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The Gold State Coach

Do any of you know about antique coaches’ suspensions? The BBC commentators during the Coronation today mentioned what an uncomfortable ride the Gold State Coach gives because of its suspension. It was built in 1761-62.

The commentators also talked about the modern Diamond Jubilee State Coach which has not only better suspension but also air-conditioning!

Some of us got to wondering if a modern-day coach-builder could do anything about the Gold State Coach’s suspension. A new chassis, maybe?

I imagine that if anything could be done it would have been done. But we were just wondering …

Touch the Gold State Coach at your peril!! It is the most fantastic antique and an almost unique survival. So no, not going to be modernized. Imagine putting a new chassis on a vintage 1929 Rolls Royce Phantom 1.

The State Coach is very rarely used, precisely because it is such a status vehicle and is rather like a moving palace. The other two great State Coaches are that of the Lord Mayor (of London) and the Speaker of the House of Commons. They are all of a very similar age and are used in procession about once a year. The Royal Collection contains an amazing array of carriages, many of which are used daily. They are kept in the Royal Mews which are open to the public. It is well worth visiting, if ever in London.

Steel springs on vehicles weren’t invented until the end of the 18th century. They made carriages so much more comfortable that “driving” became a status sport. As an example, look at the George Stubb’s painting: The Prince of Wales’ Phaeton (sorry, you’ll have to Google because I don’t know how to add that link). Him tipping it over driving in the company of his mistress was the source of much mockery by his peers and in the press at the time. Royal scandals are another tradition.

The first monarch to have a “coach” was Elizabeth 1 and she really played up the status of such a modern, trendy vehicle. In a public procession she would have several coaches, one with her in and the rest empty, all fabulously decorated with jewels, silks, feathers and the horses with feathers, ribbons and dyed manes and tails. However, a coach suspended on leather straps, on Tudor roads, was so uncomfortable the Queen would only get in for a very short public period. Her Household Accounts show endless and fruitless attempts to improve comfort by e.g. padding the wheels with various materials such as feathers.

The Diamond Jubilee Coach takes full advantage of modern technology combined with traditional skills such as painting and gilding. Six horses instead of eight and I suspect two of those are show rather than draft.


I really need to ask this question (will wear the dumb*ss tag)!

What on earth is the set up to stop those carriages from bumping into the Windsor Greys’ behinds? I watched on TV, looked at stills, googled. I am NOT a driver (clearly) :grimacing:


I’ll hope @Willesdon has this answer too.
Or maybe @goodhors?
I’d hope some braking system was in use, even as early as the century the Gold Standard Coach was made.
If not, then The Most Skilled Driver must have been needed to slow his Leaders & Swing team so Wheelers weren’t “goosed” as the humongous carriage slowed. :astonished:

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Its brakes are operated by the grooms.


Interesting reminder that coaching was an era between when roads were passable enough and the arrival of the rail roads. Coaches developed to be long distance transport with commercial routes and inns where horses were changed out. So ceremonial coaches would develop along with the commercial technology. Keeping a coach for city travel to parties was a very high status expensive thing in 19th century London.

So it makes sense that a coach was new technology for Elizabeth I in the 1560s. But that the state of the roads meant most people would still ride to travel distances.

I think the great coaching era was mid 1700s to mid 1800s, then the railway takes over.


Thank you :slight_smile:

So much for my research skills. With a nod to @2DogsFarm, it must be one of The Nine Most Skilled Walking Groomsmen who leap into action should the brake need to be applied!


Details of the coach;

It just struck me that all references to the Monarch have had to be changed from "The Queen’ to “The King”. Must be an enormous task, I was wondering if they have it automated in some way.

This gives more detail;

There is a decorated lever on this side that the groom uses.

Thanks everyone who found articles, posted photos, so we could learn more details about the Gold State Coach! I found all of them interesting and informative!!

The brake details were something I had never seen before, nice to learn and be able to share in the future! I corrected my post on brakes, to say the Gold State Coach had footman controlled brakes, back in the Breeching Question post.

I was at a clinic most of the weekend, so I have to get Coronation details by watching various videos. An amazing spectacle to see, with the myriad of preparation and details to cover, to have things go smoothly!


Thank you for posting those.

The State coach is so heavy it never goes faster than a walk. All the postillions are skilled horsemen but so are most of the people in their flashy livery walking in the vicinity of the coach. They are trained for emergencies.

The Royal Mews are expert at training and preparing the horses for these big events. There were full rehearsals with the horses for three (I think) nights before the actual event. Feeding is carefully balanced with exercise. The individual needs of each horse is well understood. The staff have been known to ride a too bouncy character for two or so hours before going out on a big show.


Thanks for the update & added info :blush:
Even Walk Only with that heavy a vehicle I’d expect forward momentum would require braking.
I know in daily driving, brakes just stop a carriage from running up into the horse on a downward incline.

You may have noticed they did not get it stopped at the perfect spot when arriving at the Abbey and had to back it up a bit.


Can we discuss the suspension on this coach compared to that of the Gold State Coach? I think this is a newer model, but maybe of the same century or half-century?

I found it at the Frey Carriage Company website –

This one appears to have steel springs.

That is a nineteenth century Stagecoach or a later replica. Probably one used for private driving. It has all the advantages of technical innovations, such as steel springs and breaks, made in coach building since the mid-eighteenth century when the Gold State Coach was made. It is also designed to be a practical travelling vehicle to carry as many people as possible, inside and on top, rather than being a mobile palace, which is what a state coach is in effect. Even the decoration is smart but subdued rather than being as flamboyant and rococo as is possible.

The stage coach had a team of four, a driver and an assistant to blow a coach horn, grab horses in emergency, hold on to the driver when he was too drunk to sit upright. Outside seats were cheaper as passengers were exposed to all the weather. In the UK stages were 16 miles long before the teams were changed. On the most important routes, with stagecoach names like “The Flyer” or “Comet”, a change of horses was as fast and coordinated as a FI racing tyre change. The best horses were used on the most prominent routes and there was pride in their quality. As the animals became worn out they moved to night time use, or onto secondary routes. The average life expectancy for stagecoach horses was four years. It is also the origin of the term “died in harness” for a person who dies at work, doing their job. During the “Coaching Age”, driving a stagecoach was a highly skilled, high profile job so it also became fashionable for wealthy young men to do it to. The exclusive “Four In Hand Club” held rallies in Hyde Park, another opportunity for conspicuous consumption by the really rich. Lots of prints and pictures if you Google. The railways came mid-19th century and quickly killed off stagecoaches between major cities. They are still seen today as show vehicles.

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Yes i thought it looked like a post coach or mail coach. Like the ones on Christmas cards. I remember Jane Austen writing about these coaches, not very many years after 1762, but i can’t tell by looking which particular decade. I need passengers’ clothes to give me a clue.
I think I’ve seen one at Devon or someplace similar… PA not England.

And a very fine hand brake operated by the driver !

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Stage coaches were operating in the American West in the late 1800s long after they’d been displaced in Britain by the rail network.