Sunday, July 05, 2009

Question from Bron - Construction of horse litters

We read regarding Tudor times that the elderly, the unfit and the recalcitrant were sometimes transported by horse litter. I wonder how these litters were constructed? I suspect they had wheels towards the rear, and were a little like modern trotting vehicles, with two long shafts going up either side of the horse. I would be most interested to know how a horse litter actually was made.


Anonymous said...

In the published engraving of Elizabeth's coronation, the horse litter has no wheels. The front ends of the shafts are supported by one horse, and the back ends by another horse. In between came the platform Elizabeth was seated on. Each horse was lead by the bridle, by a noble walking beside it. Imediately behind we find Robert Dudley on a large black horse, leading a smaller white horse, saddled and bridled, but not being ridden. The Queen seems to be sitting on a chair or stool, but there are no side rails to be seen. The litter functioned like, say, a float or open automobile in a modern parade. The intention was to be seen by the people, and to interact with them. They men leading the litter horses would see that the horses did not trample the crowd, and that the Queen could concentrate on her "loving people". She rode well, and sometimes at least fast enough to frigten her Master of Horse, let alone her timider counsellors, but that was not the point. Even when she rode on her palfrey in a crowded area, the horse would be led. She would be seated with both legs on one side of the horse, resting her feet on a "planchet" or little hanging shelf. This was considered to be more feminine than riding with both legs on one side, with the lower foot in a stirrup, which she may have done went hunting, hawking, or distance riding. I have a friend, a re-enacter, who claims that Elizabeth MUST have ridden astride when hunting, that no one could keep up with the hunt riding aside. Sone women in the later part of the 19th and the earlierpart of the 20th century did ride over jumps side sadddle, but they used a special saddle with 2 or even 3 horns, which virtually clamped them on.

Follwing the Master of Horse and what we can assume was the official palfrey came noblewomen ( especially older ones) in horse drawn wheeled conveyances, and then Ladies in Waiting and Maids of Honour on horse back, no doubr decently "aside".

Horse litters used for distance travel may have been guided by a rider. on the lead horse or on another horse. I would guess that an infant would be held by a nurse or other servant, to keep her or him in place. Side rails are also a possibility.

Anonymous said...

i have found a coloured illustration of a sided litter in a book called the art of dress by jane ashelford for the national trust isbn number 0707801850 its from 1597 and shows a lady sitting in a box which is in the shape of a tenis racket. made of wood with a large oblong cut out in the middle to get in and out off, which goes up to the roor. to protect from the weather a canapy of green material that seem to be gathered like a blind so it can be raised and lowered are the passenger wishes. the litter is attached with poles on all four sides with two long attached to the side with loopes of leather? the long poles then go to the horses or mules the frunt animal is being ridden and the back one has a saddle on with a loop in the middle, that drops to to the hight of the top of the animals leg were the pole goes through it. the lady in the litter has a mask on to protect her from the weather and durt.

from Ladt Hoby

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much!