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History

The Gold State Coach, the piece of history to star in Charles III’s Coronation

On 6 May 2023, the world will watch as King Charles III is coronated alongside Queen Consort Camilla. During their coronation, the world will also see a symbol of royal history, The Gold State Coach.

The enclosed, eight-horse-drawn carriage was commissioned in 1760 by Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings, for King George III. Samuel Butler was the one to build it in one of his London workshops. It was commissioned for £7,562 (£3.54 million, $4.188 million in 2022) and completed two years later in 1762.

The coach weighs four tonnes and measures 29 feet (8.8 m) long and 12 feet (3.7) high. Italian painter Giovanni Battista Cipriani had the honour of painting the featured panels on the coach.

One will also notice rich gilded sculptures, including three cherubs on the roof (representing England, Ireland, and Scotland.) The three cherubs carry the Imperial Crown and hold the sceptre, sword, and badge associated with representing knighthood. There are also four tritons at each corner. The tritons are meant to represent Britain’s imperial power.

The coach will be pulled by a team of eight horses wearing the Red Morocco harness. A coachman initially drove the coach, but now, the horses are position ridden in four pairs. Because of the coach’s weight, it can only be pulled at a walk.

The coach is notorious for its uncomfortable ride.

King William IV, a former naval officer, compared being driven in the coach to being on board a ship “tossing in a rough sea.” Queen Victoria refused to ride in it because of the cabin’s “distressing oscillation.”

And Queen Elizabeth II said her coronation journey in the coach was “not very comfortable” and “horrible.” This could be why she didn’t use it for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 at 86. However, the coach was featured in her Silver and Golden Jubilee celebrations. As for the Platinum Jubilee, the coach was brought into the streets of London, featuring a projection of a young Queen on the day of her coronation.

When not used for events, The Gold State Coach is housed at the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace and is on public view.

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About author

My name is Sydney Zatz and I am a University of Iowa graduate. I graduated with a degree in journalism and sports studies, and a minor in sport and recreation management. A highlight of my college career was getting the chance to study abroad in London and experiencing royal history firsthand. I have a passion for royals, royal history, and journalism, which led me to want to write for Royal Central.