Who hasn’t heard about the royal wedding
taking place on April 29 at the Westminster Abbey
in England? We will all be tuning in around the globe to watch commoner, Kate Middleton, and Prince William, exchange their wedding vows. I say, “Commoner,” when referring to Kate, but there really is nothing common about her and certainly nothing common about the ceremony that will take place on that day. So much is being said about Kate, the dress, the cake and William, but not much is known about the horse carriages which will be used on that very special day. This is my area of expertise.
I have spent my whole life around horses and carriages, which has greatly influenced my artwork over the past 50 years with an extensive horse and carriage painting
collection. In earlier years, I worked for a family who restored carriages. I have rebuilt wagon wheels, upholstered seats, built folding tops and worked my way through a ton of sandpaper. In fact, I have my own collection of carriages, wagons and sleighs, but of course it pales next to what is housed in the Royal Mews (stables) at Buckingham Palace
There are over 100 horse-drawn vehicles in the carriage wing of the Royal Mews, and five of these carriages will be used for Prince William and Kate’s royal wedding. They are Landaus and quite appropriate for the occasion. It is a very sociable carriage because the two seats face each other which make the Landau a type of vis-à-vis. A Landau is a four-wheeled, convertible carriage. The soft, folding top is divided into two sections, front and rear, and latches in the center. Both sections can be let down so that they lay perfectly flat; however, the front section has the added ability to be completely removed or left in place.
The Landau carriage is typically pulled by either a pair of horses, or what they call a four-in-hand. It may or may not have a coachmen’s driving seat and when it does not have one, then there is the need for postillions. For each pair of horses, one postillion sits on the near horse (facing forward on the left side) and drives from the horses’ back instead of from the box seat of the carriage.
Kate has chosen the 1902 State Postillion Landau for her coach, which was built by Adams and Hooper for
King Edward Vll and is the most magnificent example of the coachbuilders’ craft. This coach is driven regularly because it is the coach the Queen customarily uses to meet foreign heads of state. The coach is painted in a lighter shade of maroon than the other coaches, and is richly adorned with gold leaf and is upholstered in crimson satin. It will be drawn by six of the Windsor Greys (team of grey horses used by royalty) requiring three postillions.
The second and third carriages are Ascot Landaus, and will carry the best man, maid of honor and the brides’ maids. There are five Ascots in the collection. They are very elegant with basketwork (cane panel) sides, and are smaller and lighter than the State Landau that Kate and William will be riding in. Traditionally, Ascot carriages are used for the Queen’s procession up the course at the Royal Ascot race.
The fourth royal wedding horse carriage
will carry Queen Elizabeth and her husband, The Duke of Edinburgh. This is the Semi State Landau of which there are also five of in the Royal Mews. This carriage was Queen Victoria’s favorite and was built by Barker and Company around 1866.
The fifth and final Landau carriage is also a Semi-State Landau, and was built by Peters and Company. This carriage will carry Prince William’s father and wife, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, and Kate’s parents, Michael and Carole Middleton.