The Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace evolved from the King’s Mews which was where the royal hawks were kept. The Mews were originally housed near Charing Cross on the site of the present National Gallery. The royal hawks were kept there from 1377 until the building was destroyed by fire in 1534 and was rebuilt as stables.
In the 1760s, George III moved some of his horses and carriages to the grounds of Buckingham House, which he had acquired in 1762. However it was not until the reign of George IV that the royal stables transferred completely to Buckingham Palace. The King commissioned the new Royal Mews from John Nash who built grand stables around the riding school, a Doric-style arch with a clock tower, leading into the quadrangle of the Mews. In the reign of Queen Victoria, up to 200 horses were kept at the stables within the Royal Mews.
The Royal Mews is part of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office and provides road transport for The Queen and members of the Royal Family by both horse-drawn carriage and motor car. The Royal Mews is still a working stable but also houses the royal collection of historic coaches and carriages.
State vehicles are housed and maintained at the Royal Mews. They include the carriages used for royal and State occasions, such as State Visits, weddings and the State Opening of Parliament. Carriages from the Royal Mews are also used on roughly 50 occasions each year to convey newly appointed High Commissioners and Ambassadors from their official residence to Buckingham Palace to present their credentials to The Queen.
The most ornate of all coaches housed in the Royal Mews is the Gold State Coach, which has been used at every coronation since that of George IV in 1821.
The latest coach to join the collection of royal coaches is The Diamond Jubilee State Coach which was built to commemorate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It was first used at the State Opening of Parliament on 4 June 2014. The coach has a number of unusual features, the interior of the coach incorporates items donated by over 100 of Britain’s historic sites and organisations. The seat handrails are from the Royal Yacht Britannia, and the window frames and interior panels include material from Caernarfon Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, Durham Cathedral, The Mary Rose (Henry VIII’s flagship), 10 Downing Street, and the Antarctic bases of Captain Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton, a British lead musket ball from the Battle of Waterloo and a specimen of the metal used to create Victoria Cross medals. The Diamond Jubilee State Coach also combines traditional craftsmanship and modern technology. The vehicle has an aluminium body and has six hydraulic stabilisers. The gilded crown on the top of the coach is carved in oak from the HMS Victory.
Other coaches of interest is the Irish State Coach, purchased by Queen Victoria for £858 in 1852 and the 1902 State Landau, built in 1902 for King Edward VII which has been used for recent royal weddings including that of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.
A visit to the Royal Mews allows visitors to see some of the carriage horses that are stabled in the complex. The Cleveland Bays are used to escort newly appointed High Commissioners and Ambassadors to their audience with The Queen and the famous Windsor Greys draw the private carriages of the royal family. Both set of horses must be at least 16.1 hands (1.65 metres) high and are chosen for their steady temperament and stamina.
A visit to the grand State Stables allows visitors to experience sitting in a carriage with a replica of a Semi State Landau which is decorated in royal carriage livery and has real suspension. The stable have a number of interactive displays that will entertain all the family in which it is possible to dress up as a footman or learn how to harness a horse.
Other places of interest is the Riding School, the Livery Room and the Harness Room which gives some illustration of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes of many of the great Royal events.
Whilst the Royal Mews is probably not on the top of the many visitors list to visit, it is one of the most interesting royal related attractions in London with plenty of interest for all the family. Being a working stable, visitors can also witness the working day of the Royal Mews staff and watch some of training of the horses.
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Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
Admission to the Royal Mews is Adult £10.00, under 17 £5.80, Under 5 Free.
For more information or book tickets, visit the Royal Collection website here
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