The King and Queen begin procession in Gold State Coach
The Gold State Coach is one of the oldest and grandest of the Royal Family’s many carriages and it is steeped in history. Being hundreds of years old and of great value, the coach is brought out only for the most important of events and is seen once again on King Charles' Coronation Day (Saturday 6 May).
The King and Queen left Westminster Abbey in the coach to begin the procession through London back to Buckingham Palace, where the Royal Family are expected to make a balcony appearance.
The Gold State Coach is pulled by eight horses; Icon, Shadow, Milford Haven, Echo, Knightsbridge, Tyrone, Meg and Newark. The carriage is accompanied by a Coronation procession, including marching band. The Prince and Princess of Wales and their children, Princes George and Louis and Princess Charlotte, follow in another coach.
We’ve delved into the history books to find out everything you need to know about one of the most recognisable royal vehicles, including how much the Gold State Coach cost, whether it really is made of gold and even if it’s a comfortable ride - according to those who've been in it.
What is the Gold State Coach used for?
The Gold State Coach is used to transport monarchs during Royal events but, due to its age and value, is reserved only for the most significant of occasions.
The coach has been used on every Coronation Day since the 1800s to bring the new King or Queen from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, before traditionally joining a procession through the streets of London after the ceremony.
The coach has also made appearances for other landmark events such as jubilee celebrations and State Openings of Parliament.
When was the Gold State Coach last used?
Before King Charles' coronation, we last saw the Gold State Coach during a parade for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in 2022. However, the carriage was empty while footage from her Coronation Day was projected onto the windows.
The last time it was used in public with a member of the Royal Family inside it was two decades earlier in 2002, for Her Majesty’s Golden Jubilee.
Is the Gold State Coach real gold?
The Gold State Coach is gilded with real gold leaf, however it isn’t a solid gold structure. The Gold State Coach carriage is actually made from wood, which has then been covered with a thin gold coating.
How much did the Gold State Coach cost?
The Gold State Coach cost £7,661, 18 shillings and 11 pennies when it was first built in 1762, which would be around £2 million today.
The coach is also an impressive size, with a weight of four tonnes and standing 12 feet tall, while being double that in length. Its weight means the coach requires eight horses to pull it and it can go no faster than a walking pace.
How old is the Gold State Coach?
The Gold State Coach is now over 260 years old, having been built for King George III in 1762 . Unfortunately, it wasn’t ready in time for his Coronation, so its first outing was for his Opening of Parliament on 25 November 1762.
The Gold State Coach has survived through two World Wars and is almost the same now as it was when it was originally built. There have been necessary refurbishments over the years, such as re-gilding the exterior for Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee and reupholstering the interior at various points. Restoration also had to be completed ahead of The Queen's coronation as the coach had been in storage for a long period during the Second World War.
The only noticeable change made to the coach took place after the death of Queen Victoria, for the coronation of her son, King Edward VII. It was the removal of a box seat where the person controlling the horses would have sat at the front of the coach, which blocked some of the view into the carriage.
Instead, the coachmen now sit astride the horses to control the carriage’s movement, meaning that any Royals sitting inside are much more visible to the public. The coachmen still wear livery (their red and gold uniforms) in the same design as they did more than three centuries ago.
What type of horses pull the Gold State Coach?
When the Gold State Coach was first in use, it was always pulled by an exclusive breed of cream-coloured horses reserved only for the Royal Family. Sadly, being such a limited breed, they eventually died out meaning King George V was the last monarch to attend his coronation day with these horses.
Now, the Gold State Coach is pulled by eight Windsor Greys from the Royal Mews. The royal horse breed got its title from King Charles V, after he changed the Royal Family’s name to Windsor following the First World War.
The horses which will be used on King Charles' Coronation were announced in the week leading up to the big day. The Royal Mews confirmed that Icon, Shadow, Milford Haven, Echo, Knightsbridge, Tyrone, Meg and Newark will be pulling the Gold State Coach on the journey back to Buckingham Palace.
For the journey to Westminster Abbey, however, the new Diamond Jubilee State Coach will be used. This carriage requires only six horses, and these will be Icon, Shadow, Milford Haven, Echo, Knightsbridge and Tyrone.
The Windsor Greys pulling Queen Elizabeth II’s carriage on her Coronation Day were called Cunningham, Tovey, Noah, Tedder, Eisenhower, Snow White, Tipperary and McCreery. Any horses bred at the Hampton Court Stud were named by Her Majesty.
What are the decorations on the Gold State Coach?
In addition to the golden gilding covering the coach, the vehicle is richly decorated with paintings and carvings. Paintings on the panels were originally done by Italian artist Cipriani and depict Roman gods and goddesses, while carved cherubs and emblems along the roof and framework represent spirits of various countries in the United Kingdom.
Is the Gold State Coach comfortable?
In a word, no, the Gold State Coach is not a comfortable ride. During a documentary interview in 2018, Queen Elizabeth II reflected on her journey to her Coronation ceremony and said the ride was “horrible”, due to the lack of comfort in the coach.
"Not very comfortable,” The Queen said. “It's not meant for travelling in at all...it's only sprung on leather."
According to the Royal Collection Trust, Queen Elizabeth II also added a hot water bottle under her seat on the day of the coronation because the weather was so wet and cold.
Her grandmother, Queen Victoria, agreed, and preferred to use the more comfortable State Landau coach on subsequent occasions after her own Coronation Day ride, including for her gold and diamond jubilees and at her wedding.
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