Queen Elizabeth II rode to the opening of parliament on Wednesday in a brand new Australian-built state coach that encapsulates nearly a thousand years of British history.
Crafted over nearly a decade, the gilded Diamond Jubilee State Coach is only the second new horse-drawn state carriage to be built in more than 100 years.
It contains wood from king Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose, which sank in 1545, and Isaac Newton’s apple tree, which inspired him to form his theory of gravity.
The coach is covered in more than 400 books of gold leaf and despite the overcast London skies on Wednesday, brightly caught the eye as it was drawn to the Palace of Westminster by six horses.
The 88-year-old sovereign and her 92-year-old husband Prince Philip seemingly enjoyed the ride, the monarch smiling as she arrived and needing no help getting out of the carriage.
The carriage is almost five and a half metres (yards) long, more than three metres high and weighs more than three tonnes.
The coach was made by Australian craftsman Jim Frecklington in his workshop in the Sydney suburb of Manly.
“This coach is different to any other coach made in history, as this coach encapsulates the history of Britain going back almost one thousand years,” he told BBC television.
“I’ve been able to find timber from many great buildings, great ships, great aircraft and also I’ve been able to incorporate items from many of the great people that have made Britain what it is today.”
– Musket balls and flagships –
The crown on the top of the coach was carved from oak from HMS Victory, Admiral Horatio Nelson’s flagship at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar. It can host a camera to film crowds lining the route.
The inside, lined in yellow silk, incorporates items donated by more than 100 of Britain’s historic sites and organisations.
Many are squares of wood that have been highly polished and decorate the interior walls and door panels.
The seat handrails are from the decommissioned Royal Yacht Britannia.
The window frames and inside panels include material from Caernarfon Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, Durham Cathedral, 10 Downing Street, and the Antarctic bases of polar explorers Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton.
A British lead musket ball from the 1815 Battle of Waterloo and a piece of metal from the casting of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for military bravery, are also built into the coach.
It also contains fragments from Scotland’s Stone of Scone, on which monarchs are crowned.
There is a wood panel each from Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral and Edinburgh Castle.
Parts of Lancaster bombers, Spitfires and Hurricanes — World War II aircraft — are also worked into the design.
Despite the centuries of history, the coach does have some mod-cons, with six hydraulic stabilisers — covered in gold leaf — fitted to the carriage to ensure a smooth ride, plus electric windows and heaters.