Although considered an urban myth, Queen Victoria (1837 to 1901) is typically credited as the source of the phrase “Home, James, and don’t spare the horses.” The story is she would say this to her footman, James Darling, when she needed to go home and time was of the essence. In truth, during the 1600s coachmen in general were commonly referred to as James, leading many to believe the idiom may have had earlier origin.
In the 1930s, Elsie Carlisle recorded “Don’t Spare the Horses,” written by Fred Hillebrand. This entertaining song tells the tale of a cantankerous 1890s date night!
The term was more familiar to me from various British and American television programs. Regardless of how it became a part of our vernacular, at the end of a day of being out and about, I commonly turn to my wife and ask “where next?” When she is ready to call it a day, I’m sure you can guess her typical reply… “Home, James…and don’t spare the horses!” Let our team take you home. We won’t spare the horses. Say Home, James, and trust the drive.