Before the age of the hot water bottle, how did people make a cozy bed? The answer, as far as the English aristocracy was concerned, was to use a human hot water bottle. A servant would be dispatched to the master’s freezing bed to act as a bed warmer. Then, when his lordship had quaffed his port and scoffed his quails he would retire to his four poster, turn out the human water bottle and climb in to his, by now, warmer bed. His own personal, breathing hot water bottle!
Years later, when Prince James, heir to the British throne was born in 1688, a bed warmer was at the heart of the plot to disinherit him. Rumour was spread that Queen Mary had miscarried and that a warming pan had been sent for. The plotters convinced her subjects that a peasant’s baby had been substituted for the stillborn Prince; smuggled into the Queen’s boudoir hidden in a bed warmer! The doubts about the baby Prince’s legitimacy, and the desire of the plotters to remove the catholic line of succession, forced the Queen to flee to France for the safety of the “Bed warmer Prince”. He never did succeed to the British throne. When he invaded 20 years later, he was defeated by the English fleet, and George I was instead crowned King of England. He was denied his birthright because of a bed warmer!
The bed at the centre of the “Bed warmer Prince” scandal is housed at Kensington Palace, the old home of Princess Diana. The bed warmer incident played a huge part in the birth of future royal babies. It was decreed that a senior government figure must be present in the Queen’s bedchamber, negating the possibility of any future skulduggery and thus removing all doubt about the true identity of a royal baby. It was only when Queen Victoria gave birth to her first child that Prince Albert banned the practice, deeming it:” Ridiculous!” A bed warmer indeed!