Friday, August 8, 2008

The Queen’s Mews (Part II)

Sadly Buckingham Palace wasn’t open yet for guests. I was ten days too early. Depressing, I know, but I survived through tears and howls of anguish. What was even more depressing is that they were going to be hosting an exhibition on state banquets as a temporary exhibit. I would have enjoyed that. A lot. Oh well. I’m sure one day I’ll get to attend a real one with the Queen present! J (Bonus Points to whoever can identify the second tense used in my third sentence of this paragraph).

After a quick photo-prohibited tour of the Queen’s Gallery (a selection of paintings, furniture, jewels, etc. from the Queen’s personal collection), I went for a relaxing tour of the Queen’s Mews (stables). I was blown away by how many coaches the Queen has and the history and purpose of each.

I can’t honestly remember which this one was. There were several very similar: the Irish Coach, the Scottish Coach, the Australian Coach, the Glass Coach, and Queen Alexandra’s State Coach to name a few. Each had interesting bits about it. One of them is the Queen’s favorite because it has electric heating and cooling. Interesting for a horse-drawn carriage, eh? The Australian one was a gift from Her Majesty’s realm of Australia on occasion of her 50th anniversary on the Throne (I think). However, the Queen didn’t want Australian citizens to have to pay for it through taxes, so it was completely funded by donations.

I also found out why Wales is never represented on the flag, crest, or any other object of the United Kingdom, but England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland always are: Wales is a principality, not a kingdom, and therefore isn’t afforded equal status as the three kingdoms. Interesting to me since Wales now has its own Parliament and is, arguably, freer (more free?) than England within the United Kingdom (England still falls solely under British Parliament, with representatives from all four countries voting on issues that only affect England while each of the other entities has a local Parliament). British politics are interesting. And somewhat sad.

But onto the rest of the Mews! Here’s a royal carriage for young princes and/or princesses. It has been pulled by goats, sheep, donkeys, big dogs, and finally ponies.

Here’s the front picture of the huge State Coach used only at coronations or, sometimes, weddings. The Queen did use it on her Golden Jubilee as well, but that was the first time it had been used since her ascension to the Throne. Before I forget, the woman in the front was our charming tour guide. She has a beautiful accent and seemed to know everything about the royal family. Sadly, she had to deal with some spoiled Yankee brats in our tour. I wanted to ask their parents to PLEASE get them under control but, alas, I did not.

And here’s the side view. One of the British kings created this coach to rival Louis XIV of France, so that’s why it looks as if it belongs in Versailles rather than Buckingham.

The Greek god of the sea shows British navel superiority. All of the weapons illustrated have been broken to signify the end of one of the conflicts with France. I think it was the War of the Roses, but I’m not sure.

In case you were wondering, the wheels are, in fact, slanted; it is no fault of the picture-taker. This apparently relieves pressure on the axles so the wheels don’t snap under the several tons of weight. This coach is by far the heaviest in the Mews (probably the world) and has to have a team of eight horses to pull it!

There are only five cars in the Queen’s employ. Queen Victoria famously asked the Keeper of the Mews to please never allow those “horrible machines” into the royal stables. It didn’t quite turn out as she would have wanted; her son immediately added one or two for his use upon his mother’s death.

So that’s the Queen’s Mews.

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