Visitors to the Royal Mews can now enjoy a detailed insight into working life in the Royal Household department. Guided tours of the establishment at Buckingham Palace give a vivid picture of its history and function.
Built in the gardens of Buckingham Palace in the 1820s, the Royal Mews evolved from the Kings Mews an institution that dates back to the 14th century, and was first established at Charing Cross.
The present Mews were constructed in the 1820s, although the riding school dates from some 70 years earlier. In the 19th century, the Mews carried out many of the same responsibilities as they do today, with State visits, Coronation processions, the annual State Opening of Parliament and the Trooping the Colour all demanding the same pageantry and flair as they do nowadays.
The present Mews originally held stabling for up to 100 horses, and there is still space for more than 70. There are currently 34 carriage horses in residence: 10 Windsor Greys and 24 Cleveland Bays.
The Windsor Greys, so-called since they were kept at Windsor in Victorian times, draw the carriages in which the Queen and other members of the Royal Family travel.
The Cleveland are used to pick up Ambassadors and High Commissioners presenting their credentials to the Queen, and for other day-to-day activities including the messenger run from Buckingham Palace to St James Palace.
The carriages on display at the Mews provide a delightful taste of the opulence in which the Royal Family travels. Most spectacular is the Gold State Coach, which was brought to the Royal Mews on its completion in 1762. It is gilded all over and weighs in at almost 4tonnes. It requires eight horses to draw it and has been used for every coronation since that of George IVs in 1821.
Also on display are the 1902 State Landau, the Glass Coach, built in 1881 and known to be particularly comfortable, the Scottish State Coach and Queen Alexandras State Coach. Visitors can see the Irish State Coach, bought by Queen Victoria in Dublin for £858 and the Australian State Coach, which was given to the Queen in Canberra in May 1988 by the people of Australia. It has electric windows, central heating and its own generator.
The Royal Mews is set around a main quadrangle behind Buckingham Palace, and the tour takes visitors through the loose boxes, the harness room and the coach houses. Visitors are usually able to see the state stables, but these are currently home to 50 police horses and consequently closed to the public.
For tickets and booking information, please contact The Visitor Office, Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA. Open daily 27 March 31 October, except for Fridays, 11:00-16:00 (last admission 15:15). During Buckingham Palace summer opening, the Mews is open everyday from 10:00 – 17:00 (last admission 16:15).
Pictures courtesy of The Royal Collection © 2004, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.