Many to a bed
- In much of Europe, the many to a bed thing wasn't purely a climatic
consideration, though... there was undeniably a social factor. The following
are a selection of quotes from my favourite read on the history of Western
Europe in the C14th, Barbara Tuchman's "A Distant Mirror":
In the Empire,
""Inns were available to merchants and others, though they were likely to be
crowded, squalid and flea-ridden, with several beds to a room and two
travelers to a bed - or three to a bed in Germany, according to the
disgusted report of the poet Deschamps, who was sent there on a mission for
the French King. Moreover, he complained, neither bed nor table had clean
linen, the innkeeper offered no choice of foods, a traveler in the Empire
could find nothing to drink but beer; fleas, rats and mice were unavoidable,
and the people of Bohemia lived like pigs.""
while in France, peasants of moderate means
""would own a bed for the whole family""
despite the far milder climate. Elsewhere she writes...
"" Like sanitation, heating was an arrangement that the age seems
technologically equipped to have handled better than it did, were it not
that man is as irrational about his comfort as about other activities. Fur
coverlets, fur-lined clothes or separate fur linings worn under tunics and
robes substituted for active sources of heat. The furs of otter, cat,
miniver, squirrel and fox were less expensive than heavy wool cloth; ermine
and marten adorned the rich... Rooms were few, servants slept where they
could, privacy was non-existent, which may have increased iritability.
Whether it hampered or facilitated seduction is an open question. The two
Cambridge students in Chaucer's Reeve's Tale were conveniently enabled to
enjoy the favors of the Miller's wife and daughter because they were put to
bed in the same room with the family. Even in greater homes guests slept in
the same room with host and hostess.""
France at this time was, of course, arguably the most socially advanced
nation in Europe. Writing of England in the same period, Philip Ziegler, in
his seminal work "The Black Death" states...
""Privacy was not a concept close to the heart of medieval man and even in
the grandest castle life was conducted in a perpetual crowd. Hoccleve writes
of an earl and countess, their daughter and their daughter's governess who
all slept in the same room. It would not be in the least surprising to know
that they slept in the same bed as well, if, indeed, there was a bed. In the
houses of the poor, where beds were an unheard of luxury, it would not have
been exceptional to find a dozen people sleeping on the floor of the same
room. In the country villages, indeed in many urban houses as well, pigs and
chickens and perhaps even ponies, cows and sheep, would share the common
Alastair Millar BSc (Hons) - alastair@...
Translation & Consultancy for the Heritage Industry
P.O. Box 11, CZ 413 01 Roudnice, Czech Republic