Return to Victoria (thing)

The Victoria is a type of carriage that became popular in the late 1800s, and has remained reasonably popular ever since, insofar as any carriage can be said to be popular these days. It is often compared to the also-popular phaeton carriage, in that it is small and light, with a single passenger bench, which could be shaded by a folding canopy over the passenger seat. It was usually drawn by one or two horses, and was very popular among the wealthy, who liked to be seen promenading around the town. What set the Victoria apart from the phaeton was primarily the addition of a raised seat up front for the coachman.

The addition of a driver's seat was an important modification; it meant that instead of being driven by dashing young men, it could now be ridden by prim ladies, or members the older set who were not up to driving their own carriages. The Victoria also rode a bit lower, making it easier to mount and dismount. The low body was also influenced by the improving quality of the roads, as London modernized and embraced the new ideas of macadamization.

If you are familiar with carriages, you may have noticed that the Victoria sounds a lot like a calash; as a matter of fact, the Victoria is a descendant of the calash. The calash was originally called a cal├Ęche in France, and was Anglicized to calash in the late 1600s; the calash remained an important and respectable carriage in England for centuries; however, this basic design gave rise to the phaeton and the barouche, and obviously influenced the design of the landau - by the 1800s, the term 'calash' referred to a family of carriages rather than a specific model.

Which doesn't change the fact that the Victoria was simply a very artfully designed version of the basic calash body; it was light and well-sprung, with a graceful curve connecting the driver's seat to the passenger's compartment. The springs were highly visible, their thin curves setting off the light body. In other words, a calash with the lines and gracefulness of a phaeton.

The original Victoria was imported to England by Edward VII in 1869, although it had been designed years earlier. It is unclear how it gained the name Victoria, but it seems to have been named that by the French, decades before it made it to England. Unfortunately, I cannot find any information as to why this happened. I will, of course, update you the minute I find out.

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