Loretta explained our "research ride" in Colonial Williamsburg so well yesterday that all I can do is continue. The carriage rides may seem an extravagance, an additional $12.50 to the CW admission ticket, but for us TNHG, it really was research.
I'm not referring to the historic facts about carriages and coaching. I mean the visceral things that our characters might have experienced. For one, it's not a very comfortable way to travel. Even in a "luxury" carriage such as the one belonging to the Royal Governor (that's the exterior of the carriage, above left), it's a bumpy, bouncing ride over modern roads and gravel paths. I can't imagine how badly passengers would be jostled over the course of a long journey over country roads. It's a noisy way to travel, too; iron-bound wheels crunch and scrape, the carriage's suspension creaks and groans, and the horses' hooves do indeed go clip-clop. Nor is an 18th c. carriage particularly spacious. Clearly those ladies and gentlemen were slender folk, especially considering the amount of space the ladies' hoops must have occupied.
Oh, and all those feisty heroines who impulsively fling open carriage doors and leap to the ground: couldn't have happened. For one thing, there's no latch on the inside of the door. For another, it's a mighty big drop to the ground from the carriage. You NEED those little folding steps and a helpful footman besides. Without them, that heroine is going to break her ankle at the least, and her neck at the worst.
But there's good stuff as well. You're raised up so high above the road that there are splendid views all around. If you are fortunate enough to be riding in a carriage with a peer's arms painted on the door, you'll have bystanders bowing and curtsying in acknowledgement and taking photographs. And as Lorettademonstrated earlier, it's the perfect height for conducting conversations with accompanying gentlemen on horseback.
More, of course, to come. In the meantime, here's a link to a short video clip about the horses in Williamsburg.
Many thanks to our favorite coachman/interpreter, Susan, (a coachman being called a coachman even when she's a coachwoman) shown here in His Lordship's livery with her team – that's Matthew and Mark, and yes, Luke and John are employed elsewhere in CW – before the Dunmore carriage.