Updated: Aug 21, 2021
The Irish State Coach is an enclosed, four-horse-drawn carriage used by the Royal Family.
Traditionally this horse-drawn coach is what the British monarch travels in from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster to for the State Opening of Parliament.
The original Irish State Coach was built as a speculative venture in 1851 by John Hutton & Sons of Dublin, who held a Royal Warrant as coach-builders to Queen Victoria.
The coach was exhibited at the 1853 Great Industrial Exhibition, it was admired by the Queen, purchased & delivered to the Royal Mews.
From 1861 it became Queen Victoria's state carriage of choice, as she declined to use the Gold State Coach following the death of her beloved husband Prince Albert.
Under Edward VII, when use of the Gold Coach resumed, the Irish coach was made available for the Prince of Wales (later George V) to use, & decorated with his insignia.
Before his coronation in 1911 George V had the coach sent to the workshops of Barker & Co. of Notting Hill for refurbishment.
At these workshops, the coach was considerably damaged by fire. Only the metal framework left intact. Barkers completely reconstructed it to the original design in the space of nineteen weeks, in time for it to be used in the coronation procession.
When the Second World War ended the Irish State Coach (in place of the Gold Coach) came to be used by the monarch at the State Opening of Parliament, as well as to convey King George VI & the then-Princess Elizabeth to Westminster Abbey for her wedding to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
After 1988 the Australian State Coach was used on some occasions (especially in cold weather), & in 1989 it was taken in for a complete restoration, undertaken by the Royal Mews carriage restorers (the first time such an extensive restoration had been undertaken in-house).
Since then, the Irish State Coach has continued to be used intermittently by the Queen for the State Opening of Parliament (& on other occasions); in recent years, with the Queen making use of the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, the Irish coach has carried the Prince of Wales & Duchess of Cornwall at State Openings.
The exterior is blue & black with gilt decoration & the interior is covered in blue damask. It is normally driven from the box seat using two or four horses (though it can also be postilion driven with the box seat removed). Along with several other Royal state coaches, it is stored in the Royal Mews, where it is available for viewing by the public.
The Royal Mews new Souvenir guide is available for order now.