#1
The Queen's favourite horse, Monarch, died last week.

The horse lived in the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, the stable and the garage of the Royal Family. The horses live there, and the great coaches of state are kept there.

King Richard II established the King's Mews in 1377 to keep his hawks there and the name derives from the fact that they were confined there at moulting (or “mew”) time.

The building was destroyed by fire in 1534 and rebuilt as a stables, keeping its former name when it acquired this new function.

Today, the exquisite Gold Stage Coach is kept there. It was built for King George III in 1762 at a cost of 7,562 7s 3d - a hell of a lot of money in those days. It has been used at every coronation since King George IV.


Long May We Rein: A peep inside the nation's most famous stables - the Royal Mews


By Harry Mount
21st October 2008
Daily Mail

Enlarge
The Queen's favourite horse, Monarch, died last week at the age of 25


Oh to be Navan, the Queen's six-year-old Windsor Grey, currently residing in loose box No. 1, the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace.

While, next door, Her Frugal Majesty gets by with single-bar fires and scratched Tupperware, it's nothing but the best for Navan, nattily dressed in a navy-blue cotton jacket with red and white piping.

There can be no more sparkling stable in the world.

The walls are lined with pale green hexagonal tiles. New bedding - chunkycut, soft woodchips - is neatly piled in shrink-wrapped mattresses next to his stall.

Lunchtime hay is kept in a little blue rope net dangling at muzzle height - no need for any of that boring bending down.

The floor, prettily divided into geometrical brick patterns, is immaculate except for a thin varnish of water and a few microscopic flecks of straw.

What's more, there is no sign at all of any manure. The moment any appears, a pair of grooms rush up with a brush and bucket to clear away the evidence.

This was the life of regal splendour enjoyed for 16 years by Monarch, the Queen's favourite horse until he died last week at the age of 25.

The grey gelding had taken part in every conceivable royal event in his long career in service. A veteran of countless State Openings of Parliament, he also took the Queen's mail across London between the various royal palaces and ferried foreign heads of state around Windsor.


Enlarge
The Queen has always been closely involved in the running of this historic establishment


Valued for his easygoing character, Monarch led the royal landaus down from Windsor Castle to the racecourse during Ascot Week.

He was also lead horse at several of the Queen's birthday parades.

His proudest moment, though, came at the Golden Jubilee celebrations on June 4, 2002, when his team drew the Queen and Prince Philip in the Gold State Coach from Buckingham Palace to St Paul's Cathedral along a route thronged with a million people.

As every animal lover does, the Queen generally always has a favourite horse among her troop. Indeed, before the much-loved Monarch, the horse closest to her heart was Burmese, a black mare born in 1962, given to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

She rode Burmese for 18 consecutive Trooping the Colours until 1986. The next year she moved to a carriage for the occasion. The Queen was on Burmese when six blank shots were fired during the 1981 birthday parade. Burmese, who died in 1990, was startled but the Queen brought her under control.


Enlarge
The Gold State Coach weighs four tonnes and is pulled no faster than walking pace

In return for the Queen's love, the animals reward her with steadfast allegiance.

Monarch and Burmese are the latest in an extremely long line of loyal horses, drawing the Royal Family across their estates for over 600 years.

Richard II established the first King's Mews in 1377. It was where he kept his falcons while they were moulting, or 'mewing' - thus the name, near the site of Charing Cross Station.

It wasn't until 1825 that John Nash, the Regency architect who built much of Buckingham Palace, put up the current Royal Mews for George IV in the shadow of the Palace.




The coach was built for King George III in 1762: At the time its construction cost 7,562 4s 3d

Nash's splendid quadrangle is built on a vast scale with a huge classical clocktower flanked by banded Doric columns.

There is a forge, a carriage repair workshop and space for 70 horses - there are currently 34 in residence, each known by name to the Queen.

Ten are Windsor Greys who, like Monarch, used to draw the Queen and her guests.

The rest are predominantly Cleveland Bays, rich chocolate brown horses, used for the 50 annual credential runs - when high commissioners and ambassadors are drawn by coach to the Palace for the ceremony of presenting their 'credentials' to the Queen.

If the coach is carrying an ambassador, the coachman guides the horse from the box on the coach; if it's a high commissioner, then a postilion is used - that is, a rider who actually sits on the horse.

Enlarge
The Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace

'The Queen has been breeding Cleveland Bays for the past 25 or 30 years,' says John Nelson, 'And she's been very successful at it, breeding elegant horses to draw elegant carriages.'

