Situated just across the street from The Rubens at the Palace, the Royal Mews is a quintessentially British attraction. It’s also a vital part of the Royal Household, as it provides transport – whether that’s horse drawn carriage or car – for the Queen and the Royal Family. Meet the horses housed at the stables, get a glimpse of the magnificent carriages used for state occasions and discover the history behind this fascinating site. Read on for five facts you should know about the Royal Mews in London.
The Royal Mews is also a fully operational stables. Two different varieties of horse are used to pull the royal carriages: Windsor Greys and Cleveland Bays. The Windsor Greys are so named as during Queen Victoria’s reign, they were kept at Windsor to pull the private carriages of the Royal family. Horses chosen for this royal are picked for their calm temperament and good stamina. Cleveland Bays are one of the oldest breeds of horse in the UK, and are relied upon for their strong and sturdy qualities. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the action by watching the exercising of horses in the stunning indoor arena that takes place at 9.30 am daily or around 11am when the horses can be seen drawing the carriages.
The stables started life in 1822, when building commenced in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. The Royal stables had originally been located at Charing Cross, where the National Gallery is today, but in the 1760s, George III moved some of his frequently used horses and carriages to what was then Buckingham House. By the time George IV was on the throne, the stables had moved to Buckingham Palace, with famed architect John Nash – who was already responsible for redesigning the main building – commissioned to design the stable quarters. The layout consisted of a central coach house in addition to two sets of stables and ample room for 54 horses. Queen Victoria took full advantage of the Royal Mews, keeping up to 200 horses there at one point and she also set up a school at the mews for the children of its employees.
The Royal Mews is responsible for housing all the state vehicles and carriages used for significant royal occasions like state visits, coronations, royal weddings and the Queen’s Birthday Parade. The Gold State Coach arguably turns the most heads, and has been used for every coronation since King George IV in 1821. The Diamond Jubilee State Coach was first used at the state opening of Parliament in 2014, and is one of only two coaches built for the Royal Household in the last 100 years. Weighing in at a hefty three tonnes, it requires six horses to draw it alongside three grooms. The interior of the coach is a particular highlight as it features objects donated by some of Britain’s best-known historic sites and organisations, seat handrails made from Royal Yacht Britannia, and window frames fashioned out of materials from Canterbury Cathedral, Caernarfon Caste and even the Mary Rose.
Inspect the eye-catching livery that’s worn by the Queen’s coachmen. This splendid uniform remains largely unchanged since the Victorian era, and is still made by the same tailors who created it during the 18th century. Today, both children and adult visitors can try on replicas of the footman’s livery at the State Stables.
The State Stables offers several interactive exhibits, from learning how to harness a horse to finding out what it feels like to sit in the Semi-State Landau, courtesy of the Stables’ model landau. The site also offers both guided and multimedia tours. The multimedia tours are a highlight, offering 360 degree tours inside the carriage as well as specific details on carriage design.
Located just opposite The Rubens at the Palace, guests at the hotel can enjoy a royal themed afternoon tea after their visit to the Royal Mews in the Palace Lounge which faces the Royal Mews entrance and is perfect for watching the horses and carriages come and go.
Image Credits: All images courtesy of Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 2017.