The Speaker’s State Coach, the earliest surviving English coach in the United Kingdom, is going on public display in the Palace of Westminster to commemorate the Coronation of King Charles III.
Visitors will be able to see the magnificent, gilded coach in Westminster Hall, where it was last on display almost 20 years ago, from 9 May until early autumn.
The iconic carriage, which was used for previous coronations, helped to set the scene for the visit of the King and Queen yesterday (Tuesday 2 May), when their Majesties met Members of both Houses and parliamentary staff in Westminster Hall at a reception ahead of Saturday’s Coronation.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, asked for the coach to return to Parliament for the Coronation after its loan period to the National Trust’s Arlington Court Carriage Museum in Devon came to an end earlier this year.
As a fragile and historic object made of materials ranging from painted panels and ironwork to textiles – which are affected by changes to temperature and humidity – the coach will be protected by a specially designed glass case. The case will also help to protect the historic interiors of Westminster Hall, a Grade I listed space of outstanding significance. Visitors will be able to see the coach as part of general tours of Parliament from Tuesday 9 May until September.
Interpretative information about the ornately decorated coach will be on display and special educational resources have also been produced for visiting school children and members of the public.
The coach was regularly on display in Westminster Hall from 1995 until 2005, when Speaker Michael Martin formally retired the coach and a major conservation project was undertaken to restore its original magnificence. It is now preserved as an historic object and work of art in the Parliamentary Art Collection.
Last used in 1981 to transport Speaker George Thomas to the wedding of the then Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer, it is the oldest of three great ceremonial coaches in Britain – the others being the Gold State Coach and the Lord Mayor’s Coach. It is thought to have been made for King William III (1650-1702) and Queen Mary II (1662-1694) in around 1698 and given to the Speaker in around 1702 by Queen Anne (1665-1714).