Stabled alongside the bays in the Mews are the Queen's two Bentleys and three Rolls-Royces, all decked out in royal claret-and-blue livery, with their very own unleaded petrol pumps close at hand.

Queen Victoria hated the idea of cars in the Mews, saying to the Duke of Portland, her Master of the Horse at the end of the 19th century: 'I hope you will never allow any of those horrible machines to be used in my stables.'

The year after she died, Edward VII installed the first car in this grandest of garages.

The Mews also holds the world's best collection of carriages and coaches: broughams, clarences, phaetons, alongside a miniature donkey barouche, given by Queen Adelaide to Queen Victoria's children, and renovated in 1962 for the young Prince Andrew.

There is even a sleigh, given to Queen Victoria by the Canadians and originally used in the Balmoral snow.

Now decorated with tinsel, with little wheels attached, it is driven by Father Christmas to the Queen's annual children's party in the Mews.

Pride of place goes to the 1762 Gold State Coach, the enormous jewelled lantern of a car drawn by Monarch and seven other horses for the Golden Jubilee.

For the 1953 Coronation, the Gold State Coach was customised with fluorescent lighting so that the Queen looked like she was sitting in ordinary daylight.



The Household Cavalry men and men of the Royal Mews with their horses

The interior was decorated with crimson satin and a special stand to carry the crushingly heavy royal orb and sceptre, giving the impression that the Queen was carrying them for the procession from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace.

On that surprisingly cold day of June 2, 1953, a copper hot-water bottle was also squeezed under the floorboards.

The Gold State Coach is so heavy - four tonnes - that it never goes faster than walking pace. The horses - even Monarch, a good 16.1 hands tall - go through a rigorous fitness regime before they can pull it.

First the eight horses pull an empty carriage with rubber tyres. Then more bags of sand are put inside the carriage until it gets up to the four-tonne level.

Monarch was bought by the Queen from Holland at the age of six, but most other horses begin royal work at four.

They are broken in at Windsor and then 'broken to harness' - that is, taught how to draw carriages - in the Mews.

During their training, they are distracted by brightly coloured flags, balloons and sudden noises so that they won't be put off by crowds or soldiers fainting in front of them on hot days in Horse Guards Parade.


Enlarge
The horse-drawn carriage transporting Queen Elizabeth II returns to Buckingham Palace after the State Opening of Parliament

Many stable staff who do all this training live in the Mews, too, with their families, and there is certainly a family feel to the place - in one corner of the otherwise spick-and-span Mews, I stumbled across a ramshackle collection of battered old children's bikes.

The Mews has long been a happy place for children.

Prince Charles and Princess Anne often visited it with their mother in their childhood to feed the horses sugar lumps.

Queen Victoria even built a school in the Mews in 1855 for the families of her staff.

All her nine children learned to ride in the Mews's elegant riding school, lined with classical pediments and pilasters.

Prince Philip still sharpens his riding technique there before the birthday parade.

With all this going on, no wonder Prince Charles says of the place: 'The Royal Mews is a village in the fullest sense; a close community of people both live and work there, and it has its own economy, founded upon traditional skills which are still practised there, as they have been for centuries.'

Life in the 'village' dances to the tune of its animal inhabitants.

The horses get up at 6am - or 5am for the State Opening of Parliament - and so that's when the stable lads' working day kicks off, too, mucking out the stables and brushing down the horses.

Then the horses are exercised at 7am, often with a ride across Hyde Park. Both horses and stable lads then have half an hour for their breakfast, before more exercise at 8.30, this time with carriages attached.

Afterwards the horses are groomed and their harnesses cleaned - a rigorous process. The working harness room is a temple to Brasso, with all that brass and leather shining like a gaping treasure chest.

The tools of the trade are also on show to the 100,000 annual visitors to the Mews - an orange tin of Belvoir Leather Balsam, a box of soda crystals and a box of Kleenex, and an Oral B toothbrush for those really-hard-to-get-at crevices in the tack.

The same spit-and-polish routine is followed when the royal household and its horses transfers to the Queen's other palaces through the year.

Until he was moved to a horse retirement home in Buckinghamshire three years ago, Monarch must have known this routine like the back of his hoof.

However many times he did the circuit, though, he could hardly have tired of this, the grandest merry-go-round on earth.


• HARRY MOUNT'S A Lust For Window Sills - A Lover's Guide To British Buildings From Portcullis To Pebbledash is published by Little, Brown (12.99).

dailymail.co.uk