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CRADLE (of uncertain etymology, possibly connected with "crate" and "creel," i.e. basket; the derivation from a Celtic word, with a sense of rocking, is scouted by the New English Dictionary), a child's bed of wood, wicker or iron, with enclosed sides, slung upon pivots or mounted on rockers. It is a very ancient piece of furniture, but the date when it first assumed its characteristic swinging or rocking form is by no means clear. A miniature in an illuminated Histoire de la belle Hélaine in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris (end of the 14th or beginning of the 15th century) shows an infant sleeping in a tiny four-post bed slung upon rockers. In its oldest forms the cradle is an oblong oak box without a lid - originally the rockers appear to have been detachable - but, like all other household appliances, it has been subject to changes of fashion alike in shape and adornment. It has been panelled and carved, supported on Renaissance pillars, inlaid with marqueterie or mounted in gilded bronze. The original simple shape persisted for two or three centuries - even the hood made its appearance very early. In the 18th century, however, cradles were often very elaborate - indeed in France they had begun to be so much earlier, but the richly carved and upholstered examples were used chiefly for purposes of state, being in fact miniature lits de parade. In modern times they have become lighter and simpler, the old hood being very often replaced by a draped curtain dependent from a carved or shaped upright. About the middle of the 19th century iron cradles were introduced, along with iron bedsteads. A number of undoubted historic cradles have been preserved, together with many others with doubtful attributions. Two alleged cradles of Henry V. exist; one which claims to have been used by the unhappy earl of Derwentwater is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; the other is at Windsor Castle. That of Henry IV. of France, now in the Château de Pau, is mounted upon a large tortoiseshell. That of the king of Rome ("Napoleon II.") was designed by Prud'hon, and along with that of the comte de Chambord is preserved in the Garde Meuble. In England a cradle is now often called a "bassinet" (i.e. little basket), and the "cot" has to some extent taken its place. By analogy, the word "cradle" is also applied to various sorts of framework in engineering, and to a rocking-tool used in engraving.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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