All the Queen’s horses, well not all, in fact only a couple. What you get is all the Queen’s carriages and some of her cars too at the Royal Mews. Unlike most of the coaches that you see in stately homes, these are working vehicles, they are ready to spring into action at a moments notice.
Imagine for a moment that you are an Irish coach maker and you get wind that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are going to pop over to Dublin to check out the Great Industrial Exhibition. Wouldn’t you be a tiny bit tempted to build a coach on spec, just on the off chance that Her Majesty was in the market for a new set of wheels and might take a fancy to yours. Well that is just what did happen and very fine the Irish State Coach is. Unfortunately when it was being prepared for the coronation in 1911 it was destroyed by fire, so the one still in service today is the replica made to replace the original.
Eight life-size horse models and attendant grooms are deployed to display the Gold State Coach in all its golden glory. Weighing in at an impressive four tons it is now so old, fragile and heavy that it only gets wheeled out for events like coronations, royal weddings and jubilees. Paintings adorn its side panels and gilded cherubs burst out all over the place. Such visual magnificence is not matched by comfort. Queen Victoria went to great lengths to avoid riding in it and King George VI described the ride as the most uncomfortable of his life.
Do you think that coach making is a forgotten art? Think again, the most recent coach in the collection was built by Australian coachbuilder W J Frecklington for the Queen’s 80th birthday but didn’t actually arrive in the mews until 2014. To look at, the coach looks much like many of the others on display but this one boasts electric windows, heating and lighting as well as decent suspension making for a far more comfortable ride.
The sun shone on the day of our visit so we took our picnic to St James’ Park but we could have just have easily chosen Green Park as both are very close and have cafes to provide a welcome cup of coffee.
26 March – 31 October 2016, Open daily 10am – 5pm
1 November – 30 November, Monday – Saturday 10am – 4pm
The Mews are closed on some days during State visits and royal events so check on the website before you set off.
Admission: Adult £9.30, Family £24.10 concessions available.
Tickets convert to a 1 year pass, make sure you remember to get yours stamped as you leave.