The Royal Mews
The Royal Mews, or Royal Stables, are to be found at Buckingham Palace, and they are definitely worth a visit. The first photo shows the quadrangle, and the upper windows are those of the living quarters of the actual stable workmen. Even to a visitor, the place had a 'village' feel to it, with the owners' cars parked around the square. At one time, there were more employees than there are now, and in the mid-19th century, Queen Victoria set up a school, at her own expense, for the children of the Mews workers.
Oh, before I say any more: did you wonder why it's called the Mews. Apparently, the area was originally where the king's hawks were kept, and when they were 'moulting' - the word mew means to moult - they were confined in here. When the use of the area changed to stables, the name remained: The Mews.
Queen Alexandra's State Coach
On the day of the State Opening of Parliament, the Crown is carried to Westminster in this coach. The crown is accompanied by members of the Queen's staff, including the Queen's Bargemaster - a throwback to the days in which the crown was taken to parliament by barge, rather than by carriage.
The Irish State Coach
This coach was built for Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert. She never used it after Prince Albert's death - yet another of the numerous evidences of her heartache at her loss.
Isn't the detail on the top of the coach amazing! This was all added after Queen Victoria had become Empress of India.
You can see the Irish shamrock, the Scottish thistle, the English rose, and a palm tree, representing India.
The Australian Coach
This coach was gifted to HM Queen Elizabeth II by the Australian people in 1988, Australia's bicentenary year. Later that year, the Queen rode in it to the 1988 State Opening of Parliament.
The crest is clearly Australian!
It's worth noting that all the crests and paintwork is done by hand. Many of the craftsmen who are involved in the upkeep and restoration of the coaches and the livery are from families who have been involved with the Royal Mews for generations.
Seeing their work, their craftsmanship reminded me of some of the amazing handiwork we saw in Colonial Williamsburg a couple of years ago.
It's a delight to see these skills being preserved, and being passed through the generations.
The first motor car was introduced to the Royal Mews in 1901 by Edward VII.
Its presence did not go down well!
Below are the specifications of the Queen's Rolls Royces and Bentleys.
Oh, did you notice there was no number plate on the car? If you ever see a car with no number plate being driven along the road you'll know the car belongs to HM.
(If you're not living in the UK though, and you see a numberplate-less car being driven down the road, then I reckon you ought to be suspicious rather than excited. Just sayin'.)
And finally, on to the grandest of all the coaches...
The Gold State Coach
This coach was built in 1762. Don't you love that it goes that far back?
In 1762, the Americas still belonged to us!
The coach was totally refurbished and re-gilded in 1977 for the Queen's Silver Jubilee, and as far as I know, the Silver Jubilee was the last time it was used. It has, though, been used for every sovereign's coronation since George IV's coronation in 1821.
The decoration consists of four titans - one at each corner - depicting the strength of the United Kingdom, especially on the seas.
The coach weighs four tonnes, and needs eight horses to pull it.
Isn't the livery on the horses incredible! What handiwork!
Eight horses, with a rider for each pair.
We loved our visit to the Royal Mews, and would have no hesitation in recommending it as a place to visit. I loved the feel of the whole place, loved that it was living, working stables, and that centuries-old craftsmanship and skills are being preserved there from day to day.