In the middle of the 15th century, probably in Hungary, a new type of vehicle appeared. It had a body suspended by leather straps that extended from a fixed assembly structure to the axis of the wheels. The first examples, called Hungarian or Kotze (place where they were built), were extremely successful in the renaissance, but only later did the remaining European countries adopt them. The coach came to represent aristocratic power to the highest degree.
Coach of Queen Maria Ana of AustriaNational Coach Museum
King José I coach (18th century, 3rd quarter) by Cyrilo Volkmar Machado and othersNational Coach Museum
In the 17th century the coach's security and comfort were greatly improved. This was due to a change in the way the body was suspended. The front wheels were now connected through a system, called the "swan's neck", where the connection of the body is made with suspension strings and the front part is dominated by the coachman's seat and its respective footrest and also by the so-called fifth wheel. This is a mechanism comprising of two superimposed, circular pieces that increase the maneuverability of the coach.
During the search for a solution to the suspension of the coach, a new kind of vehicle, called the Berlin emerged in the end of the 17th century in the court of Frederick William in Berlin.
Berlin of the Royal House (18th century) by Unknown authorNational Coach Museum
The Berlin method of suspension has the body suspended by two strong straps of leather stretched longitudinally between the wheels through a "cric", a rolling-up mechanism with a rack-rail brake installed on the rear set of wheels. This vehicle is faster and offers more safety than a coach.
Departure of the Portugues Royal Family for Brazil (19th century) by Nicolas-Luis-Albert Delerive (attrib.)National Coach Museum
In Portugal only the Royal House used this vehicle, starting in the beginning of the 18th century.
The carriage first appeared in England during the 18th century. Safer driving with greater security is achieved by a system where short straps to steel c-shaped springs, by the coachman's seat raised to the level of the roof and by the four lanterns for better illumination.
The Crown State CarriageNational Coach Museum
The difficulty in continuing regular contact with the builders of vehicles in Paris (as was usual with the Portuguese Court), caused by the political instability resulting from the Revolution of 1789, could have been one of the reasons that led the nobility and the upper levels of society to have their orders made in London.
Eyeglass chaise (18th-19th century) by Unknown authorNational Coach Museum
This kind of vehicle with two seats "Coupé type" (french word for cup) emerged in the 17th century in Germany with the name Chaise, that was renamed Sege by the Portuguese.
Its suspension is similar to that of Berlin. Driven by the occupant himself or by the postilion (man on a horse, holding the reigns, driving by the side).
When the use of this vehicle became popularised it lost use amongst the aristocracy. These then became rental vehicles both inside and outside the city.
A type of transport without wheels, this vehicle is a direct descendant from the Roman Letícia which allowed for rapid travel in narrow city streets and over long distances on bad roads.The extensive use of this type of transport in cities required that 18th century monarchs regulate their use. Only those who obtained a license were allowed to travel in them, or those who needed these mode of transportation to carry out their professional activity, such as priests doctors, judges etc...
The sedan chair
A type of transport without wheels carried by men with only one seat. Carried by 2 or 4 footmen with the help of leather straps.
Procession for Corpus Christi (about 1510–1520) by Master of James IV of ScotlandThe J. Paul Getty Museum
Sedan chairs were also included in processions, primarily for transporting members of the clergy. They were also used for the transportation of sick persons or pregnant women.
Now, take a walk in the museum. Can you name these vehicles?
Silvana Bessone, Diretora - MN Coches
Luís Ramos Pinto (DGPC)
Teresa Abreu e Gilliard Bressan