The following definition is from Supplement to the Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language (Edinburgh. 1825), edited by the Scottish antiquary and philologist John Jamieson (1759-1838):
Queen’s, also King’s, cushion, a mode of carriage, whether in sport, or from necessity.
Two persons, each of whom grasps his right wrist with his left hand, with the other lays hold of his neighbour’s wrist, so as to form a seat of four hands and wrists conjoined. On these the person, who is to be carried, seats himself, or is seated by others, putting both his arms, for greater security, round the necks of the bearers.
The Scottish novelist and poet Walter Scott (1771-1832) used the expression in The Heart of Mid-Lothian (1818) when he described the mob taking John Porteous, Captain of the City Guard of Edinburgh, to his place of execution in 1736:
He was now mounted on the hands of two of the rioters, clasped together, so as to form what is called in Scotland, “The King’s Cushion.”
In The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland (London, 1894), the British folklorist Alice Bertha Gomme (1853-1938) explained:
Two children join hands, by crossing their arms, so as to form a seat. A third mounts on the crossed arms, and clasps the carriers round their necks, while they move on saying—
King, King Cairy (carry)
Milk an bread,
In the King’s chairie.
This game is played at Keith [in Scotland], without the words. The words are used at Fochabers [near Keith].—Rev. W. Gregor.
Jamieson says, “Lothian [in Scotland] children, while carrying one of their number in this manner, repeat the following rhyme—
Lend me a pin to stick i’ my thumb,
To carry the lady to London town.”
He says this method of carrying is often used as a substitute for a chair in conveying adult persons from one place to another, especially when infirm. In other counties it is called “Queen’s Cushion” and “Queen’s Chair,” also “Cat’s Carriage.”
Brockett (North Country Words) says, “‘King’s Cushion,’ a sort of seat made by two persons crossing their hands, in which to place a third. The thrones on the reverses of the early Royal Seals of England and Scotland consist of swords, spears, snakes, &c., placed in the manner of a ‘King’s Cushion.’”
The method used is for both children to grasp the wrist of his left hand with the right, while he lays hold of the right wrist of his companion with his left hand. This way of hoisting or carrying is still used by schoolboys when they desire to honour a boy who has distinguished himself in the playground or schoolroom.
In an article titled Under the Gun, published by The Village Voice (New York, N.Y.) of 3rd August 2004, Elizabeth Zimmer described the “site-specific dances” sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council:
While Harrington and Rogoff transferred studio-choreographed dances to public sites, the collective known as Tryst (Clarinda Mac Low, Paul Benney, Sean Bronzell, Janusz Jaworski, Alejandra Martorell, Robert Meyer, Aki Sasamoto, Arturo Vidich, and Kathy Westwater) tried something completely different—in fact, several different things—at downtown locations. I caught them on July 30 at the corner of Water and Broad, where they offered “assisted street crossings.” Dressed in white safety suits and blaze-orange vests, two artists would approach strangers and offer to carry them across the intersection—and back, if desired. A remarkable number of passers-by took up the challenge, and were treated to rides in “the queen’s chair,” or held prone and carried as a “battering ram” (headfirst) or “Superman” (arms outstretched in front). You could get a piggyback ride, or a lift that let you call a friend on your cell phone while in motion. […]
As my young companion, Lauren Morelli, put it, her “amazement and pleasure came from the idea that people would not only stop to talk to these creatures in hazmat-like outfits, but that they’d let them touch, hold, and carry them. In a culture where touching has become such a precarious practice, strangers are still entrusting their bodies to others.” It was marvelous, and silly, and more directly engaging than the formal works. Tryst promises an encore.