Health to the Little Stranger

As news of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s baby grips the nation, we thought it was time to show you some of the items in our collections fit for a new royal arrival. 

An essential item for any baby is, of course, a cradle. This beautiful example was designed in 1861 by the architect Richard Norman Shaw for the first son of a fellow architect, Alfred Waterhouse. It is made out of oak in the Gothic Revival style, and the sides are decorated with signs of the zodiac, panels possibly representing the four seasons, Blackbirds, flowers and leaves. The inside of the hood is painted blue with gold stars.

Cradle, Richard Norman Shaw, 1861. Museum no. CIRC.847:1 to 3-1956. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Cradle, Richard Norman Shaw, 1861. Museum no. CIRC.847:1 to 3-1956. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Cradles, are of course, timeless, but some baby gadgets that may seem fairly modern have a surprisingly long heritage. This baby walker, currently on display at the Museum of Childhood looks very similar to modern walkers, but in fact dates back to the early 18th century.

Baby walker, unknown maker, 1700 - 1750. Museum no. W.36-1937. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Baby walker, unknown maker, 1700 – 1750. Museum no. W.36-1937. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

And this very stylish object is one of the earliest baby monitors to be commercially manufactured.  It was designed by Isamu Noguchi for the President of the Zenith Radio Corporation so that he could monitor his young daughter while on his yacht.

Radio Nurse baby monitor, Isamu Noguchi, 1937. Museum no. W.16-2007. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Radio Nurse baby monitor, Isamu Noguchi, 1937. Museum no. W.16-2007. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The royal baby will inevitably be showered in gifts. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, a popular gift for newborns was a layette pincushion.

Layette pincushion, unknown maker, 1784. Museum no. B.3-2009. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Layette pincushion, unknown maker, 1784. Museum no. B.3-2009. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

These pincushions were in some ways the equivalent of the modern birth congratulation card. From a distance, the motif appears to be embroidered, but it is in fact made out of carefully arranged pins. Layette pincushions were generally given after the birth, as there was a superstition that the pins could increase the pain felt by the mother during birth. That would be a very unwelcome present indeed!

Another enduringly popular gift for newborns is a pair of tiny bootees.

Pair of baby bootees, unknown maker, 1800 - 1830. Museum no. T.76&A-1920. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Pair of baby bootees, unknown maker, 1800 – 1830. Museum no. T.76&A-1920. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This pair are thought to have been made during the early nineteenth century. They are made of pink satin with a cream wool lining and a thin leather sole. The expensive materials used to make these boots mean that they were probably made for a baby born to a wealthy family and would probably not have been for everyday use. Perfect for a child with the lineage of Baby Windsor.

More baby-related items can be explored through Search the Collections, and at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, home to the V&A’s collection of childhood-related objects and artefacts, spanning the 1600s to the present day.
 

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