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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Covent Garden Theatre burns down 20 September 1808

Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, from The Microcosm of London Vol 1 (1808)
Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, from The Microcosm of London Vol 1 (1808)
The Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, was completely destroyed by fire in the early hours of the morning of 20 September 1808.

Patty Wilkinson, the daughter of the actor-manager Tate Wilkinson and long-time companion of Mrs Siddons, said that
... before the audience left the house, she perceived a strong smell of fire while she was sitting in Mr. Kemble's box, and spoke of it to several of the servants as she was passing to Mrs. Siddons's dressing-room; but they said that it was only the smell of the lamps in the front of the stage.1
According to the Microcosm of London:
The building was discovered to be on fire, after midnight, on the 19th of September, 1808; and so irresistible were the flames, that before five o’clock on the following morning, nothing remained but an heap of smoking ruins. The real cause of this fatal catastrophe has never been discovered, nor has even a probable conjecture been formed as to the origin of the conflagration.2
The terrible fire was generally attributed ‘to the wadding of a gun, that was discharged in the performance of "Pizarro," having lodged unperceived in some crevice of the scenery.’3

A dreadful loss of life

The Picture of London for 1818 wrote:
But the destruction of the Theatre itself formed but a small part of the calamity: an engine had been introduced within the avenue opening from the Piazza, when, dreadful to relate, the covering of the passage fell in, and involved all beneath in the burning rubbish. The remains of fourteen unfortunate sufferers were afterwards dug out, in a most shocking state; and sixteen others, in whom life remained, were sent to the hospital, most miserably mangled and burnt.4
Another account reported ‘twenty-three firemen being killed by the unexpected fall of a part of the ruins.’5

Campbell’s Life of Mrs Siddons stated:
A number of firemen were crushed under the falling-in of the burning roof, and several unfortunate individuals, having approached the conflagration too nearly, were scalded to death by the steam of the water that arose from it. I shudder in calculating the number of victims —they must have amounted to thirty! Many of them were dug out of the ruins in such a state that they could not be identified.6
Harriot Mellon’s concern

Harriot Mellon as Volante  from The Life of Thomas Coutts Banker  by EH Coleridge (1920)
Harriot Mellon as Volante
from The Life of Thomas Coutts Banker
by EH Coleridge (1920)
The fire spread to some of the neighbouring houses which were also burnt down. In her memoirs of the actress Harriot Mellon, who later became the Duchess of St Albans, Mrs Cornwell Baron Wilson wrote:
Miss Mellon, who was a great coward respecting fire, was almost out of her senses at the proximity of the flames to her house in Little Russell Street. But when a report arrived that several walls had fallen in and buried a number of poor creatures, her whole anxiety was for their rescue from their dreadful sufferings, if still alive.
Accordingly, with her usual promptitude, she took every measure to aid the great cause of humanity. The compiler of these volumes, on the evening after the fire, when returning home from school under charge of one of her father’s servants, begged hard to be taken to see the ruins. The crowd was alarming; and the servant carried her as near as was practicable, which was to the theatrical book-seller's shop, nearly opposite, which is still kept there.
Many workmen were engaged in digging out the bodies of the unfortunate persons who were buried under the ruins; and they worked by torchlight at their sad occupation. At the door of the bookseller's shop was placed a large barrel of ale, ordered by Miss Mellon, from which the labourers were supplied by her directions. In the drawing-room window above stood Miss Mellon herself, all anxiety, earnestly urging the men to proceed, and offering five pounds for each of those who were brought out alive, and two pounds for each body of the hapless creatures who perished. She was dressed in a blue satin pelisse, looking lovely in her anxiety; and each time she appeared at the window she was received with animated cheers by the crowd, who seemed ready to worship her.

While remaining there, eight individuals were exhumated, and Miss Mellon distributed her rewards; but life was extinct in all, and they were carried to St Paul's churchyard, Covent Garden.7
The unfortunate Mr Webb

One victim of the catastrophe was only discovered three months after the fire. A report in The Gentleman’s Magazine, dated 10 January 1809, said:
The workmen employed in clearing away the ruins of Covent Garden Theatre at the Piazza door, where the Phoenix engine, with the firemen, were so unfortunately destroyed, dug out, near the cistern, the body of a young man, not burnt, but much bruised. It proves to be the son of Mr Webb, of Tottenham-court-road, and had been missing ever since that dreadful morning; but his parents, until the discovery of the corpse, had flattered themselves with the delusive hope that he had been either trepanned into a regiment of the line, or been impressed into the Navy.8
Irreplaceable losses

The loss of property was estimated at £150,000 of which only £50,000 was covered by insurance. Not only the building, but all its contents were destroyed. This included the organ bequeathed to the theatre by Handel and many pages of unpublished manuscript music. All the scenery, costumes, musical and dramatic libraries were lost. In addition, the wines of the famous Beefsteak Club which were stored there were destroyed.

