One of the things I love about working with the NSLM collection is how frequently really interesting things pop up where you don’t expect them. Recently I was cataloging a book and found a large photo stuffed inside the pages. At first glance I thought it was of a horse-drawn carriage but closer inspection revealed the carriage was in fact being pulled by six camels!
The caption pasted to the back of the photo gives the following information:
Viceroy’s visit to Lahore.
During their recent visit to Lahore Lord and Lady Willingdon attended the races. This picture shows their Excellencies arriving at the entrance to the grandstand in the picturesque camel carriage of the Governor of the Punjab, Sir Geoffrey de Montmorency, who is seen greeting them on arrival. The escort of Indian cavalry in the background preceded the state carriage on the journey.
These people are certainly arriving in style! They are riding in a spacious carriage…
Drawn by six camels… The camels and their riders all decked out in the full kit. Note the leopard pelts decorating each camel’s hump.
Escorted by a column of impressive Indian cavalry…
And being greeted by their host as well as a large group of onlookers…
The thing that strikes me is that despite its exotic qualities, the scene is familiar. We regularly see celebrities arriving at events in a very similar fashion. Instead of a coach they emerge from sleek limousines or town cars. Politicians favor travel in convoys of black SUVs with blacked out windows. We are so accustomed to seeing these special modes of transport that when a prominent figure opts for a more normal vehicle it can be big news. Last year the Pope caused a sensation by traveling around cities in the United States in a regular Fiat!
The cavalry escort serves to demonstrate the power and importance of the carriage occupants in addition to providing them with protection. This sort of escort today is largely limited to political figures. I’m sure the cavalry was just as intimidating in their day as the speeding black SUVs and motorcycle escorts of today. They serve the same function but I think it’s safe to say the Indian cavalry carried out the duty with a bit more panache!
Today the carriage itself is an exotic mode of transportation regardless of who rides in it, what sort of animals pull it, or whether or not it is escorted. To find out more about carriages join us here at NSLM on Saturday July 23 from 10:00 to 5:00, for Carriage Day, a free community event featuring over 20 historic and refurbished carriages from the Piedmont Driving Club and Colonial Williamsburg.
Sorry, no camels!