Phaeton (carriage)

A Phaeton (also Phaéton) was a form of sporty open carriage popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Drawn by one or two horses, a phaeton typically featured a minimal very lightly sprung body atop four extravagantly large wheels. With open seating, it was both fast and dangerous, giving rise to its name, drawn from the mythical Phaëton, son of Helios, who nearly set the earth on fire while attempting to drive the chariot of the sun.

With the advent of the automobile, the term was adapted to open touring cars, also known as phaetons.

The most impressive phaeton was the English four-wheeled high flyer. The mail and spider phaetons were more conservatively constructed. The mail phaeton was used chiefly to carry passengers with luggage and was named for its construction, using "mail" springs originally designed for use on mail coaches. The spider phaeton, of American origin and made for gentlemen drivers, was a high and lightly constructed carriage with a covered seat in front and a footman's seat behind. Fashionable phaetons used at horse shows included the Stanhope, typically having a high seat and closed back, and the Tilbury, a two-wheeled carriage with an elaborate spring suspension system, with or without a top. A variation of this type of a carriage is called a Victoria, with a retractable cover over the rear passenger compartment.

Each June, during the official Queen's Birthday celebrations, Queen Elizabeth II travels to and from Trooping the Colour on Horse Guards Parade in an ivory-mounted phaeton carriage made in 1842 for her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.

In her later years, Queen Victoria greatly enjoyed travelling in a phaeton drawn by a single white donkey, or mule, when on her holidays in Cimiez, then a small village on the outskirts of Nice, in the South of France. There is a print of the monarch enjoying her morning excursions on page 490 of the Illustrated London News of April 10, 1897. In addition, there is a photograph in the Royal Collection, dated 1898. There are also other photographs, using a black donkey, taken at Windsor Castle.

Bolshevik revolutionaries used a phaeton to escape after carrying out the 1907 Tiflis bank robbery.

This page was last edited on 11 September 2017, at 15:50.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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