the following particulars, which may be relied upon. The body of the cot is in the shape of that elegant marine shell, the nautilus, being a happy conception of the designer, that the child of the “Ocean Queen” should enjoy its first slumbers and be cradled in a cot whose very form is emblematic of the main strength and glory of its “island home.” The frame-work is of the choicest Spanish mahogany, and the bottom and sides padded and quilted in flutes; the whole of which, inside and out, is covered with rich green silk, embroidered most splendidly with the white rose of England. Between each flute is a circular rib of mahogany, the edges of which are richly gilt. The cot swings between pillars of mahogany standing on plinths, supported by four lion’s feet, beautifully carved and gilt. The canopy is finely scalloped, and hung with silk drapery of the same design as the lining. The whole is gilt and surmounted with the royal crown, and presents a tout ensemble at once classic and unique. The baths are not yet finished, but are being expedited as rapidly as possible, and it is understood that one will be lined with silver and the other with marble. Weekly Chronicle [London, England] 22 November 1840: p. 5
There is one article in the furniture, list which elicited a spontaneous burst of admiration from us all, especially the ladies, who have been used to seeing homely wooden cradles, if not sugar troughs. It is called the “Regia Cot,” [Regina?] I believe and is thus described:
A cradle carved in Turkey boxwood, symbolizing the Union of the Royal House of England with that of Saxe Coburg and Gotha. One end exhibits in the centre the armorial bearings of her Majesty, the Queen, surrounded by masses of foliage, natural flowers and birds; on the rocker beneath, is seen the head of Night, represented as a beautiful sleeping female crowned with a garland of poppies, supported upon bats’ wings, and surrounded by seven planets.
The other end, or the back of the head of the cradle, is devoted to the arms of H. It. H. Prince Albert; the shield occupies the centre, and round it, among the arabesque foliage, the six crests of the Prince are scattered, with the motto, ” Treu und Pest” Below, on the rocker, is discovered a head of ” Somnus,” with closed eyes, and over the chin a wimple, which, on each side, terminates in poppies.
In the interior of the head of the cradle, guardian angels are introduced; and above, the royal crown is imbedded in foliage. The friezes, forming the most important part of the sides of the body of the cradle, are composed of roses, poppies, conventional foliage, butterflies and birds, while beneath them rise a variety of pinks, studied from nature. The edges and the inside of the rockers are enriched with the insignia of royalty and emblems of repose. Have done quick with this royal baby nest! Buckeye Abroad, Or, Wanderings in Europe and in the Orient, Samuel Sullivan Cox, 1859
Mrs Daffodil found herself baffled as to the identity of the royal baby supposed to occupy this masterpiece of the woodcarver’s art. It was probably carved as a compliment to the Royal Family (or in the hope that they would purchase it) and was merely a showpiece at The Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace. Unless it was the cradle Queen Victoria had commissioned for Princess Louise, born in 1848, seen below.
The child who slept in the cradle below was the French Prince Imperial, Napoléon Eugène Louis Jean Joseph, so unhappily cut down in his youth.
At the end of the room stands the cradle— not that which the city of Paris is preparing for the imperial infant, but still one of great beauty. A lofty fleche at the head, formed of a vine-branch of gilt bronze, gently bends over the part in which the infant is to sleep. From the fleche, curtains of Mechlin lace, lined with blue silk, are suspended at each side, the whole being looped up with gold cords terminating with torsades to match of the same metal. One couvrepied is of white satin, and another of blue, and the whole is covered over with Alencon lace, with the initials N.E. in the centre, the whole producing an effect of the rarest elegance. Opposite the cradle, on the centre-table, stands the robe de bapteme, all of point d’Alencon, with mantle and headdress to match. Near it is a muff of ermine, with a mantle of white satin lined with ermine. On the table lay the child’s coral for the period of teething— in this instance made of amber, the ball for the rattle being hollowed from the solid mass. This little plaything alone cost 600 f. Near it was placed an amber necklace, with a small gold medallion in the centre, to which the Archbishop of Paris has given his benediction. Three corbeilles de bapteme lay near, all lined with blue satin, and covered with Alencon lace, and bearing the imperial cipher and arms. To go on would be to fill a column, and yet not a word has been said of the contents of the other rooms, equally worthy of being examined. We cannot, however, help stating that the articles prepared for the nurse (twelve dozen in number) are also of extraordinary beauty and richness, as may be judged from the fact that her aprons are embroidered with as much care as the articles for the child, and, like them, trimmed with Alencon lace. The taste with which the whole is laid out is not the smallest charm of this exhibition, which, of its kind, has perhaps never been equalled. It adds to the admiration excited to learn that the whole was designed, embroidered and made up in the short space of two months and a half. Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] July 1856
The riches of oriental potentates were lovingly described in the papers.