It was a particular blow to the Kemble family. John Kemble, part-owner and manager, was ruined. He had invested everything and more in the theatre and had not repaid what he had borrowed. But Kemble was fortunate in his patrons, who were eager to provide him with the resources to rebuild the theatre. George, Prince of Wales, gave Kemble £1,000 and the Duke of Northumberland gave him £10,000, refusing to make it a loan.

Kemble’s sister, the great tragedienne Sarah Siddons, lost her entire wardrobe – the costumes and jewellery that she had collected over her long career, including the French Queen’s veil which was worth £1,000 alone.

Mrs Siddons from The Portfolio ed PG Hamerton (1894)
Mrs Siddons from The Portfolio ed PG Hamerton (1894)
A new theatre rises from the ashes

Extra funds were raised by issuing subscription shares of £500 each and work was soon underway to rebuild the theatre. George, Prince of Wales, laid the foundation stone on 31 December 1808, and within ten months, the new theatre was finished. The new Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, opened on 18 September 1809.

Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, from Ackermann's Repository (1809)
Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, from Ackermann's Repository (1809)
Notes
1. From Campbell, Thomas, Life of Mrs Siddons (1834).
2. From Ackermann, Rudolph and Combe, William, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 3 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904).
3. From Campbell, Thomas, Life of Mrs Siddons (1834).
4. Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1818 (1818).
5. Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873, London) Vol 3.
6. From Campbell, Thomas, Life of Mrs Siddons (1834).
7. From Wilson, Mrs Cornwell Baron, Memoirs of Miss Mellon, afterwards Duchess of St Albans new edition Vol 1 (1886).
8. From The Gentleman’s Magazine (1809).

Sources used include:
Ackermann, Rudolph and Combe, William, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 3 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904)
Campbell, Thomas, Life of Mrs Siddons (1834)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1818 (1818)
The Gentleman’s Magazine (1809)
Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873, London) Vol 3
Wilson, Mrs Cornwell Baron, Memoirs of Miss Mellon, afterwards Duchess of St Albans new edition Vol 1 (1886)

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Argyll Rooms in Regency London

The Cyprian's Ball by R Cruikshank in The English Spy by B Blackmantle (1825)
The Cyprian's Ball by R Cruikshank in The English Spy by B Blackmantle (1825)
The Argyll Rooms1 were a fashionable venue for concerts, masquerades and other entertainments, from 1806 when they were set up by Colonel Greville, until the second building burnt down in 1830.

The Fashionable Institution

The Argyll Rooms were originally part of the house of John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll. Some of the Duke’s house was demolished to make way for Little Argyll Street and the north wing was later bought by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Francis Greville for the sum of £70.

By means of borrowed money and subscriptions, Greville refurbished and transformed the house and opened it as The Fashionable Institution in 1806.

According to Old and New London:
The establishment was founded under the auspices of Colonel Greville, a noted sportsman and "man about town" under the Regency, who purchased a large house and turned it into a place of entertainment, as a rival to the Pantheon. The fashionable world worshipped at Colonel Greville's shrine, and its balls, masquerades, and amateur balls soon became part of the recognised amusements of West-end society.2
In 1807 and 1808, Greville was granted an annual licence by the Lord Chamberlain for dancing, burlettas and dramatic performances, but from 1809, the licence was limited to music and dancing with occasional permission for masked balls.

By 1811, Greville was in serious financial difficulties and the following year he went abroad. By this time, his associate Stephen Slade, a glass and china dealer, was already running the rooms and Slade became the owner in 1813. Slade ran the Argyll Rooms until 1819 when they were compulsorily purchased due to John Nash’s redevelopment of Regent Street. Slade received £22,750 in compensation.

What were the Argyll Rooms like?

