The coronation procession of King Charles III means the public will see two state coaches carrying Their Majesties the 1.3mile journey between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. The Gold State Coach and the Diamond Jubilee State Coach both play a part in the spectacle of royal occasions. But is the Gold State Coach solid gold? What is it like to sit inside? This is your guide to these two coronation carriages.
The royal role of the Gold State Coach
Built in 1762 to carry kings and queens, the Gold State Coach is the third oldest in the UK, and certainly the grandest. It’s been used in every coronation since 1831 for the coronation of William IV.
In impressive contrast to its traditional roles, the coach also rode empty, with a hologram of Queen Elizabeth II projected into the coach windows for the Platinum Jubilee Pageant in 2022. For King Charles III coronation, the King to use the Gold State Coach for the coronation procession only, which is the return journey from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace.
Facts about the Gold State Coach
The Gold State Coach isn’t solid gold – it’s wood covered in a thin layer of gold leaf and decorated with tritons and cherubs. With a satin and velvet interior, it cost £7,661, 18 shillings and 11 pence to make back in the 18th century. That’s the equivalent of about £2 million today.
The carriage is bigger than you might expect, at 3.6 metres tall, 7 metres long and weighing 4 tonnes. That’s why it needs eight horses to pull it, even though it moves at a walking pace.
An uncomfortable ride!
Despite its grand appearance, the experience inside is notoriously troublesome. Queen Victoria complained of “distressing oscillations,” while George VI described his time inside as “one of the most uncomfortable rides I have ever had in my life.” King William IV also compared riding inside to a ship “tossing in a rough sea.” Queen Elizabeth II described the ride as “horrible” and said “It’s not meant for travelling in at all...it’s only sprung on leather."
The Diamond Jubilee State Coach
Unlike the beautiful but bumpy Gold State Coach, the Diamond Jubilee State Coach offers monarchs and guests a calmer riding experience thanks to hydraulic stabilisers, heating and air conditioning. King Charles III decided this coach would be the one to take Queen Camilla and himself to Westminster Abbey from Buckingham Palace for the King’s Procession, arriving perhaps a little less travel sick than his predecessors.
Facts about the Gold State Coach
First used at the State Opening of Parliament in 2014, the 5 metre long, 3 tonne coach is smaller than the Gold State Coach and requires six, rather than eight horses to pull it. It was built to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. To give the coach historic royal significance, it was crafted the traditional way and with historically important objects donated from more than 100 historic sites across Britain built into its structure.
Visiting the royal carriages
When the coaches aren’t taking part in a royal procession, they live at the Royal Mews, along with the royal cars, carriage horses and the king’s coachmen livery. You can book Royal Mews visits on the days it’s open to the public.
Get the royal treatment when you stay at one of our handsome heritage hotels: The Clermont, Victoria or The Clermont, Charing Cross.