William of London: The First Royal Coachman

Anthony Dent describes how, before the reign of Edward II, the office of ‘royal carter’ did not exist; he was then paid threepence a day for the King’s peregrinations.

It is generally agreed that, if we discount the Roman period, which was followed by the complete breakdown of vehicular traffic in Dark-Age Britain, the first passenger-carrying wheeled vehicles appeared in England during the fourteenth century. What is less clear is the exact date during that century at which anything that we should recognize as a ‘carriage’ can be shown to have existed in England. A passage in Stow mentions the use in London of a ‘whirlicote’ in 1381. The term was certainly obsolete in Stow’s day, but it was presumably current at the time of the Peasants’ Revolt. Iconographically, one of the finest miniatures in the Luttrell Psalter, drawn some time before 1340, shows a long four-wheeled waggon with a tubular tilt, drawn by five horses and carrying obviously upper-class passengers, the driver mounted on the rearmost horse.

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