The Picture of London for 1809 described the rooms:
FASHIONABLE INSTITUTION, ARGYLE STREET.
The fanciful elegance with which the internal parts of this building are fitted up, reflects the highest credit on the taste of Colonel Greville, the founder of the institution, from whose design, and under whose direction, the whole has been executed. From the following description, some idea may be formed of the general effect.

The entrance and lobbies are ornamented with Corinthian pillars, and illuminated with gilt lamps. On the ground floor are three spacious supper rooms; the first of which is of a grey colour, hung with scarlet drapery; the paper of the second, is a stone-colour and green trellis, and the drapery is a rich salmon colour, lined with pea-green; the third, though not so superb as the former, is fitted up in a corresponding style, and the whole are brilliantly illuminated, with glass and gilt lamps and chandeliers.
The grand saloon, which is employed both for the purpose of theatrical representation, and as a ball room, is of an oblong form with elliptical terminations. On each side, and over the entrance, are three tiers of boxes, amounting in the whole to about four and twenty. The first range above the ground tier, is ornamented with elegant antique bass reliefs in bronze; the upper tier is of aetherial blue, decorated with scrolls in stone colour, and both are inclosed with rich gold mouldings. Over each box, is a beautiful circular bronze chandelier, with cut glass pendants; the draperies are of scarlet, and the supporters between the boxes represent the Roman ox, and fasces in bronze and gold.
At the opposite end are the orchestra and stage, over which is the following appropriate motto, “Sollicitae jucunda oblivia vitae.” The walls of the middle space, which is of an ample size, are superbly ornamented with ranges of Corinthian pillars, representing porphyry, with capitals of gold. On the intermediate pannels, which are surrounded with borders of blue and gold, are bass reliefs, in stone colour, as large as life, the subjects of which are admirably adapted to the purpose for which they are employed.
On each side of this magnificent room, are tiers of benches, covered with scarlet, over which are suspended eight superb glass chandeliers, and the whole internal space is marked out with chalk, in the most fanciful manner. Contiguous to this are a refectory, painted with landscapes and wreathes of flowers, and a billiard-room, fitted up with singular neatness. On the other side, is a spacious chamber appropriated to cards, the ceiling of which is richly painted, and the windows are hung with scarlet drapery.
Adjoining this is a small apartment, called the blue room, decorated in the most pleasing and elegant style. The drapery is of light blue, and the sophas with which the room is compleatly surrounded, are all of the same colour; the walls are ornamented with much fancy, to harmonize with the furniture, and in the middle of the ceiling, which represents the open sky, is an eagle suspending a chandelier of bronze and gold. In short, the whole building is fitted up in a manner the most superb and tasteful that can be conceived. The first-rate performers, both vocal and instrumental, are engaged, and theatrical representations, concerts, balls, and masquerades, alternately succeed each other in elegant variety. No expence is spared to render this at once the most splendid and commodious place of amusement in the metropolis. It is supported by subscription amongst the principal nobility, for whose use it is exclusively established.3
The billiard table by T Rowlandson  in The Three Tours of Doctor Syntax by W Combe (1868)
The billiard table by T Rowlandson
in The Three Tours of Doctor Syntax by W Combe (1868)
Entertainment at the Argyll Rooms

The Argyll Rooms were supported by subscriptions. The Picture of London for 1809 listed the rates as:
Ladies – 10 guineas
Gentlemen – 12 guineas
A lady and her unmarried daughter – 16 guineas

Masquerades

The first entertainment Greville held at the Argyll Rooms was a subscription masked ball on 2 June 1806 which was attended by more than 500 people including the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and the Duchess of York. The fancy dress costumes included a mail coach guard, a peasant girl, a sailor, a lame Chelsea pensioner, a Venetian nobleman and Doctor Lancet, who went around feeling the pulse of the ladies.4

Masquerades became a regular feature of the Argyll Rooms. The subscription masquerades were tightly governed, with extra tickets only being offered to those who met with the approval of the lady patronesses, or at the very least, the recommendation of a subscriber who took responsibility for their respectability. This suggests an exclusivity that was akin to that of Almack’s Assembly Rooms.

