This particular form of chair known as a 'cockpen chair' became popular from the second half of the 18th century. Initially it was the overwhelming interest in chinoiserie promoted by William Chambers' Designs of Chinese Buildings (1757) and Charles Over's Ornamental Architecture in the Gothic, Chinese and Modern Taste (1758), subsequently followed by designs for Chinese lattice-style chair backs with straight legs by the celebrated London cabinet-maker, Thomas Chippendale (d.1779), published in The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director (1762), plates XXV and XXVII, that made such chairs fashionable. The name 'cockpen' entered the vernacular in the 19th century and seems to originate from Cockpen Church, Midlothian, where similar chairs were made for the family pew of the Earls of Dalhousie. Closely related examples can be found at Saltram, Devon (H. Avray Tipping, English Homes, period VI, vol. I, 1926, p.170, fig.256), and Badminton House, Gloucestershire (Country Life, 9 April 1987, p.131). A pair of Scottish cockpen armchairs attributed to Alexander Peter, circa 1759, are illustrated in the Christie's Dumfries House 2007 catalogue, lot 132.
THE EMBROIDERED CHAIR-COVERS
The late Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester's interest in needlework coincided with that of her mother-in-law, Queen Mary (1867-1953), who, in 1897, took over the patronage of the London Needlework Guild. On 8 August 1914, amid great fanfare, the organisation was re-named Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild, launched as a means for women, who were as deeply stirred by the war as men, to make a useful and vital contribution to the war effort. In later life, Queen Mary executed a series of carpets and chair-covers, worked by her own hands, and in 1950, presented a large floral needlework carpet signed by herself to the nation for sale as a contribution to the country's dollar export drive; this carpet was purchased for $100,000 by the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire of Canada, who gave it to the National Gallery of Ottawa (H. Clifford Smith, 'Homage to Queen Mary', Country Life, 2 April 1953, p. 982).