The History of Four Poster Beds

By Jonny Haskins, Adam 3 September 2019


Once only available to the very richest in society, the four poster bed is more accessible than ever, but it has still managed to retain its allure and sense of luxury. They have been around in one form or another for over 800 years, creating the perfect centrepiece for bedrooms in all types of homes. 

To give you an idea of its backstory, we’ve put together the history of four-poster beds to show why they remain just as enticing and relevant today as ever. 

Are four poster beds out of style?

It may be tempting to think four poster beds are out of style, given their traditional look and design. However, despite many historians believing they originate from 13th century Austria (although some ancient 12th century Irish manuscripts also give mention to them) they feel as current today as they did centuries ago.

When four poster beds were first conceived, they were comprised of hard boards covered in quilts or furs, before the canopy was added in the 13th century. While today’s design features the canopy attached to the bed, originally it was suspended from the ceiling.

What hasn’t changed between then and now is that four poster beds are statement pieces able to transform any bedroom large enough to feature one. They have remained aspirational pieces of furniture ever since they were invented, creating a sense of grandeur that makes your bedroom feel special and utterly unique.

What is the point of a four poster bed?

Building on the original design, the four poster bed as we know it today came into existence when the side beams and curtains were added to the bed frame. This meant the canopy was no longer suspended from the ceiling, creating a larger frame around the bedstead that spoke of opulence and wealth, with the bed used by those in the upper reaches of society. 

The timeless appeal of a four poster beds means they can fit into both traditional and contemporary interiors, adding a touch of class and style to the bedroom. Anyone who enjoys luxury will quickly fall in love with the benefits it can bring to your home. 

Why do four poster beds have curtains?

The reason for the design upgrade was mostly to keep out insects and to provide insulation from the cold. It’s worth remembering that back in the 13th century there were no comfy heating systems filling grand castles with heat and windows were non-existent.

Adding in the curtains also created more privacy, as there were some instances where servants had to sleep in their master’s bedroom. 

Between the 15th and 16th century the four poster arrived in England, where royalty and those in positions of nobility quickly embraced the design. As was typical during the Tudor period, the four posters were impressive in size and stature, typically featuring the family coat of arms or other symbols.

All of the beds were made with oak and walnut, woods that are still just as popular today. French designers began to influence a move towards lighter timbers such as mahogany, further broadening the appeal of the four poster bed.

Why are old beds so high?

During the reign of King William III and Queen Mary II towards the end of the 17th century, the bedsteads were more accentuated and taller, reflecting the flamboyancy of the period. 

In fact, this type of furnishing producing during the period is now labelled as the ‘William and Mary style’. The straight lines and curves were often complemented by elaborate carving and the introduction of Asian design elements. 

When Queen Anne came into power at the start of the 18th century, the bed framework was lowered back to a more accessible height, as the designs became lighter and smaller than its predecessors.

What are four poster beds like today?

Thanks to the ongoing innovation of new technology, the four poster bed continues to thrive in the modern age, making use of creative materials and forward thinking design ideas.

With over 800 years of four poster beds to source from, bed manufacturers are not short on inspiration, which allows them to create products that speak of the past as much as they do of the future.

Purchasing a tailor-made four poster bed for your home means you get the perfect fit for the dimensions of the room. Compared to the high cost of centuries past, four poster beds are affordable to most people today, so you can sleep like a king and queen without having to spend like one.

You can read more in our handy four poster bed buying guide.

We hand make all our beds and these can be made to your bespoke measurements. Alternatively, if you know what size you need we stock all standard sized four poster beds. Our most popular size choices include: single four poster beds, small double four poster beds, double four poster beds, king size four poster beds and super king size four poster beds

We've been featured in