The Royal Mews
Visit the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace
The Royal Mews is one of the premium stables in the world. Providing the Queen with carriage horses and responsible for Her Majesty’s and members of the Royal Family’s transport by motor car.
All the Queen’s carriages and coaches are housed at the Royal Mews, maintained by top craftsmen. Some of the carriages are available to be viewed. The coaches and carriages convey the Royal Family in state and ceremonial processions. From April to October you can enjoy a 45-minute guided tour of the Royal Mews.
Creation of the Royal Mews
The first stables were West of The Strand at Charing Cross. Royal Hawks were kept there from 1377 and the name is derived from their moulting time or ‘mews’ time. Knowledge of the mews goes back to the reign of Richard II.
Sadly, a fire in 1534 destroyed the mews. It was rebuilt as stables but retained the name which had become established.
In 1732, William Kent designed another rebuild, opened to the public in the early 19th century. An impressive building, with a large space to the front. Royal Parks at this time were on the outskirts and gardens were enjoyed only by those owning the houses surrounding them. Known as the King’s Mews it was also called Royal Mews, Royal Stables or if there was a female monarch, the Queen’s Mews.
The old Mews was demolished making way for Trafalgar Square between 1834 -1837.
King George III Buys Buckingham House
In 1762, King George III bought Buckingham House. He transported some of his horses and carriages, but the ceremonial coaches remained with their horses at Charing Cross.
Architect, Sir William Chambers was commissioned to create a riding school at the new house.
George III also commissioned the huge Gold State Coach in this year. 7m long and 3.6m tall, coated in gold leaf, it is the grandest of the coaches housed at the Royal Mews. From 1821 it has been used for Royal Coronations. Eight horses are required for the weight of almost 4 tonnes.
King George IV Brings in John Nash
The Royal Mews as we know them today were built in the gardens of Buckingham Palace in 1825. John Nash was already heading the rebuilding of the palace, so it was logical for him to complete the new buildings. Stables for 100 horses were erected around the riding school.
The quadrangle of the mews is reached through a Doric-style arch. A clock tower, coach houses and harness rooms were included in the £65,000 plus price tag, a vast cost at the time.
Queen Victoria and the Small Village
In 1837, Queen Victoria was the first monarch to call the new redesigned Buckingham Palace home. The Royal Mews took on a new life, becoming an active community when Queen Victoria created a school in the Mews for the families working there. All the Queen’s children learned to ride at the Mews riding school.
Our present Monarch described the Mews as ‘a small village which belongs to Buckingham Palace.’
Carriages, Coaches & Horses
You can expect, in the main, to see Windsor Greys and Cleveland Bays in the stables. The horses are trained regularly to draw the carriages. At least 16.1 hands high at the withers, Windsor Greys have excellent stamina and temperament. They have the responsibility of drawing the carriages of The Queen and members of the Royal Family. Cleveland Bays pull the carriages of guests and are used for general duties as workhorses. Horses are used for competitive and recreational driving as well as ceremonial duties.
Historic liveries and harnesses are also on display, also that worn by the Queen’s footmen. Liveries vary by occasion. Varying in detail only slightly from Victorian times, new liveries are still produced from the same companies used by George III. Plain to ornate, they are all waiting to be discovered on the tour. Daily since 1843, the messenger carriage collects and delivers post between Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace. The Royal Collection contains over 100 coaches and carriages. All the work undertaken at the Mews is overseen by an official called the Crown Equerry. The Palace Gardeners are well supplied with manure!
The Diamond Jubilee State Coach
First used in June 2014, this Australian built coach is the newest addition to the Mews. Six horses are required to pull the 5m long, 3 tonne coach. Traditional craftmanship was used but modern technology was incorporated into the design. Hydraulic stabilisers minimise swaying of the aluminium body. The interior wooden panels are made from donated objects from over 100 British historic sites and organisations. Included are materials from Henry VIII’s Flagship the Mary Rose and the Antarctic bases of Captain Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton.
The Queens Motor Cars
The Mews also houses the Royal State and Semi-State Cars. Maintenance of the claret and black fleet is just as much part of the daily work as is the horses and carriages.
The five state cars do not display number plates like ordinary cars. The collection comprises two Bentley State Limousines, gifted on the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, a 1977 Silver Jubilee Rolls-Royce Phantom VI, a 1986 Phantom VI and a rare first example 1950 Phantom IV with body by HJ Mulliner & Co, with an automatic gearbox fitted in 1955.
Semi-state cars are used for less formal situations and general support. They comprise of two Jaguar XJ limousines and three 1992 Daimler DS420 limousines.
Past vehicles have included a 1947 DaimlerDe36 Landaulet State car which was retired from service but used frequently by the Queen Mother until the mid-1960’s and a 1954 Rolls-Royce Phantom IV landaulet with Hooper coachwork, on permanent loan now to the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation.