Monday, 16 January 2017

Comfy Camp Bed?

In Nicholas I’s memoir of his childhood, he wrote “… We slept on iron beds which were surrounded by the usual curtain … the iron triangle in such a way that a child, standing in the bed, hardly possible to peek out …”

The Emperors continued to sleep on the short, folding iron camp beds with straw mattresses after their marriage. Nicholas I was 6’2” yet he preferred his camp bed!

Photograph (below) of Nicholas I’s camp bed

Photograph (below) of Nicholas I’s camp bed in his study c1917

My book will reveal the location of Nicholas’ camp bed prior to his moving to the 1st floor study in 1850 and details about the various items seen in the above photo: the furniture, the carpet, the bed, etc.

When visiting Alexander II’s study/bedroom on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace, Polovtsov wrote on Wednesday, March 18th, 1892 “… the second part of the room was the bed where Alexander II died … Botkin [doctor] told me that he would knock on the door at 9 AM and the Emperor’s answer is usually ‘still resting’...".

Botkin's comments on the night of Saturday, February 28th, Alexander II’s diary entries, contemporary accounts of March 1st and the autopsy report will be in my book.

Hau’s 1850 watercolor (below) of Alexander II’s Study/Bedroom in the Winter Palace

Photographs (below) of Paul’s Camp Bed in Gatchina Palace c1938

Photographs (below) of Alexander I’s Camp Bed in Catherine Palace, Tsarskoe Selo

Alexander III and Nicholas II did not continue the practice of sleeping in their camp beds when at home but continued the practice when with their troops.

Photographs (below) of Alexander III’s Camp Bed exhibited in the Alexander Palace and the full camp paraphernalia c1877


  1. Such a bizarre practice. Not to mention that the rickety little things didn't do much to aid the appearance of the rooms they burdened. I wonder was it some sort of macho thing, or something that showed solidarity with, nostalgia for, the military? I love the Hau watercolor, with the foofey little spaniel on the bed; seems almost the artist's commentary on the imperial affectation.

  2. Same was true for the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef. It was a fashion in a way.

  3. Joanna.
    Great post! I can't believe that given Nicholas I height that he preferred to sleep on such an uncomfortable camp bed! I know that in the past most married couples would sleep in separate beds and in some cases sleep in separate rooms, this seems to be the case for Nicholas I and Alexander II, what was the sleeping arrangements for Alexander III & Maria and Nicholas II & Alexandra?
    I suppose they believed that sleeping on hard iron camp beds was character building and toughen you up but I can't imagine it doing much for your back!
    Ghostie x.

  4. Alexander II and all the Imperial family loved their dogs!

    Both boys and girls used the camp beds since Catherine the Great initiated it. The boys were given uniforms at 7 yrs and were imbued in the military ambiance. It appears to me as a 'costume' that they adopted and the military parades, a masquerade.

    I don't think Emperor Franz Josef used a folding camp bed, it was more a small single bed. In the Imperial Villa in Bad Ischl, I remember his small bedroom, tiny bed and the tiny narrow balcony I stood on.

    Nicholas I and Alexander II did share their marital bed but Nicholas I would use his camp bed for most of the night. Alexander II strayed and kept the option to use his study. Alexander III and Nicholas II were adamant in sharing the marital bed!