Updated: Aug 21, 2021
The Gold State Coach is an enclosed, eight horse-drawn carriage used by the British Royal Family. Commissioned in 1760 the coach was built in the London workshops of Samuel Butler. It was commissioned for £7,562 (£1.08 million in 2014, adjusted for inflation).
This coach has been used at the coronation of every British monarch since king George IV in 1821. The coach's age, weight, & lack of manoeuvrability have limited its use to grand state occasions such as coronations, royal weddings, & the jubilees of a monarch. The coach is housed at the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace. It is on view for the public.
The coach weighs four tons and is 24 feet (7.3 m) long & 12 feet (3.7 m) high. It is gilded & features painted panels by Giovanni Battista Cipriani & rich gilded sculpture including three cherubs on the roof (representing England, Ireland & Scotland) & four tritons, one at each corner (representing Britain's imperial power). The body of the coach is slung by braces covered with Morocco leather & decorated with gilt buckles.
The interior is lined with velvet & satin. The Gold State Coach is pulled by a team of eight horses wearing the Red Morocco harness. Originally driven by a coachman, the eight horses are now postilion-ridden in four pairs. The coach is so heavy it can only be pulled at a walk The coach has (gilded) brakes, which are operated by the grooms.
As the coach is suspended from braces, it lacks more modern comfort. Modern coaches such as the Australian State Coach & the Diamond Jubilee State Coach have electric windows, heating & hydraulic stabilisers.
"horrible" & "not very comfortable"
In the words of King William IV, a former naval officer, being driven in the Gold State Coach was like being on board a ship "tossing in a rough sea". Queen Victoria complained of the "distressing oscillation" of the cabin. She would often refuse to ride in the Gold State Coach. A later monarch, King George VI said that his journey from the palace to Westminster Abbey for his coronation was "one of the most uncomfortable rides I have ever had in my life". The current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, referred to her coronation journey in the coach as "horrible" & "not very comfortable"
Fantastic colour footage of the Queens Coronation in 1953, Plus Her Majesty describes her extremely uncomfortable journey;
King George VI had the coach overhauled after the Second World War to rubberise the iron-bound wheels. This would afford at least some level of comfort to the passengers.
The Gold State Coach has been used on other occasion since the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, such as on the days of her Silver (1977) & Golden Jubilees (2002).
Who manages the coach?
The coach is managed by 4 postilions, 9 walking grooms (one of whom walks behind the coach), 6 footmen, and 4 Yeoman of the Guard carrying their long partisans. Eight of the grooms walk beside the horses. The more ornately dressed footmen walk beside the body of the coach. The postilions have to handle the horses when the animals are unruly, and they carry crooked walking-sticks to hold up the traces that may become slack when the coach is taking a corner. The royal coachmen are traditionally clean-shaven. The horses are always Windsor Greys.
The Windsor Grey's horses draw the carriages in which The Queen, other members of the Royal Family & guests travel. They're so called because they used to be kept at Windsor in Victorian times, where they drew the private carriages of the Royal Family. Windsor Greys are at least 16.1 hands (1.65m) high at the withers (the point on a horse's neck where the mane begins to grow) & are chosen for their steady temperament & stamina.
Cleveland Bays; are the horses that are used to pick up high commissioners & ambassadors presenting their credentials to The Queen, for other day-to-day activities, & as workhorses.
Royal Collection Trust curator, Caroline de Guitaut, talks about the Gold State Coach. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018
Visit in person;
You can visit The Royal News, & even take in a guided tour;
Between April & October, you can take a 45-minute guided tour of the Royal Mews with our Wardens. Learn details about the historic carriages and modern cars, & hear about the work needed to prepare for major State and ceremonial occasions. Tours take place daily from the security area at 10:15, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00 & 16:00.
Explore the Royal Mews & discover coaches, horses & carriages at one of the finest working stables in existence. These are some of the things to see & do during your visit you shouldn't miss.
Until 30 September 2018 the Ascot Landau carriage that transported TRH The Duke & Duchess of Sussex through the streets of Windsor after their wedding ceremony is also on public display.
Why not add a trip to Windsor Castle to your list;