A masquerade was held on 17 April 1807 and subscribers were requested to apply for their non-transferable masquerade ticket on the morning of the masquerade. An extra 200 tickets, costing two guineas each, were available to non-subscribers, but subject to the approval of the lady patronesses and a committee of subscribers. The transference of a ticket was absolutely forbidden and subscribers were warned that they would forfeit their whole subscription if they broke the rules.5

The subscription masquerade and fancy dress ball held on 9 June 1813 was held under the patronage of the Countess of Jersey, the Countess of Cholmondeley, the Countess Cowper, Viscountess Melbourne, Lady Boringdon, Mrs Thomas Hope and Mrs Boehm. An advertisement in The Times stated that tickets could not be bought unless the purchaser had a voucher from a patroness.6

Other masquerades held at the Argyll Rooms were less exclusive. A ‘benefit masqued ball’ was held by Stephen Slade at the Argyll Rooms on 6 June 1810 and people had to leave their name and address at the office in order ‘to prevent the intrusion of improper persons.’ Gentlemen’s tickets cost £1 11s 6d and ladies’ tickets cost £1 1s. Tickets included refreshments, supper, old port, sherry, Madeira and claret.7

A masquerade held the following year advertised that tickets were available from a masquerade warehouse in the Strand ‘as usual’ along with dominos, masks, hats and fancy dresses for hire.8

Masquerade, Argyll Rooms  Print by T Lane Published by George Hunt (1826) © British Museum
Masquerade, Argyll Rooms
Print by T Lane Published by George Hunt (1826) © British Museum
The Cyprian’s Ball

According to The English Spy, in 1818, a courtesan named Augusta Corri (who called herself Lady Hawke, claiming that one of her lovers, Lord Hawke, had married her) held a grand masked ball or Venetian carnival at the Argyll Rooms:
A few amorous noblemen and wealthy dissolutes, ever on the qui vive for novelty, projected and sanctioned the celebrated Venetian carnival given at the Argyll-rooms under the patronage of her ladyship and four other equally celebrated courtezans. Of course, the female invitations were confined exclusively to the sisterhood … Nor was there any lack of distinguished personages of the other sex; almost all the leading rou├ęs of the day being present … the elegance and superior arrangement of this Cytherean fete was in the most exquisite taste; and such was the number of applications for admissions, and the reported splendour of the preparations, that great influence in a certain court was necessary to insure a safe passport into the territories of the Paphian goddess.9
Robert Cruikshank’s illustration of The Cyprian’s Ball is shown at the top of this page.

Theatrical performances

On 20 July 1807, Greville opened his ‘New Private Saloon Theatre, Argyle Street’ for the first time, with a benefit performance by Frederick Schirmer’s family company of the German opera The Three Sisters and the English farce, Lovers’ Quarrels. Tickets were priced at half a guinea each and the performance began at 8 o’clock.10

Sarah Siddons at the Argyll Rooms

Sarah Siddons from The Portfolio, Monographs on Artistic Subjects edited by PG Hamerton (1894)
Sarah Siddons from The Portfolio, Monographs
 on Artistic Subjects edited by PG Hamerton (1894)
Sarah Siddons was the most famous tragic actress of her time. She was widely acclaimed for her roles in Shakespearian plays, particularly as Lady Macbeth. I chose her as one of my twelve women in What Regency Women Did For Us because of her role in helping to make acting a respectable profession for women.

In the seasons following her retirement from the stage in 1812, Sarah Siddons gave some public readings from Shakespeare and Milton at the Argyll Rooms. The size of the venue was ideal for the performances, allowing the audience to see and appreciate all of Sarah Siddons’s wonderful facial expressions and the readings proved very popular.

Concerts

The Argyll Rooms were a popular venue for concerts and lectures.

The celebrated Madame Catalani gave a grand concert at the rooms on Friday 12 June 1807. Tickets were one guinea each.11

On 8 March 1813, the newly formed Philharmonic Society gave its first concert at the Argyll Rooms. They continued to perform at the Argyll Rooms until 1830.

