This past weekend, A.J. and I watched the final episode of Downton Abbey, the BBC’s most recent “costume drama.” Did you see it?

This particular BBC miniseries took place at the end of the Edwardian era, just before the First World War. The storyline begins with the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912 and ends with England’s declaration of war with Germany in 1914.

Being a fan of history, I must admit that I just love these sorts of movies or miniseries … when they’re done well. (If I have actually studied the era in question, I must also admit that I will do a lot of grumbling if the movie / show is NOT done well.)

Generally speaking, though, I think it’s wonderful to see a bit of life in an earlier era, rather than having to rely only on old images and descriptions and my own imagination.

In this particular show, the house is magnificent, the costumes are sumptuous, the acting is good, and the storyline engaging.

That being said, however, I do have one quibble.

In one episode, the family’s youngest daughter, Sybil, asks her father if she can use “the Governess Cart” for a supposed errand.

But instead of driving a pony hitched to a Governess Cart, Sybil showed up in the next scene driving something more like this:


a Stanhope Gig built c. 1905 (image courtesy of the CMA Archives)


Of course, what we should’ve seen Sybil driving (based, at least, on her request) was something along these lines:


a Governess Car made by Guiet et Cie., Paris (image courtesy of the CMA Archives)


A Governess Car has two inward-facing seats and a door at the back, usually with a latch (on the outside) placed low enough to be out of reach of the children that may have been riding in the vehicle. In an article that the late Tom Ryder wrote some time ago for The Carriage Journal, he said that this type of vehicle “seemed so safe and ideally suited for carrying young children that it was often the only carriage owned by families living in the country.”


another Governess Car, with the solid sort of reliable pony that would typically have been used with this vehicle (image courtesy of the CMA Archives)


wicker Governess Cars were also popular; this one was at the 2006 CAA Conference