of a platform, with a lofty roof, supported by eighteen columns, and was profusely adorned with drapery, gold and jewels; round the edge of the roof was a row of golden bells; in the centre was a throne, and before it the coffin; around were placed the weapons of war and the armour that Alexander had used.
The Romans established the use of carriages as a private means of conveyance, and with them carriages attained great variety of form as well as richness of ornamentation. In all times the employment of carriages depended greatly on the condition of the roads over which they had to be driven, and the establishment of good roads, such as the Appian Way, constructed 331 B.C., and others, greatly facilitated the development of carriage travelling among the Romans. In Rome itself, and probably also in other large towns, it was necessary to restrict travelling in carriages to a few persons of high rank, owing to the narrowness and crowded state of the streets. For the same reason the transport of goods along the streets was forbidden between sunrise and sunset. For long journeys and to convey large parties the reda and carruca appear to have been mostly used, but what their construction and arrangements were is not known. During the empire the carriage which appears in representations of public ceremonials is the carpentum. It is very slight, with two wheels, sometimes covered, and generally drawn by two horses. If a carriage had four horses they were yoked abreast, among the Greeks and Romans, not in two pairs as now. From the carruca are traced the modern European names,—the English carriage, the French carrosse and the Italian carrozza. The sirpea was a very ancient form of vehicle, the body of which was of osier basket-work. It originated with the Gauls, by whom it was named lenna, and by them it was employed for the conveyance of persons and goods in time of peace, and baggage during war. With its name are connected the modern French banne, banneton, vannerie and panier,—all indicating basket-work.
The ancient Britons used a car for warlike purposes which was evidently new to the Romans. It was open in front, instead of at the back as in their cars; and the pole, which went straight out between the horses, was broad, so that the driver could walk along, and if needful drive from the end. Above all, it possessed a seat, and was called essedum from this peculiarity. For war purposes this car was provided with scythes projecting from the ends of the axle-trees. Cicero, writing to a friend in Britain, remarks “that there appeared to be very little worth bringing away from Britain except the chariots, of which he wished his friend to bring him one as a pattern.”
The Roman vehicles were sometimes very splendidly ornamented with gold and precious stones; and covered carriages seem more and more to have become appendages of Roman pomp and magnificence. Sumptuary laws were enacted on account of the public extravagance, but they were little regarded, and were altogether abrogated by the emperor Alexander Severus. Suetonius states that Nero took with him on his travels no less than a thousand carriages.
On the introduction of the feudal system the use of carriages was for some time prohibited, as tending to render the vassals less fit for military service. Men of all grades and professions rode on horses or mules, and sometimes the monks and women on she-asses. Horseback was the general mode of travelling; and hence the members of the council, who at the diet and on other occasions were employed as ambassadors, were called Rittmeister. In this manner also great lords made their public entry into cities.
Covered carriages (see Coach) were known in the beginning of the 15th century, but their use was confined to ladies of the first rank; and as it was accounted a reproach for men to ride in them, the electors and princes sometimes excused their non-attendance at meetings of the state by the plea that their health would not permit them to ride on horseback. Covered carriages were for a long time forbidden even to women; but about the end of the 15th century they began to be employed by the emperor, kings and princes in journeys, and afterwards on state occasions. In 1474 the emperor Frederick III. visited Frankfort in a close carriage, and again in the following year in a very magnificent covered carriage. Shortly afterwards carriages began to be splendidly decorated; that, for instance, of the electress of Brandenburg at the tournament held at Ruppin in 1509 was gilded all over, and that of the duchess of Mecklenburg was hung with red satin. When Cardinal Dietrichstein made his entrance into Vienna in 1611, forty carriages went to meet him; and in the same year the consort of the emperor Matthias made her public entrance on her marriage in a carriage covered with perfumed leather. The wedding carriage of the first wife of the emperor Leopold, who was a Spanish princess, cost, together with the harness, 38,000 florins. Those of the emperor are thus described: “In the imperial coaches no great magnificence was to be seen; they were covered over with red cloth and black nails. The harness was black, and in the whole work there was no gold. The panels were of glass, and on this account they were called the imperial glass coaches. On festivals the harness was ornamented with red silk fringes. The imperial coaches were distinguished only by their having leather traces; but the ladies in the imperial suite were obliged to be contented with carriages the traces of which were made of ropes.” At the magnificent court of Duke Ernest Augustus at Hanover, in 1681, there were fifty gilt coaches with six horses each. The first time that ambassadors appeared in coaches on a public solemnity was at the imperial commission held at Erfurt in 1613. Soon after this time coaches became common all over Germany, notwithstanding various orders and admonitions to deter vassals from using them. These vehicles appear to have been of very rude construction. Beckmann describes a view he had seen of Bremen, painted by John Landwehr in 1661, in which was represented a long quadrangular carriage, apparently not suspended by straps, and covered with a canopy supported by four pillars, but without curtains. In the side was a small door, and in front a low seat or box; the coachman sat upon the horses; and the dress of the persons within proved them to be burgomasters. At Paris in the 14th, 15th and even 16th centuries, the French monarchs rode commonly on horses, the servants of the court on mules, and the princesses and principal ladies sometimes on asses. Persons even of the highest rank sometimes sat behind their equerry on the same horse. Carriages, however, were used at a very early period in France; for there is still extant an ordinance of Philip the Fair, issued in 1294, by which citizens’ wives are prohibited from using them. It appears, however, that about 1550 there were only three carriages at Paris,—one belonging to the queen, another to Diana of Poitiers, and the third to René de Laval, a very corpulent nobleman who was unable to ride on horseback. The coaches used in the time of Henry IV. were not suspended by straps (an improvement referred to the time of Louis XIV.), though they were provided with a canopy supported by four ornamental pillars, and with curtains of stuff or leather.
Occasional allusion is made to the use of some kinds of vehicles in England during the middle ages. In The Squyr of Low Degree, a poem of a period anterior to Chaucer, a description of a sumptuous carriage occurs:
“To-morrow ye shall on hunting fare
And ride, my daughter, in a chare.
It shall be cover’d with velvet red,
And cloth of fine gold all about your head,
With damask white and azure blue
Well diaper’d with lilies new.”
Chaucer himself describes a chare as
“With gold wrought and pierrie.”
When Richard II. of England, towards the end of the 14th century, was obliged to fly before his rebellious subjects, he and all his followers were on horseback, while his mother alone used a carriage. The oldest carriages used in England were known as chares, cars, chariots, caroches and whirlicotes; but these became less fashionable when Ann, the wife of Riehard II., showed the English ladies how gracefully she could ride on the side-saddle, Stow, in his Survey of London, remarking, “so was riding in those whirlicotes and chariots forsaken except at coronations and such like spectacles.”