King Theebau’s Expected Heir
Extensive preparations are being made at the palace in Manadalay, Burmah, in prospect of a coming event, viz: the confinement of King Theebau’s head queen, the Soo-pyah-lat….It is reported that the cradle which has just been completely cost the State nearly two lacs of rupees ($100,000). The cradle was first framed with mango wood and encased with sheet gold inside and outside. Over this is ornamented gold work, set with precious stones of all kinds—diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, etc.—and the work is said to be very superior, as it is turned out by the best of first-class goldsmiths of Upper Burmah. The arrangement for fitting up the cradle are as follows: A soft bed or cushion covered with green silk velvet and the sides with embroidered work. This is the manner in which the cradle was to be fixed and how worked. A thick iron rod has been fixed across the room some twelve feet above the floor, and the cradle is suspended by means of golden cords, made of golden wire, for the purpose of swinging, and to work backward and forward, like punkahs in your part of the world.
The King objected to the old method of having the royal cradle pulled by a parcel of old women, so the mechanical and engineering elements of his kingdom were called into requisition, and one of the Italian mechanics has invented a wind-up machine by which the cradle can be set going, once wound up for a day or night, or until further orders, to the great delight of the King. The Vancouver [WA] Independent 8 January 1880: p. 7
Mrs Daffodil has no information on this jewel-encrusted cradle, except that it came from the Ottoman Empire.
The lately-born infanta of Spain, Mary Ysabel, sleeps, wakes and cries in a cradle shaped like a conch shell and lined with the palest of pink satin. Her tiny form is covered with point d’Alencon lace, specially made form a pattern designed by the queen of Spain’s mother, in which the arms of Spain and Austria are gracefully blended. She has a couvrepied and tiny pillow, on both of which the lilies of the house of Bourbon and the Y of her pretty name, Ysabel, are laced and interlaced. The other royal baby, the young hereditary prince of Sweden, has a much less delicate cradle, as becomes a hardy young Norseman. It is shaped like a swan, the wings coming up, if wished and sheltering the little prince, and is well provided with down stuffed accessories. The Vancouver [WA] Independent 25 October 1883: p. 2 [Mary Ysabel was the daughter of King Alfonso XII, he of the “Hoodoo Ring.”]
All his environment is ancestral and in close touch with his distinguished lineage. Even the swinging cradle in which the wee body takes his long baby sleeps as held the infant forms of many of his royal grand uncles and aunts. It is the one the queen had in the royal nursery for her own children, and it is deemed proper and suitable that this important successor in the line should have a resting place dignified with heredity.
The cradle swings from a graceful frame of rich old mahogany inlaid with gold. Draperies of handsome brocade of a delicate pearl tint are attached and used to shut off intrusive draughts. The sheets for this downy nest are of fine Irish lawn, lace trimmed; the blankets are softest embroidered Pyrenean wool, and the coverlid matches the pearl brocade. The crown and three feathers which surmount the framework are further typical of the royal estate of the small occupant, whose baby eyes look out on many such suggestive emblems. Jackson Citizen [Jackson, MI] 11 September 1894: p. 10
The royal baby in this case was Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, later King Edward VIII: he who forgot his duty when ensnared by the American temptress.
A magnificent cradle of beaten silver will be the gift of the ladies of the Dutch nobility. A life-sized angel hovers over the head of the cradle, while at the foot is an equally life-sized baby. The sides are decorated with the arms of Holland and Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 13 October 1901: p. 8
This was the cradle for the much-longed-for Princess Juliana, the daughter of Queen Wilhelmina of Holland. The people of Holland, in raptures over the happy event, sent lavish gifts. The gifts pictured above include two cradles, a nursery clock, and an incubator—suggested by the Queen’s unhappy obstetrical history.
The Layette of the Royal Baby of Italy.
Little Garments Fashioned by Queen Helene Herself.
