Sitting in the Maxillofacial Unit at Leicester Royal Infirmary on Wednesday I was watching TV as I waited to see the consultant [medical update; he looked at X-rays, took sharp intake of breath, and the Op is scheduled for July 10th. You do not need the gory details!]
Anyway, my mind was distracted as I waited by watching the Stat Opening of Parliament. I am utterly overwhelmed by the new State Coach, it ticks all my boxes for historical wonderment.
Above you see Aussie Jim Frecklington and his artist Paula Church – they have constructed this “Coach Britannia” in which the Queen rode down the Mall this week. Only the second royal coach to be built in the last 100 years – and boy, has he worked hard on the details
Frecklington said: "I wanted to create something very special to mark the Queen's reign. Our present Queen will go down in history as one of the greatest monarchs that's ever lived and I thought something very special – a tangible item – should be produced. The crown on the roof features wood from Lord Nelson's ship; in British history he will go down as one of the great heroes of this nation. In 1922 there was a major refit of the ship and I learnt the admiralty had put some of that timber away. I learned who was in possession of that timber, I approached them and asked if they would donate that piece of timber."
You can read the whole story here – but do mute your sound first, or you will may get irritated by all the Very British Music!! TheCoach has an aluminium body finished in black painted with the Royal insignia, set with gold-plated brass coach lamps incorporating Edinburgh crystal lenses engraved with the Royal Arms. The interior features Australian cedar inlaid with over 100 parquetry panels from historic British sites. Interior linings and upholstery are light gold Sudbury silk [from Suffolk] woven with roses, thistles, flax and leeks and with the Royal Arms. The roof is surmounted the National Plant symbols around a crown carved in wood from HMS Victory. The crown holds a tiny capsule containing gold, frankincense and myrrh. The coach body is hung from a carved and gilt Australian spotted gum curved perch. The vehicle is 18ft long overall, 7ft 2in wide and 10ft 8in high.
The bit about ‘historic sites’ is fascinating, because inside, there are tiny squares of wood from all sorts of locations [list here] A bit of Newton’s apple tree, timber from the Mary Rose…some of them are of particular interest to me because of family links, e.g.
- SS Great Eastern [great grandfather sailed on her]
- Bletchley Park [Mum the codebreaker]
- Oxford University [Bob’s MA, my PGCE]
- Rugby School [niece a student, and SIL on staff]
- Coventry Cathedral [my degree ceremony here]
There is a fragment of musketball from Waterloo, a bolt from a Spitfire, a piece of bronze from the cannon which is used to make all the Victoria Cross medals, a piece of the Stone of Scone, and much more. I am impressed at the breadth of Jim’s imagination, and artful acquisition of all these little artefacts. He has combined Australian and British craftsmanship to create this amazing vehicle – which incorporates many modern comforts. As well as riding in a dazzling ‘museum’ he has used a 360-degree ‘coachcam’ offering a monarch’s-eye view of the procession, gold-plated hydraulics, and motor-racing technology.
Her Majesty looks fairly cheerful anyway. It is good for a lady in her eighties to go out for a nice ride through London occasionally. Or does her trip from Buck House to The Palace of Westminster make her “A commuter en route to work”?
I am just as happy in my little Daewoo Matiz.