Medieval Babies

To celebrate the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s new royal prince, here are a few images of medieval babies being born and cared for. I tweeted many of them last year in the #MedievalBabies series, but they give such a touching insight into the world of the medieval family that they are worth presenting again.

Some of the most common images of childbirth depict the unusual circumstances of Caesar’s arrival, as he is cut from his mother’s womb:

Birth of Caesar, British Library Royal 17 F II, f. 9r.

Birth of Caesar, British Library Royal 17 F II.

Caesarean Section, British Library, Royal 16 G VII

Caesarean Section, British Library, Royal 16 G VII.

Birth of Caesar, British Library, Royal 16 G VIII, f. 32.

Birth of Caesar, British Library, Royal 16 G VIII.

Others poignantly capture, and even graphically depict, the suffering of the mother struggling with a natural birth.

Birth of Jacob and Esau in Hague MMW 10 A 11.

Birth of Jacob and Esau in Hague MS MMW 10 A 11.

Unusually graphic depiction of childbirth in Codex Series Nova 2641, Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna

Childbirth, Codex Nova 2641, Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna.

In contrast to the pain and suffering of the birthing process, the aftermath of childbirth is often shown as tranquil. Mother relaxes exhausted in her birthing chamber as her maidens and midwives attend to baby with clean sheets and a freshly prepared bath.

Preparing a bath for baby, Saint Jean-Baptiste Heures d'Étienne Chevalier.

Preparing a bath for baby, Saint Jean-Baptiste Heures d’Étienne Chevalier.

Birth scene in a Book of Hours, Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Douce 112.

Birth scene in a Book of Hours, Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Douce 112.

Birth of Alexander the Great, British Library Royal 20 C III.

Birth of Alexander the Great, British Library MS Royal 20 C III.

Birth of Alexander the Great, Oxford Bodleian Laud Misc. 751.

Birth of Alexander the Great, Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Laud Misc. 751.

My favourite images are those that show little children learning to walk with baby walkers or parents carrying their children around in ingenious carriers, not unlike modern baby equipment.

Christ learns to walk in the Hour of Catherine of Cleeves

Christ learns to walk in the Hour of Catherine of Cleeves.

Baby Walker in BnF NAL 392

Baby Walker in BnF NAL 392.

Baby Walker and crib in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Douce 276.

Baby Walker in Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Douce 276.

Baby walker in Oxford, Bodleian Library Douce 353

Baby walker in Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Douce 353.

The Ages of Man, BNF, département des Manuscrits, Français 134, fol. 92v.

The Ages of Man, BNF, Français 134.

Seven Ages of Man, BnF Fr. 218, fol. 95.

Seven Ages of Man, BnF Fr. 218.

Carrying twins in the margins of the Romance of Alexander, Oxford, Bodleian Library Bodley 264.

Carrying twins in the margins of the Romance of Alexander, Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Bodley 264.

And finally… what happens to baby when the parents have to work? It goes with them!

New York Pierpont Morgan Library, MS G.24 fol. 10r.

New York Pierpont Morgan Library, MS G.24.

Multitasking mum breastfeeds, walks on stilts and balances pot. British Library Royal 10 E iv.

Multitasking mum breastfeeds, walks on stilts and balances pot. British Library Royal 10 E iv.

Working parents in July. Jean Colombe, Heures de Louis de Laval, BnF, Latin 920, fol. 11.

Working Parents. Jean Colombe, Heures de Louis de Laval, BnF, Latin 920.