Lord Byron on the Argyll Rooms

Lord Byron from Literary Celebrities published by W&R Chambers (1887)
Lord Byron from Literary Celebrities
published by W&R Chambers (1887)
Lord Byron referred to the Argyll Rooms in his satirical poem English Bards and Scotch Reviewers in 1809:
Or, hail at once the patron and the pile
Of vice and folly, Greville and Argyle!
Where yon proud palace Fashion's hallowed fane,
Spreads wide her portals for the motley train,
Behold the new Petronius of the day,
The Arbiter of pleasure and of play!
There the hired Eunuch, the Hesperian choir,
The melting lute, the soft lascivious lyre,
The song from Italy, the step from France,
The midnight orgy, and the mazy dance,
The smile of beauty, and the flush of wine,
For fops, fools, gamesters, knaves, and Lords combine;
Each to his humour, - Comus all allows;
Champaign, dice, music, or your neighbour’s spouse.
Talk not to us, ye starving sons of trade!
Of piteous ruin, which ourselves have made:
In Plenty’s sunshine Fortune’s minions bask,
Nor think of Poverty, except “en masque,”
When for the night some lately titled ass
Appears the beggar which his grandsire was.
The curtain dropped, the gay Burletta o’er,
The audience take their turn upon the floor;
Now round the room the circling dow’gers sweep.
Now in loose waltz the thin-clad daughters leap:
The first in lengthen’d line majestic swim,
The last display the free, unfettered limb:
Those for Hibernia’s lusty sons repair
With art the charms which Nature could not spare:
These after husbands wing their eager flight.
Nor leave much mystery for the nuptial night.12
The new rooms (1820-1830)

View of Regent Street showing Argyll Concert Room on the right  Print by C Heath after W Westall   Published by Hurst, Robinson & Co (1825) © British Museum
View of Regent Street showing Argyll Concert Room on the right
Print by C Heath after W Westall
Published by Hurst, Robinson & Co (1825) © British Museum
The Argyll Rooms were acquired by the New Street Commissioners in 1819 and the Regent’s Harmonic Institution (later the Royal Harmonic Institution) became the new tenants. The rooms were rebuilt on the east side of Regent Street according to Nash’s design.

Leigh’s New Picture of London (1827) described the new rooms:
Argyle Rooms, Regent-street.
This rendezvous of fashion was, a few years since, a private residence, which was purchased by Colonel Greville, and converted into a place of entertainment, frequented only by the upper classes of society. In 1818, the Royal Harmonic Institution took down the whole, and rebuilt it from designs by Mr. Nash. These very splendid rooms consist of a suite of four; a ball-room between 50 and 60 feet long; a drawing-room and ante-room, both of which are superbly furnished; and the grand concert-room, a parallelogram, extended at one end by the orchestra, and at the other by four tiers of boxes. The rooms are warmed and ventilated by the Derby process, so that a constant current of fresh air of moderate temperature is introduced by a simple and safe apparatus. The front of the building is cased with stucco, and adorned with a portico. The usual price of tickets for the concerts held here is 10s 6d.13
There were several long rooms adjacent to the Argyle Rooms which housed the Harmonic Institution ‘for printing and publishing elegant and correct editions of the best musical works.’13

The new rooms were destroyed by fire on 6 February 1830. Although rebuilt, the Philharmonic Society moved to new premises and the venue was turned into shops and eventually replaced by Dickins & Jones in 1919.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read about other places of entertainment in Regency London:
Covent Garden Theatre
Drury Lane Theatre
Haymarket Theatre
Lyceum Theatre

Notes
(1) Sometimes spelt Argyle Rooms.
(2) From Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873, London) Vol 4.
(3) From Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1809 (1809).
(4) The Times, 4 June 1806 from The Times Digital Archive.
(5) The Times 16 April 1807 from The Times Digital Archive.
(6) The Times 3 June 1813 from The Times Digital Archive.
(7) The Times 31 May 1810 from The Times Digital Archive.
(8) The Times 22 June 1811 from The Times Digital Archive.
(9) From Blackmantle, Bernard, The English Spy, illustrated by Robert Cruikshank (1825).
(10) The Times 20 July 1807 from The Times Digital Archive.
(11) The Times 10 June 1807 from The Times Digital Archive.
(12) From Byron, Lord, English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers; a satire (3rd edition 1810).
(13) From Leigh, Samuel, Leigh's New Picture of London (1827).

Sources used include:
Blackmantle, Bernard, The English Spy, illustrated by Robert Cruikshank (1825).
Byron, Lord, English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers; a satire (3rd edition 1810)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1809 (1809)
Leigh, Samuel, Leigh's New Picture of London (1827)
Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873, London) Vol 4

'Argyll Street Area', in Survey of London: Volumes 31 and 32, St James Westminster, Part 2, ed. F H W Sheppard (London, 1963), pp. 284-307. British History Online [accessed 8 June 2017].
The Times digital archive

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace

Sign outside Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, London

What is the Royal Mews?