The royal child will certainly sleep in the midst of beauty, for even the sheets for the bed and cradle have been in the hands of skillful artists of embroidery. One set of sheets is embroidered simply in a sprays of forget-me-nots around the edge, another shows the embroidery in a pattern with narrow blue ribbon , and in another set the corners are filled with embroidery, and an embroidered ruffle finishes the sides. One set of sheets is trimmed with lace applique and a favorite pattern is the dove of peace hovering near the crown…The cradle, which was watched over and guarded from public gaze by the sculptor who designed it, Monteverde and by Prince Prospero Colonna, mayor of Rome, through whom it was presented by the city, is probably as gorgeous a one as was ever made. The entire structure is over six feet high and three and a half feet wide. The basket is of solid silver; the upper and lower parts are made in a wickerwork design, with the bearings of the divisions of Rome decorating the center. There are fourteen of these coats of arms, representing the quarters of the city—Monty, Trivia, Colonna, Campomarzo, Ponte, Parione, Regola, S. Eustachies, Pignia, Campitello, S. Angelo, Ripa, Trastavere and Borgo. On the bottom of the cradle basket a huge silver rose unfolds in numerous delicate petals. The basket rocks in a support of gilded bronze with four lion paws at the floor. At one extremity is a column bearing the emblem of Rome, a female figure wearing a helmet, and holding in the right hand the royal Italian crown. The column is adorned with Roman trophies and on one side sows the Roma wolf; on another the eagle; on the third, the royal military standard is unfurled, and on the fourth side is the well-known emblem of the hand upheld in the center of the crown. The angel which supports the cradle at the other extremity clasps in its arms the shields united of the house of Savoy and the house of Montenegro. From July Issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Richmond [VA] Dispatch 16 June 1901: p. 13 [Queen Helene was Elena of Montenegro; the King was Emmanuel III of Italy; the baby of this extraordinary cradle was Princess Yolanda of Savoy.]
Descriptions of the infant Czarevitch focused more on the nursery regimen, but a few hints crept in as to the luxury of the Imperial baby. Perhaps descriptions of pomp and wealth were discouraged, so as not to inflame the Bolsheviks who brought the Imperial family to so sad an end.
Here are some of the gifts that have already been sent to the Czarevitch: A cradle of solid gold from the city of Moscow. The top is carved with the head of the Madonna. On each side there is a draped curtain of gold leaf, forming a canopy for the head of the cradle. Boston Herald (Boston, MA) 18 September, 1904: p. 45
Young Czarevitch’s Jeweled Cradle
The cradle in which the czarevitch will receive the homage of the nobility of the empire is a superb affair of precious wood inlaid with jewels. It stands on a golden frame and the imperial crown of Russia surmounts a graceful branch from which hang lace curtains of great price. Hygienically speaking, the infant would do better to sleep in a plain brass crib. Denver [CO] Post 25 August 1904: p. 6 [Quite right. It has been “rediscovered” by modern physicians that brass doorknobs, for example, discourage the transmission of germs.]
Of Spain Will be Cradled Under Silk Covers Garlanded in Rosebuds and Butterflies
Madrid. February 23. The preparations for the expected royal heir of Spain are nearing completion. The cradle in which Alfonso III slept will lull the little newcomer to rest as it lies beneath hand-embroidered coverlets of white silk, garlanded in rosebuds and butterflies. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 24 February 1907: p. 4
Mrs Daffodil supposes that Alfonso III is a misprint for Alfonso XIII. Alfonso III of Asturias, “The Great,” would have been rocked in a cradle in the 9th century. Any royal nursemaids worth their keep would have scrubbed even a royal cradle to splinters by 1907. The Princely baby who slumbered under such lovely bed linens was Alfonso Pío Cristino Eduardo Francisco Guillermo Carlos Enrique Eugenio Fernando Antonio Venancio Borbón y Battenberg, Prince of Asturias. Alfonso XIII, of course, lost his throne, so the heir never inherited.
A few additional royal cradles: That of Sweden, used for the first time recently for the Christening of a Princess.
And that of the ill-fated Prince of Rome, Napoleon’s son.
Once again, Mrs Daffodil wishes all the best to the Duke and Duchess and their new little one and trusts that he will have a happier upbringing and fate than some of his royal cousins of the past.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.