Gold State Coach
This coach has been used at the coronation of every British monarch since George IV. The coach's great age, weight, and lack of manoeuvrability have limited its use to grand state occasions such as coronations, royal weddings, and the jubilees of a monarch.
The coach weighs four tons and is 24 feet (7.3 m) long and 12 feet (3.7 m) high. It is gilded and features painted panels by Giovanni Cipriani and rich gilded sculpture including three cherubs on the roof (representing England, Ireland and Scotland) and four tritons, one at each corner (representing Britain's imperial power). The body of the coach is slung by braces covered with Morocco leather and decorated with gilt buckles. The interior is lined with velvet and 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, these have to be operated by the grooms.
As the coach is suspended from braces, it lacks more modern comfort. Modern coaches like the Australian State Coach and the Diamond Jubilee State Coach have electric windows, heating and hydraulic stabilisers.
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”.
King George VI had the coach overhauled after the Second World War to rubberise the iron-bound wheels. This would afford at least some comfort to the passengers.
The Gold State Coach has been used since the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. She used it on the days of her Silver and Golden Jubilees.
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 aninmals 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 grey.
Media related to Gold State Coach at Wikimedia Commons
- Description of carriages (including the Gold State Coach) at Royal.gov.uk
- Description from CNN of the Gold State Coach