The History of the Four Poster Bed

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For centuries, beds have been a sign of wealth and nobility. The better the bed, the better the man, or at least that's how the old saying used to go. Today, even though much more accessible, the bed is still somewhat of a status symbol. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the four poster bed has remained so high in popularity throughout the centuries. The four poster bed is one of the oldest in design and is one of the bed frames most often associated with the super wealthy and of high nobility. They are often called the bed of the kings.

Ever since humans have been alive, they have needed to sleep, and naturally, they have always needed a safe, comfortable place to sleep as well. At first, people began gathering leaves, sticks, and other types of vegetation and debris to pile into makeshift beds usually inside places like a cave or a clearing. Eventually, a common phrase developed, known as “bed and board”. This evolved from the old style of bed frames where the board was literally a board or a set of boards set up on something like trestles or tree stumps with a bed on top of it. These beds would have only been for the wealthy, others would sleep on the floor with a pile of rags or straw mattresses.

It wasn’t until somewhere near the 13th century that the canopy was added to the top of the mattress. Originally, it was suspended by cords that were connected to the ceiling up above. This led to the development of grandiose bedchambers, which became increasingly common by the 14th century. Eventually, by the 15th century, the elegant four poster bed was introduced. Though the conception of the four poster bed is still uncertain, many believe that it first came from Austria. This is when it first became known as the “King's bed.”

 

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The origins of canopy beds and four poster beds

Though many are uncertain of their inception, there is evidence to suggest that canopy beds existed much earlier in history. For instance, Egyptian queen Hetepheres I (2575-2551 BCE) makes mention of having her bed surrounded by a dismantlable canopy of four golden-gilded poles holding fine mosquito netting. Another early example of four poster beds dating back to around 800-300 BCE depicts a four columned bed, without curtains, set in a royal engagement. In fact the term canopy comes from the Greek word for bed with mosquito curtains.

However, once the four poster beds traveled from Austria, reaching England between the 13th and 15th centuries, it was quickly received by the rich and the royal, spreading across the kingdom like wildfire. From there, the idea of the Tudor bed was developed. These beds were extremely grandiose, with thick carved pillars sometimes reaching 18 inches in size. They were ornately carved usually with the family's coat of arms, knights, florals, scrolls and other design elements. Originally, all four poster beds were made from oak or walnut. Some were also painted with fine detail and the majority included swathing draperies of luxurious fabrics like satin and silk for warmth. They believed that if you got it, you flaunt it, and their beds were no different. Beds became so highly desired at this time that they were often included in people’s wills, so that they could be passed on in the family.

 

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Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) of England had commissioned the construction of a four poster bed herself in 1581. Her four poster bed was the most elaborate of all Tudor beds. It was made from walnut, intricately carved, painted, and gilded with gold. It boasted silver fabric, along with silk and taffeta, draping down from each poster. The fabric was also fringed with Venetian gold, silver, and silk. The head-piece was of crimson satin from Bruges, edged with silk, decorated with six plumes, containing seven dozen ostrich feathers in various colors, garnished with golden spangles. A very fine bed indeed, one that is fit for a queen!

In the 17th century, a new type of four poster bed emerged in popularity. The frames and posts were all made from one piece of beechwood. They were much taller and more slender than the Tudor bed. They were still upholstered with fabrics hanging from and across the posts. Made from materials like satin and velvet, these beds were also very gorgeous and the majority of large households had at least 2 or 3 of these in their homes. As with tradition, many of these beds would be put in the will, often going to the possession of the widow.

The four poster bed remains popular to this day

 

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Throughout history, the four poster bed has been seen as the most important part of the bedchamber. Bedchambers were often where royalty performed business, received and entertained their guests. They are even where the royalty gave birth to their children. In those times, and for much of ancient history, if you didn’t have a grand bed, then that meant that you were of lower social standing. Today, for the wealthy, the bed as a status symbol hasn’t really changed all that much. Perhaps that is why the four poster bed has remained so popular, even to this day. Either way, we all know that in today’s modern world, the type of bed frame doesn't really matter. What's really most important is a good, decent night of sleep and that all starts with having a quality, comfortable mattress.

So, if you are in the market for a new mattress, please visit us at The Bedding Mart today. We have an excellent family of staff who are more than happy to help answer any bedding questions that you might have. Visit us online, give us a call, or stop in at any one of our 9 locations today. We have a wide variety of mattresses available, as well as several wonderful selections of four poster beds just like this for the king (or queen) inside of everyone. We wish you well during the holiday season and we hope to see you soon! 

           

 

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