Major Smith And The Coachman

One of my favourite pastimes is combing through the pages of the old newspapers to get a thorough feel for everyday life in 19th century London.

An article that caught may attention recently was the following one that appeared in The Bristol Times and Mirror on Saturday the 2nd of July, 1842:-


Marlborough Street

Major Smith (brother of the Princess of Capua) attended Friday before Mr. Hardwick to answer a charge of assault preferred against him by W. Frazer, footman to Mr. Ingram, Upper Brook-street.

The complainant stated that there had been, on the previous evening, a ball at the Hanover Rooms.

While his master’s carriage, in which were his mistress and a lady, was proceeding in the proper rank, and was about to set down, a Brougham, containing the Major and a lady, suddenly attempted to break the rank, and get in before his carriage.


He got down and told the Major’s coachman it was no use trying to cut in, his was the first carriage.

The Major then got out, and, advancing to the window of the carriage, asked the name of the owner.

Witness advanced to him, and said, he need not ask, he would give his mistress’s card.

The Major immediately knocked the cards and case out of his hand, adding, “Damn you, and your case too”, and while he was stooping to pick them up, he was knocked down by the Major, and he then said to the assailant, “Go to hell.”

On getting up, he was again knocked down.


In answer to questions from a solicitor who attended for the Major, he said that the Major did not tell him that he belonged to the suite of the Prince of Capua.

He was aware that the Royal Family of England were entitled to precedence of all other carriages, but was not aware that this extended to Foreign Royalty.

He did not make use of any uncivil language, or say to the Major, “Who are you?” before he was struck.


The footman of the Count Pollen, whom complainant called as a witness, said, all he saw or heard of the matter was, that there was an altercation, and that he heard the complainant say to the Major, “Who are you?”


The Major’s version of the story was, that as he was in his Brougham with his wife, following the Prince of Capua’s carriage, the complainant’s carriage got next to the Prince’s.

His coachman attempted to break in, which, being in a Royal suite, he was allowed to do.

Hearing the altercation between his coachman and the complainant, he put his head out of the window, and requested the complainant to address his discourse to him.

The answer he received was, “Go to hell. Who are you?”

He immediately told his name, and explained that he belonged to the suite of the Prince of Capua. He received for answer, “I don’t care who you are,” accompanied by the same insulting expression.


Seeing that Mrs Smith had become frightened, and his Brougham was in danger of being “poled” he jumped out, and advanced to the window of the complainant’s carriage, with the intention of representing his insulting conduct.

He saw two ladies inside, and, asking the name of the owner of the carriage, they, instead of replying, drew the window, and the complainant came to him and said, “Here are my cards,” in a most insulting manner.

He knocked the cards out of his hand, and being assailed with a repetition of opprobrious epithets, knocked him down.

The Major’s footman fully corroborated his statement.


Mr. Hardwick said it was perfectly probable, that a person who knew that none but the carriages of those connected with Royalty could take precedence should prevent a private carriage cutting in before him, and there was no impropriety in his doing so, but then it should have been done civilly.

The whole chain of evidence, however, proved that this had not been the case, and that great provocation must have been given to induce the major to leave his carriage and his wife in danger while he demanded his employer’s address.

He should, therefore, dismiss the case, as the complainant had by his conduct provoked the assault.