Phaetons, Curricles, and Coaches: Heyer’s Most Coveted Carriages

High Perch Barouche

High Perch Sociable Barouche, 1816.
(R. Ackermann, London)

If you are an avid reader of Georgette Heyer’s novels, you’re well aware that an outstanding equipage with a team of first-rate cattle (i.e. horses) is essential for any well-to-do lady or gentleman about town.  You know all about phaetons and curricles, teams of match-bays that are “slap up to the echo,” and heroes and heroines that can drive “to an inch.”  After all, you have accompanied your favorite Heyer characters on trips to Tattersall’s, drives through Hyde Park, uncomfortable journeys by accommodation coach, and ill-advised races from London to Brighton.  You have suffered with them through broken axels, overturned gigs, and even the occasional appearance of highwaymen.

High Perch Phaeton ladies

Two Ladies, en neglige, taking an airing in a phaeton, 1794.
(The Gallery of Fashion)

Were you – along with the rest of the fashionable throng in Hyde Park – amazed by the sight of Regency Buck’s “rich Miss Taverner driving a splendid match pair of bays in a very smart sporting phaeton with double perches of swan-neck pattern” and “attended by a groom in livery”?

Or perhaps you prefer the ingenuity of the Viscount Desford in Charity Girl who drives a curricle “built to his own design by Hatchett, of Longacre, so lightly that it was very easy on his horses, and capable (if drawn by the sort of blood cattle his lordship kept in his stables) of covering long distances in an incredibly short space of time.”

Of course, one cannot discount the luxury and comfort of Lady Cardross’s sumptuous barouche in April Lady.  “It was a very stylish vehicle, quite the latest thing in town carriages, and it had been bestowed on her ladyship, together with the pair of perfectly matched grays that drew it, by her husband, upon her installation as mistress of his house in Grosvenor Square.”

Barouche for the Prince of Wales

Design for a Town Barouche for the Prince of Wales, 1841.
(Pen and ink drawing, unattributed)

Then there is the posting-chariot that is given as a wedding gift to the Viscount Lynton when he marries Jenny Chawleigh in A Civil Contract.  With a team of match-bays in harness and “the Lynton arms emblazoned on the door panels and the rich hammercloth” it is the very picture of a noble conveyance – at least, as far as Mr. Chawleigh imagines.

Finally, I offer you the carriage of Sir Nugent Fotherby in Sylvester, which Pheobe refers to upon first glance as “Cinderella’s coach.”  She further observes that “never was there so glossy and so exquisite a chariot, double-perched, slung high between high wheels, fitted with patent axles, and embellished with a gilded iron scroll-work all round the roof.  The body was painted a bright tan, with the wheels and the panels of sky-blue; and the interior, which, besides a deeply cushioned seat, included a let-down table, appeared to be entirely lined with pale blue velvet.”

Patent Chariot 1809

Patent Chariot, 1809.
(R. Ackermann, London)

Cast your vote for Georgette Heyer’s Most Coveted Carriage!  There are no limits on how many times you can vote and, as always, if you have a preference for another notable conveyance (Curricle Worth from Regency Buck, for example, or the racing curricle and match-grays of Max Ravenscar in Faro’s Daughter), I encourage you to write in your choice below.

The Poll is Now Closed.

The Results:

1st Place: Judith Taverner’s Swan Neck Sporting Phaeton from Regency Buck with 41% of the vote.

2nd Place: Sir Nugent Fotherby’s Cinderella Coach from Sylvester with 22% of the vote.

3rd Place: Lady Cardross’s Stylish Town Barouche from April Lady with 19% of the vote.

4th Place: Viscount Desford’s Custom Built Curricle from Charity Girl with 9% of the vote.

5th Place: Sophy’s High-Perch Phaeton from The Grand Sophy with 2 votes by write- in.

Honorable Mention for Basil Lavenham’s Swan Neck Coach from The Talisman Ring  and Max Ravenscar’s Racing Curricle from Faro’s Daughter which garnered one vote each by write-in each.

Thank you for voting!

Mimi Matthews is the author of The Pug Who Bit Napoleon: Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries (to be released by Pen and Sword Books in November 2017).  She researches and writes on all aspects of nineteenth century history—from animals, art, and etiquette to fashion, beauty, feminism, and law. 

© 2015-2017 Mimi Matthews

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8 thoughts on “Phaetons, Curricles, and Coaches: Heyer’s Most Coveted Carriages

  1. Sarah Waldock says:

    I really do think I might have to blog about carriages and give them their modern equivalents, like a Ducati 900 v-twin motorbike for a sporting curricle and a Volvo estate for a posting-chariot…. these polls are fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mimi Matthews says:

      That’s a great idea, Sarah! I was thinking about that myself when I began this article, but in more general terms – the sports car, the luxury sedan, the utilitarian SUV. So glad you enjoy the polls!


      • Sarah Waldock says:

        Might be interesting to each do one, and compare and contrast… as my choice for the curricle is a big sports motorbike. Old in design but very, very reliable. My sister’s friend was booked doing a ton on hers on the M1, but the cop who caught her decided not to make an issue of it as m’sister’s friend was in her 70s at the time…. the sort of old lady who drives a high perch phaeton and terrifies her relatives, insists on being powdered with the odd patch and says outrageous things in a Regency novel….

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Angelyn says:

    “We fled immediately from the church door in the travelling chariot Nugent had built for me. Was it not particularly touching of him? It is lined with blue, to match my eyes!” Ianthe and her chariot get me every time I read Sylvester.

    Liked by 1 person

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