American Elephants


King George III riding to address Parliament on the distressing issue of war in America. by The Elephant's Child
January 3, 2009, 7:14 pm
Filed under: Art, History, Literature | Tags: , , ,

Here is an odd bit of trivia for you.  I received David McCullough’s 1776 for Christmas. He begins the book with a description of the procession “on the afternoon of Thursday October 26, 1775,  in which His Royal Majesty George III, King of England rode in royal splendor from St. James’s Palace to the Palace of Westminster, there to address the opening of Parliament on the increasingly distressing issue of war in America.”

An estimated 60,000 people turned out to line the route through St. James Park.

By tradition, two Horse Grenadiers with swords drawn rode in the lead to clear the way, followed by gleaming coaches filled with nobility, then a clattering of Horse Guards, the Yeomen of the Guard in red and gold livery, and a rank of footmen, also in red and gold.  Finally came the King in his colossal golden chariot pulled by eight magnificent cream-colored horses (Hanoverian Creams), a single postilion riding the left lead horse, and six footmen at the side.

No mortal on earth rode in such style as their King, the English knew.  Twenty-four feet in length and thirteen feet high, the royal coach weighed nearly four tons, enough to make the ground tremble when under way.  George III had had it built years before, insisting that it be “superb.” Three gilded cherubs on top — symbols of England, Scotland, and Ireland — held high a gilded crown, while over the heavy spoked wheels, front and back, loomed four gilded sea gods, formidable reminders that Britannia ruled the waves.  Allegorical scenes on the door panels celebrated the nation’s heritage, and windows were of sufficient size to provide a full view of the crowned sovereign within.

It was as though the very grandeur, wealth, and weight of the British Empire were rolling past — an empire that by now included Canada,  that reached from the seaboard of Massachusetts and Virginia to the Mississippi and beyond, from the Caribbean to the shores of Bengal.  London, its population at nearly a million souls, was the largest city in Europe and widely considered the capital of the world.

The coach is housed at the Royal Mews, and is used for Coronations and formal occasions.  It was last used for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.  I’ve probably seen it in pictures, but until this description, I never focused solely on the coach itself, and it is well worth focusing on. ( It is bigger than my living room! ).  The Royal Mews houses a whole raft of state coaches, but King George III’s coach is indeed something special. You can download a cut-out-and-paste-model of the coach here, if you are so inclined.  For size relationship, remember that a standing footman barely comes to the bottom of the coach windows.  It is indeed superb.

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5 Comments so far
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With apologies to the author David McCullough, according to The Times (30 Mar 2002) and other sources, this Royal Coach would not have been available to George III in 1775 as it was not constructed until 1782.

Comment by CBM

Gosh, I don’t know. I wasn’t around in 1775, nor I suspect, were you. I’ll take David McCullough over the Times, and then there is the painting. McCullough references The LondonPublic Advertiser, Oct. 27, 1775.McCullough says the coach was built years before 1775. You may be right though.
All my information came from “1776″, and from the Crown. Seems a little odd that George III would be riding to speak to Parliament about War in America after it was all over, or that he would be painted so doing in a coach that wasn’t built till later. My point was simply to call attention to the coach itself, which is such an amazing piece of work, and so over-the-top. I am finding that George III was a much more interesting character than the Founding Fathers led me to believe.

Comment by The Elephant's Child

I saw this coach when I was at Buckingham Palace last year and there is a marker in front of the coach that clearly states that it was King George III’s coach. That’s good enough for me. Oh, and by the way, it is magnificant. My jaw dropped when I entered the room where it is displayed.

Comment by Joyce11

To achieve that goal, a range of initiatives needs to be consid- ered. ,

Comment by His_wife93

[...] A Republic was something completely new to the Americans.  What they knew was monarchy, and a very opulent monarchy at that.  They definitely didn’t want to go back to the pomp and circumstance of England.  [...]

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