Strange Bedfellows


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In the past, it was very common for men, even those of the highest rank to sleep together without there being any sexual implications. Indeed, it was looked upon as a sign of trust and great friendship. It was also viewed as a gesture of magnanimity as when, after the Battle of Dreux, the prince of Condé slept in the same bed as the Duke de Guise. The Duke it was said slept soundly even though he was near his enemy and his prisoner.

Letters from noblemen to each other very often began with the appellation of bedfellow. And even the punitive hero of Shakespeare’s Henry V, the warrior king himself was rumoured to have shared his bed with Lord Scroop as in this line from Henry V

Nay, but the man was his bedfellow,
Whom he hath cloy’d and grac’d with kingly favours.

The great Abraham Lincoln too it seems enjoyed the custom. He shared his bed with his best friend, Joshua Speed while the two were traveling and before he became president.

According to the Rev. T.F. Thiselton- Dyer in his Folk-Lore of Shakespeare ‘this unseemly custom continued and was common till the middle of the last century. (1884). So apparently, men never shared a bed after the mid 1700s!

One wonders if men in centuries past were not taking great advantage of the custom and leaping gleefully into bed with their mates at the drop of a doublet and indulging in a lot more than mere sleep.

In his will, Shakespeare left his ‘second best’ bed to his wife, Anne Hathaway. One can’t help but wonder to whom he left his best bed. His ‘Dark Lady/Lad of his sonnets perhaps.

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