Sedan Chairs

Sedan chairs, also called litters, are enclosed seats carried on poles that have been used for centuries, or at least as early as the Eyptian Empire. Sedan chairs were introduced to Britain from Spain – before leaving Madrid in 1623 to return to England, the Prince of Wales, later Charles I, was given a gift by the Prime Minister that included “three sedan chairs of curious workmanship.” He later gave two of these chairs to the Duke of Buckingham, who used them in the streets of London and prompted outrage for “reducing free born Englishmen to the condition of beasts of burden.”

Benjamin Franklin in his sedan chair
Sedan chair made for Queen Maria Luisa of Parma circa 1795

A late 18th century French sedan chair – click here to see the inside

By 1726 there were 400 sedan chairs registered in London. They were used in Edinburgh until the 1860’s.

Above is a modern day Chinese sedan chair, traditionally used to carry a bride to her wedding. There is also a foundation in Hong Kong that raises money through their Sedan Chair Charities Fund and annual sedan chair races. Come to that, there are even sedan chair races still going on in England.

You can see examples of sedan chairs in museums throughout Great Britain:


From the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

From the Museum of Leathercraft

From the Victoria and Albert Museum

And coming full circle, the sedan chair of Queen Hetepheres from the Egyptian Museum, Cairo 

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