Coaching inns

Coaching inns appeared at the end of Louis XI's reign with the creation of the Chevaucheurs du Roi [King's Riders] service. Located on the first post routes, they formed a network that, until the mid-16th century, was concentrated in the Loire Valley, where the court resided in large part. The Chevaucheurs, who only carried royal correspondence, were thus provided with a place to change horses and rest. While the official service of coaching inns was provided to the public during the reign of Louis XII, it had to wait until the beginning of the 17th century for Henry IV to authorise the transport of private letters, a measure which generated a significant increase in traffic.

Numbering 623 in 1632, coaching inn numbers reached 1,426 in France on the eve of the Revolution and roughly 2,000 in 1850. Indeed, their numbers continued to grow in the first half of the 19th century alongside the densification of the road network. The major routes connecting Paris to the provinces were then complemented by cross-national and cross-regional routes: political and strategic targets were compounded by economic imperatives to open up certain parts of the country.

Established starting in the 15th century, coaching inns formed a network to meet political, strategic and economic needs.

All these inns were run by postmasters whose status was redefined by Louis XIV's minister Louvois: the position, which was coveted due to its related privileges (i.e. exemption from payment of the land tax), had many obligations nonetheless. Accordingly, the postmaster had to reside on site and keep buildings that could accommodate equipment and horses while storing feed, having a sufficient number of horses available, remaining available whenever required (that is, making extraordinary trips for the monarchy) and replacing a nearby colleague in the event of any failure of the latter to his duties. Playing an undeniably important role both in the structuring and planning of national space, coaching inns would see, starting in the second half of the 19th century, competition arising from the railroad, which enabled faster mail and parcel delivery. In 1873, the institution was discontinued.

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