Did you know that you can visit Buckingham Palace all year round? Whilst the State Rooms are only open in the summer the Royal Mews are open all year.
All the Queen’s horses, well some of them, plus the her carriages and cars too are what you get to see at the Royal Mews. Even better these coaches are not museum pieces but living history ready to spring into action at a moments notice.
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.
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 largely reconstructed.
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.
You needn’t just look at the coaches there is one that you clamber in a practice your Royal wave. Well actually not a coach but a semi-state Landau. What is a Landau and how does a semi-state one differ from a full state one? Landau basically means convertible, just like a soft top Porsche but slower. Semi-state Landaus do not have a coachman on board but are driven by a postillion who sits on the front left hand side horse of the team pulling the carriage. Why Landau? Well that is the name of the German city where they were first made. Here I am looking regal.
Or you can dress up as a postillion, thankfully the costumes come in grown up sizes too.
- Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
- Open: Thursday – Monday 10am – 4pm February – March, 10am – 5pm March – October
- Admission: Adult £14, Child and family tickets available
- The Mews are closed on some days during State visits and royal events so check before you set off
- You can buy combined tickets to visit the Buckingham Palace State Rooms and the Queen’s Gallery as well
- Tickets convert to a 1 year pass, make sure you remember to get yours stamped as you leave