Teddy bears, traditionally the preserve of children and teenage girls, are surreptitiously doted on by millions of adult men. Prince Charles, whose tattered teddy was last week photographed on his bedside table is, it seems, not alone in his affection for a small furry friend.
Judy Sparrow of the Bear Museum in Petersfield, Hampshire, says that men, particularly Japanese men, tend to buy more bears than women. Middle-aged gents often come in to have their teddies repaired.
"Their bear is their most important friend. It's the years they spent staring at it and sleeping with it in the first impressionable five years. The bear has a great feel and smell about it," said Mrs Sparrow.
Teddy bear experts at Christie's report as much enthusiasm for rare collectable bears from men as women.
"It's certainly not just women buying them. We have men who are incredibly keen on them and spend thousands of pounds," said Leyla Maniera of Christie's. "People who buy bears have them sitting around. They treat them with loving care."
Arctophiles - bear lovers - may insist that for men to dote on their teddies is perfectly normal, but psychologists take a dimmer view. "I don't think any normal man would want a teddy bear. It's a link to your childhood. Some people have them because they are really disturbed," said Cosmo Hallstrom, consultant psychiatrist at Charing Cross hospital, west London.
"If every night a man dresses him up and puts him in bed, at that point you are talking about shades of Norman Bates in Psycho." The Prince of Wales is reported to tuck his teddy - which wears a red jumper - into bed each night, making sure to cover its paws "to stop him getting cold".
Some experts say that while for women hanging on to one's teddy into later life may simply be an extension of a maternal instinct, for men it may be a sign of deep insecurity. "Psychologists hold that they are symbolic representations of loved ones. Theyare transitional objects between childhood and adulthood," said Dr Charlie Lewis, lecturer in psychology at Lancaster University.
"You wouldn't get admitted to a psychiatric hospital on the grounds of having a teddy, but I find it a bit odd, to say the least, for a grown man to keep one."
Teddy bears were named after Teddy Roosevelt, the American president who refused to shoot a cornered bear. The first toy bear was made in 1902 by Stieff, a German manufacturer still in production today.
Last year an early Stieff teddy bear sold at Christie's to a Japanese man for a record £110,000.
The bears' peculiarly human aspect, with wide eyes which never close, outstretched arms and ability to sit erect, give the impression, say psychologists, of trustworthiness and dependability.
This may be why many men may find them so reassuring and secretly keep them for life.
"It is a comfort. It is a warm and cosy item. It is something you can talk to. It is a confidant you can trust. It may be a way of removing stress in a sense," said Caroline Goodfellow, curator of dolls and toys at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, east London.
"One old man sent cards to his teddy which he gave to us for 20 years until he died. He was given this tiny teddy, "Little Tommie Tittlemouse", in 1906."Reuse content