Photo by Cpl Rob Kane MOD © Crown copyright 2022
When King Charles III and Queen Camilla are crowned on 6 May, many Coronation traditions will take place for the first time in 70 years. Among them will be the use of the Gold State Coach for a Coronation procession.
However, there is expected to be a modern twist on this centuries old part of the ceremonial. The King and Queen Consort won’t use the 260-year-old coach to travel from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey for the ceremony. They are expected to head to the Coronation by car. However, the coach will be waiting for the newly crowned Monarch and Consort outside the Abbey as they make their way back to the Palace.
The coach has been used at every coronation since 1821. It has conveyed George IV, William IV, Victoria, Edward VII and George V as well as George VI and Queen Elizabeth II.
Designed by William Chambers and built by Samuel Butler in 1762, the coach was made to transport British monarchs. Despite its golden appearance, the coach isn’t actually made of solid gold. Rather, it’s made of giltwood and a thin layer of gold leaf is placed over the wood. On the inside, it is lined and upholstered with velvet and satin. It also features painted panels of Roman gods and goddesses. If you’re not looking at the panels, one might notice three cherubs on the roof. Those represent England, Scotland, and Ireland.
Queen Elizabeth II used the coach on her Coronation Day in June 1953 as she traveled from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey. She also used it in her return trip. It’s reported Royal Mews staff strapped a hot water bottle under the seat as the day was unseasonally cold and wet. With the coach being seven metres long and 3.6 metres tall as well as weighing four tonnes, it takes eight horses to pull it. Because of its age and weight, it is only ever used at walking pace.
The coach has been used at other events including the State Openings of Parliament. Queen Victoria made it known she was not fond of the coach and after Prince Albert’s death in 1861, she opened Parliament seven times and did not make use of the coach. Queen Elizabeth II has also expressed her level of fondness for the coach. In a 2018 interview, she said the ride during her coronation was “horrible” due to a lack of suspension.
The coach is also used for celebrations such as Jubilees. Most recently, the coach was a part of the Platinum Jubilee Pageant in which it was fitted with a hologram of Queen Elizabeth II (on her coronation day) in the coach windows.
The coach is the third oldest surviving coach in the UK behind the Speaker of the House of Common’s Coach, and the Lord Mayor of London’s Coach.