Coronation Outtake: 1762 Gold State Coach – All You Need To Know

Tomorrow sees something that has been happening in London for close to a thousand years, in an ever-evolving form. Even so, some things don’t seem to change – it has been held in Westminster Abbey since 1066 and State Gold Coach has been used since 1762. We do quite like a tradition on this side of the pond, and a good one is worth sharing. This then is your “cut out and keep guide” to the Gold State Coach (sometimes referred to as the Imperial Gold State Coach), used only at the grandest of Royal events and then only by the Monarch and Consort. Here are ten key facts to ensure you’re the Ace on the Base when the King leaves Westminster Abbey tomorrow afternoon.

Number 1 – it was built in 1762, after being commissioned in 1760, for King George III (the focus of The Madness of King George and a character in American history as well of course) but was not ready for his coronation. The cost of building of it was £7661, 18 shillings and 11 pence, the equivalent of around £1.5 million today.

Number 2 – it has been used for every coronation since 1831, when it was used for the coronation of King William IV. It was also used for the State Opening of Parliament until the late 1930s and was last used in the Platinum Jubilee Procession for Queen Elizabeth II last year. This was also the only time it has been used empty, with a hologram of Her Majesty from her Coronation in 1953 projected on to the windows.

Number 3 – It is hauled by eight Windsor Grey horses, stabled at the Royal Mews adjacent to Buckingham Palace. Eight horses not only look better than four or two, but are needed as the coach is twenty six feet long (plus the shafts) and weighs over four tons. Plus the Monarch’s crown

Number 4 – Managing the coach and eight horses requires a team of 23 – four postilions on the horses, nine walking grooms (one of whom walks behind the coach), six footmen, and four Yeoman of the Guard carrying their long partisans (also known as polearms or pikes). The grooms operate the brakes.

Number 5 – The coach is suspended on four straps, known as braces, made of Morocco leather. These were replaced for the first time about fifteen years ago, and found at the time to be all of different sizes and thickness. Even so, it is still reported to be a very uncomfortable, oscillating ride, and is only ever moved at a walking pace. King George VI said that the journey for his coronation was “one of the most uncomfortable rides I have ever had in my life”. To help this, King George had rubber tyres fitted in the late 1940s

Number 6 – The coach features gilded sculptures including three cherubs on the roof, which represent England, Scotland, and Ireland. And above each wheel there is a massive triton figure, honouring naval victories. The panels were painted by Giovanni Battista.  Subtle it is not.

Number 7 – The interior is lined and upholstered with velvet and satin.

Number 8 – Queen Elizabeth II used to have a hot water bottle with her, strapped under the seat. Other, more modern coaches in the Royal fleet have electric windows and heating, and in cases even air conditioning, but not in the 1762.

Number 9 – Twenty strong chaps are needed to move it out of the Royal Mews, having removed a door and window first.

Number 10 – It is not made of actual gold, but gold leaf decorated giltwood. But it is still called the Gold State Coach.