Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Art of Play: King Charles I’s Rocking Horse, 1610

Rocking Horse Belonging to King Charles I
The Museum of Childhood
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Of the two-hundred rocking horses in the collection of the Museum of Childhood at the Victoria & Albert Museum, this is the oldest. The horse, made of softwood and elm, was made in 1610 specifically for King Charles I–son of James VI and Anne of Denmark—when he was a child. Charles’ childhood was marked by ill-health and a variety of speech disorders which kept the prince secluded and largely indoors. This rocking horse probably provided the soon-to-be-king with a much needed distraction.

It’s rather amazing that this item has survived over four hundred years in the excellent condition that it’s in. A plaque affixed to the horse states that the horse was, “Purchased on 18 June, 1906, at Cheshunt House, Hertfordshire.” Theobalds House—the favorite home of James VI—was the location of James death and the announcement that Charles I would be king. Theobalds House stood near Cheshunt House in Hertfordshire. When the house was largely demolished in the Eighteenth Century, most of its contents were absorbed into the surrounding stately homes. This rocking horse seems to have made its way into Cheshunt House where it remained for three hundred years.

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