Sunday, 27 July 2008

The Royal Mews, London

There is nothing like living history to catch my attention and the Royal Mews at the back of Buckingham Palace is a wonderful example. Home to Royal transport including horses, carriages and cars and also the people who love and care for them, the Royal Mews is very much a working stables.

The guides at the Royal Mews are, without doubt, the smartest in London. Their black and red uniforms are perfectly tailored and pressed and there is no question that they are a cut above the regular guides found in other London tourist attractions. They are also unbelievably helpful: after having my bag scanned a lá airport security, I was offered an audio guide which was actually placed over my head for me!!! That’s what I call customer service!

The horses housed in the stables are so beautifully groomed that, at first, I didn’t realise that they were real as they stood almost motionless, ignoring the visitors! I’m not a particularly horsey person but these Royal mounts are pretty special – imagine the things that they have seen! The groomsmen and other staff responsible for all Royal road travel live at the Mews in apartments above the stables. It is not unusual for several generations of one family to live and work here.

The Royal Carriages are what most people want to see when they visit the Royal Mews and these are housed around the main courtyard. The first thing I noticed was just how tiny the carriages are – particularly the 19th Century Glass Coach (above left) which was used by both the Queen and Princess Diana on their wedding days. It is little wonder that Diana’s huge wedding dress was so screwed up when she arrived at St Paul’s Cathedral.

As if proof were needed that this is a working stable, in the harness room where the leather pieces are made and repaired, a man was working. I stood and watched this skilled craftsman at work and then wondered if he felt like an exhibit in a zoo! If he did, he didn’t show it and studiously continued with his work.

The climax of the Royal Mews is definitely the Gold State Coach (right) which caused those around me to gasp at first sight! If it weren’t so magnificent it would be vulgar! Built in the 18th Century for a whopping £7000, it has been used at every Royal Coronation since then. The carriage itself is massive, ornate and so gold that it doesn’t look real! It is hard to believe that something so genuinely grand exists even when you are stood in front of it! It would take 3 whole days to get the Gold State Coach out of its garage. The process would require opening the secret doors, disconnecting the central heating, removing pictures and slowly turning the coach until it could be moved out.

The Royal Mews is a fascinating place to visit. Knowing that the horses, carriages, cars and coaches are still used and that the Mews is the hub of Royal road travel makes it all the more special.

The Royal Mews is open 7 days a week until October 11am – 4pm.
Adult Entry = £7.50

London Pass holders receive free entry to the Royal Mews and also the Queen’s Gallery next door.

No comments: