Mon. Jun 24th, 2024

The King and Queen Consort will not use the Gold State Coach to travel from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey for the Coronation, the Sunday Telegraph understands.

In a break from tradition, the couple will instead only use the coach on the return journey, as they process through the streets of London after their crowning.

It raises the prospect that the King might opt for a more comfortable mode of transport for getting to the ceremony on May 6.

The public will likely still get a good glimpse of the 260-year-old coach, as it will wait to take the couple back to the palace outside the Abbey. 

Although the return route is yet to be confirmed, it could follow that of the late Queen Elizabeth’s procession meaning it would pass up Whitehall and down the Mall to Buckingham Palace.

There are a number of alternative travel options available to the King and Queen Consort for the journey to the Abbey, including the Irish State Coach which has often been used for the State Opening of Parliament.

The couple could also opt to travel by car, but experts believe a coach will be used as a nod to the late Duke of Edinburgh who had a passion for carriages.

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Dr George Gross, visiting research fellow in theology at King’s College London and a co-founder of the British Coronations Project with Dr David J Crankshaw, said: “I think it would not be surprising if they travelled in another coach from the Royal Mews Collection, possibly the D

iamond Jubilee State Coach – built in Australia and therefore incorporating another Commonwealth element to the event.”

The Gold State Coach

The interior panelling of the Diamond Jubilee State Coach includes materials from “emblematic and historic” locations and buildings across the UK, Dr Gross explained.

“This would therefore combine both Commonwealth and Union references and British history too,” he said.

Another option is the Australian State Coach, but this would not cover British historical references or the “Union element”, he added.

Dr Gross told The Sunday Telegraph: “Subject to our famous weather, the 1902 State Landau would allow the option of travelling with the top lowered – so this would give more of a view for the public and the cameras if the elements permit.”

The Australian State Coach

The 24ft-long Gold State Coach was commissioned by George III in 1760 and has been used at the coronation of every monarch since George IV in 1821.

In 1953, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh were driven from Buckingham Palace to the Abbey in the coach, pulled by eight grey gelding horses: Cunningham, Tovey, Noah, Tedder, Eisenhower, Snow White, Tipperary and McCreery. 

However, the iconic, ornately carved coach does not offer its passengers the comfort and luxury that its dazzling exterior might indicate.

The late Queen bemoaned the “horrible” carriage ride on the day of her coronation, suggesting that the difficulties may have been down to a lack of suspension.

Queen Elizabeth II in the Gold State Coach during her coronation processions in 1953

Asked about the journey for a BBC documentary in 2018, she said: “It’s only sprung on leather. Not very comfortable.”

“Were you in it for a long time though?” presenter Alistair Bruce asked.

“Halfway around London,” the Queen replied, drily. “We must have gone four or five miles. We could only go at a walking pace.The horses could not go any faster.”

William IV likened travelling in it to being aboard a ship in rough seas, while Queen Victoria refused to travel in it for most of her reign because of its “distressing oscillations”.

These were reduced when George VI ordered an overhaul but not nearly enough to guarantee a pleasant ride.

The coach was last used during the Platinum Jubilee, when it was led by the Mounted Band of the Household Cavalry and drawn, as always, by eight Windsor Grey horses.

However, it did not transport the monarch but instead showed her as a hologram, as original film footage of her waving to the crowds on the day of her coronation was projected on its windows.

The coach was previously seen in public two decades earlier, when it featured in a Windsor show called All the Queen’s Horses to mark the late Queen’s Golden Jubilee and was used in the monarch’s procession to St Paul’s Cathedral for a service of thanksgiving.

Queen Elizabeth II rides in the Gold State coach from Buckingham Palace to St Paul's Cathedral for her Golden Jubilee

For that outing, in 2002, it was cleaned and overhauled in preparation for that outing, it’s first since the Silver Jubilee 25 years earlier. 

It was then, in 1977, that it was last regilded, although it bears evidence of between seven and 10 layers of gilding and retouching over the past 260 years.

Made of giltwood, it has a thin layer of gold leaf over wood. Inside, the coach is lined and upholstered with velvet and satin and also features painted panels of Roman gods and goddesses.

Three gilded sculptures of cherubs adorn the roof to represent England, Scotland and Ireland, while a triton figure sits above each wheel.

Due to the size, weight and age of the coach, 3.6 metres tall and four tonnes, it can only be used at a walking pace.

When not in use, the coach is on public display when the Royal Mews is open at Buckingham Palace.