History - All the Queen's horses

The history of the Royal Mews is revealed through a new website

Jo Knowsley

Queen Victoria kept around 200 horses there, while her husband Prince Albert was such a practical enthusiast he added a new forge. But it was an earlier King - George IV - who commissioned architect John Nash (already in charge of rebuilding Buckingham Palace) to design an elaborate mews, entered through a Doric-style arch topped by a clock tower.

Originally sited at Charing Cross, the Royal Mews housed royal hawks from 1377. Indeed, the name "mews" derives from "mew", meaning moulting, as the birds were confined when it was time for them to shed their feathers.

Today, despite the prevalence of royal vehicles, 30 horses are still housed at the mews. These include the Cleveland Bays, a rare breed used to escort newly appointed high commissioners and ambassadors to their audience with the Queen; and the famous carriage horses, the Windsor Greys - so called because they were kept at Windsor during the reign of Queen Victoria.

A love of horses has been shared by all 42 of the monarchs who have ruled Britain since 1066, linking even the most diverse rulers. Henry VIII and Elizabeth I bred horses and imported animals from the Middle East; James I and Charles I expanded the import of Barb and Arab blood; and though Oliver Cromwell banned racing, the studs and racetracks were speedily regenerated in the Restoration.

Now, a new website, the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, gives an exclusive insight into the working life of the mews and royal household staff, featuring archive photographs, historic documents and unique filmed interviews.

Students can glean insights into the world of the farriers, learn about the livery - largely unchanged since the 17th century - see historic state harnesses such as that made for the coronation of William IV in 1831, and learn about the lives of the people who maintain such artefacts and still work in the mews today.

Most famous, of course, are the gilded carriages - such as the 1902 state landau that in April last year carried the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge from their wedding service at Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace.

Learning resources are attached to each section along with a timeline showing key dates, including a handwritten diary entry penned on the day the Gold State Coach, transporting King George III, was attacked by republicans.

The Queen also ensures all the horses have a holiday - each year they are taken to Hampton Court for six to eight weeks.

The Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace online resource is available at www.royalmews.lgfl.net to all schools registered with the London Grid for Learning.

What else?

Take a tour of the Royal Mews and explore its role in the Diamond Jubilee. In special Jubilee workshops, historic photographs, archive materials and fascinating objects make links between Queen Victoria's 1897 celebrations and the Jubilee this year. Workshops cost #163;3 per pupil and last 1 hour and 15 minutes. Sessions can be booked through the Royal Collection. http:bit.lyKlzGsm

For a wide range of Jubilee ideas, check out the Diamond Jubilee collection on TES Resources.


Head to the TES history forum for tips on how to deliver facts without boring pupils.

Find all links and resources at www.tes.co.ukresources035.

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Jo Knowsley

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