The postillion (postilion) rider of a horse-drawn vehicle
By the webmaster’s mother, 1906-2002
Definition of a postillion
According to The Free online Dictionary:
A postilion (or postillion) is someone who rides the nearside horse of a pair in order to guide the horses pulling a carriage (especially a carriage without a coachman).
For some time I was puzzled at my mother's description of the postilion in a funeral procession, because she said that they looked like jockeys.
Postillion or coachman
Many photos of Victorian and Edwardian funeral processions show coach or carriage drivers wearing top hats. However my mother was correct - see the pictures below. The wearers of the top hats, the coachmen, guided the horses from seats high up at the front of the carriage whereas the postillions who look like jockeys guided from a seat actually on the horses.
In a showcase event there may be a coachmen and a postillion, but a postillian can guide where there is no coachman.
Pictures of postillions
Postillions in funeral processions
An old book confirms that postillions were in funeral processions:
The coffin, half hidden among flowers, was in a hearse drawn by six black horses richly caparisoned* in purple and gold. On one of the front horses rode a postillion ....
* 'caparisoned' refers to a horse without a rider.
from Gypsies of Britain: an introduction to their history (1944)
Postillions' clothes and boots
Postillians all wore the same type of clothes rather like the uniform of the job.
The same book continues:
... a postillion wearing a tight fitting black tunic and purple knee-breeches and a black jockey cap.
As previously stated, the clothes were like those of a jockey.
However his boots were different and unique to his type of work. Because it could be dangerous if one or both his legs got caught between the two horses, the boots were reinforced inside with iron. They were made of black leather like most boots of the time, but the foot part was larger with a loose iron lining. There was an internal iron ring a short way down from the top of the boots to add further protection.