If you’ve ever wandered along the walls of Buckingham Palace gardens, you may have passed by the entrance to the Royal Mews, but wondered what it is. An operational branch of the Royal Household, the Royal Mews is a part of Buckingham Palace that is open to the public throughout most of the year (while Buckingham Palace only opens its State Rooms during the Summer season). A stables, carriage house and garage, the Royal Mews offers a fascinating and beautiful look at this working branch of the palace, complete with all the pomp and circumstance that we’ve come to love about the British monarchy! Learn more about this lesser-known London royal attraction with our guide to “What is the Royal Mews” below…
The King’s Mews goes back as far as the reign of Richard II and the name “Mews” comes from the fact that the royal hawks were traditionally kept at the Royal Mews from the 14th Century during their moulting or “mew” time.
The Royal Mews has traditionally occupied two sites in London, the first set of stables was at Charing Cross on the same site as today’s National Gallery. After a fire destroyed the King’s Mews in 1534, the stables were rebuilt and the name “mews” stayed.
From the 1500s until the early 1800s, the royal horses and carriages were housed between the original King’s Mews location in Charing Cross and the grounds of Buckingham House. During the reign of George IV (1820 – 30), the stables transfered permanently to Buckingham Palace, the original King’s Mews were demolished and Trafalgar Square was built on the site.
The Royal Mews was designed by famous architect John Nash who redesigned Buckingham Palace. The designs included the existing riding school (originally constructed in 1760s), a Doric-style arch with clock tower, quadrangle, coach houses and two sets of state stables.
In 1855, Queen Victoria established a school in the mews for the children of families who worked at the palace and in 1859 new accommodation was built for the 198 members of staff and their families. To this day, palace staff and their families live within the mews making it a working village.
The Royal Mews is a working branch of the Royal house and responsible for all royal road travel, by car, horse and carriage. Additionally, this branch of the palace is responsible for the training of the Windsor Greys and Cleveland bays horses.
Although Queen Victoria hated the idea of modern cars and automobiles being housed in the Mews, the Royal Mews not only stores the royal carriages, but also houses two Bentley State Limousines, two Rolls-Royce Phantom VIs and a rare 1950 Rolls-Royce Phantom IV.
Visitors to the Royal Mews can not only see the state vehicles but also will enjoy an up-close look at a number of the Royal Household’s most recognised and impressive State Coaches and Carriages. This includes the Diamond Jubilee State Coach made to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s 80th birthday but due to delays, became a commemoration for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee; the impressive Gold State Coach, which was commissioned in 1760 and has been used at the coronation of every British monarch since George IV and more!
If you’re fortunate, you may also get to see some of the royal horses enjoying their exercises or cleaning!