The Royal Mews is a department of the Queen’s household and is responsible for all travel by road undertaken by the Queen and her family. It houses the Queen’s carriages and carriage horses as well as a fleet of cars.

Diamond Jubilee State Coach at Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Diamond Jubilee State Coach at Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
The history of the Royal Mews

The King’s Mews goes back to the 14th century when Richard II was on the throne, and was originally at Charing Cross, where the National Gallery is now. It was the place where the king kept his falcons and the name mews comes from the falcons mewing, that is, moulting. Henry VIII rebuilt the mews as stables in 1534 but kept the name ‘mews’ and it has been associated with horses ever since.

The quadrangle of the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
The quadrangle of the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
The Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace

In 1761, George III bought Buckingham House for his wife, Queen Charlotte. He commissioned the building of the Riding School, which is the oldest part of the Mews. It was designed by the architect Sir William Chambers and built in 1765-6.

After George IV succeeded to the throne in 1820, he decided to rebuild Buckingham House and make it his royal palace. The Royal Mews was built in 1822-5 and was designed by the architect of Buckingham Palace, John Nash. Unfortunately, the foundations were faulty, there was a drainage problem, and the original building work was shoddy so that it was constantly under repair. 

Nash built the Doric-style arch topped with a clock tower leading into the quadrangle of the Mews, but the pediment carving portraying the tale of Hercules catching Thracian horses was added later, in 1859.

The Master of the Horse

Traditionally, the Royal Mews was under the control of the Master of the Horse – a very senior position in the royal household. The Master of the Horse is no longer a hands-on role, and the Royal Mews is now run by the Crown Equerry.

What can you see today?

The Riding School

The Riding School at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
The Riding School at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
 Semi-state Landau

Semi-state Landau at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Semi-state Landau at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Scottish State Coach

Built in 1830 for the Duke of Cambridge, it was used by his family before being sold to the 9th Earl of Albermarle. The earl converted it into a semi-state landau before giving it to Queen Mary in 1920.

Scottish State Coach at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Scottish State Coach at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Queen Alexandra’s Coach

Used to take the crown to the Houses of Parliament for the state opening of parliament.

Queen Alexandra's Coach at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Queen Alexandra's Coach at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Irish State Coach

Originally built in Dublin in 1803-4, the Irish State Coach was bought by Queen Victoria after seeing it at an exhibition in 1852.

Irish State Coach at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Irish State Coach at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Australian State Coach

A gift to the Queen from the people of Australia, this coach is normally on display in the Royal Mews, but is currently part of the 2017 exhibition at Buckingham Palace, Royal Gifts, until 1 October.

Australian State Coach on display at Buckingham Palace in 2015
Australian State Coach on display at Buckingham Palace in 2015
Glass Coach

Used by many royal brides to travel to their weddings including Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.

Glass Coach at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Glass Coach at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Glass Coach at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Glass Coach at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Diamond Jubilee State Coach

This coach is a travelling time capsule. It is full of historical artefacts including a hollow crown on its roof made from wood from HMS Victory and a digital copy of the Domesday book.

Diamond Jubilee State Coach at Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Diamond Jubilee State Coach at Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
 The Gold State Coach

The Gold State Coach is on display in the former State Carriage House. It was commissioned by George III, and was first used by the king to travel to the House of Lords to open parliament on 25 November 1762. Despite appearances, the coach is not made of gold, but is gilded all over, with external panels painted by Giovanni Battista Cipriani.

The coach has been used for every coronation since that of George IV in 1821. There is a frieze around the walls showing William IV’s coronation procession in 1831, painted by Richard Barrett Davis (1782-1854).

Gold State Coach at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Gold State Coach at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Royal car

Royal car at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Royal car at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
The State Stables

The State Stables have a replica landau that visitors may sit in to get an idea of the suspension (or lack of it) in a royal carriage. There are also opportunities here to dress up as a footman and learn how to harness a horse. 

The State Stables at Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
The State Stables at Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Rachel in the replica landau in the State Stables, Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Rachel in the replica landau
in the State Stables,
Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
The working stables

The stables house the Queen’s carriage horses including the Queen’s famous Windsor Greys and Cleveland Bays.

The stables at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
The stables at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
The harness room at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
The harness room at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Last visited for bloggers' breakfast on 1 August 2017
All photographs © Regencyhistory.net