Arras was so celebrated early in the Fourteenth Century that the name soon became generic; the Italians called all woven tapestries Arazzi; the Spaniards, Panos de raz; and the English, Arras. Hamlet killed Polonius "behind the arras."Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, owned in 1420 five chambers of tapestry, one of which was of Arras make, called the " Chamber of the little children." The canopy, headboard and coverlet of the bed, were worked with gold and silk, " the headboard and coverlet being strewn with trees, grasses and little children, and the canopy representing trails of flowering rose trees on a red background." Another, called " The Chamber of the Coronation of Our Lady," was furnished with a canopy, a headboard, a bed, coverlet and six curtains, two of which were worked with gold, and the remaining four without gold.

The same prince had also many chambers of velvet and silk embroidered with gold and silks. Mary of Burgundy, who was married to the Duke of Cleves in 1415, had in her dowry a "superb bed of tapestry representing a deer hunt."

Iron Bedstead, Tenth Century

Iron Bedstead, Tenth Century

Early Seventeenth Century Bedstead (Lit en housse) Corsini Palace, Florence

Plate LXXIII - Early Seventeenth Century Bedstead (Lit-en-housse) Corsini Palace, Florence

The miniatures of Mediaeval manuscripts often give representations of interiors, and to them we must go to ascertain exactly what the furniture of this period looked like. The bedstead, in nearly all cases, is nothing but a long chest on short legs, with a mattress and pillows, with the curtains and canopy suspended from the rafters by cords. Often the panels of the bedstead are of the favorite linen-fold pattern, as is the decoration of the chair that stands by its side. The seat of this "prie-dieu" chair, as it has been called, lifted up, disclosing a box in which the devotional books were kept.

In very wealthy houses the bedroom was frequently hung with splendid tapestry, or embroidered materials. A handsome bedroom of the Twelfth Century is described by Baudri, Abbe de Bourgueil, in a poem dedicated to Adela, the daughter of William the Conqueror. Tapestry of silk, silver and gold forms the only decoration of the walls. One set depicts Chaos, the Creation and Fall of Man, the Death of Abel and the Deluge; another set represents Biblical scenes from the time of Noah to the Kings of Judea; and a third set, scenes from Roman history and Grecian mythology. A hanging representing the Conquest of England (much in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry) decorated the alcove in which stood the bed of the Princess. The bedstead was ornamented with three groups of statues, representing Philosophy with Music, Astronomy, Arithmetic and Geometry; Rhetoric with Logic and Grammar; and Medicine with Galen and Hippocrates. The ceiling of the bedstead imitated the sky with the seven planets and constellations. The mosaic floor represented a map of the world with the seas, rivers, mountains and chief cities.

At an early period the nations of Western Europe knew the bed with headboard and footboard, and tester supported on four posts, with canopies resembling the roof of a house, and with curtains hanging from the cornice or arranged in the form of a tent. The coldness of the houses rendered curtains a necessity. As time wore on, the canopy, curtains and other furnishings became more luxurious. The canopy was often attached to the wall and the bed was placed under it. The richly embroidered curtains could be looped back or closely drawn, as the sleeper pleased. By this time, the bed had become a valuable possession, not solely because of its handsome frame and canopy, but owing to its "furniture" - its down pillows and coverlets, its soft mattresses of down and feathers or "flock," its lavender-scented sheets bleached in the dew or moonshine, its counterpanes of wadded scarlet silk, embroidered satin, cloth of gold, or vair, or miniver, and its heavy curtains.

Bed Of The Twelfth Century

Bed Of The Twelfth Century

In the Fourteenth Century the bed-chamber was of great importance, for kings received their courtiers and granted audiences in their sleeping-apartments, leaving the great hall for festivities and ceremonials of occasion and state.

Going to bed in Mediaeval times was something of a ceremony for both knight and king. It took the latter quite a long time to prepare himself for the night. First, a page took a torch and went to the wardrobe where the bedding was kept. The articles were brought out by the keeper to four yeomen, who made the bed, while the page held the torch at the foot. One of the yeomen searched the straw with his dagger, and when he found there was no evil thing hidden there he laid a bed of down on the straw and threw himself upon it. Then the bed of down was well beaten and a bolster laid in the proper place. The sheets were spread, and over them a fustian. Over this a "pane-sheet," which we now call a counterpane. Then the sheets were turned down and pillows laid on the bolster, after which the yeomen made a cross and kissed the bed. An angel carved in wood was placed beside the bed, and the curtains let down. After this, a gentleman usher brought the king's sword and placed it at the bed's head, and a groom, or page, was put in custody of the apartment, which he watched with a light burning until the king retired to rest.

Bed of the Marechal d'Effiat Cluny Museum

Plate LXXIV - Bed of the Marechal d'Effiat Cluny Museum