The Magniﬁcent Ceremonial Horses of the Wedding Procession Conduct the Royal Couple to a New Life is an article written by Patty of Brandy Parfums for Horse Directory Magazine. Patty and the editor of the magazine have graciously allowed me to publish the article on this blog.
Royal-horse-loving early-risers who tuned in on April 29, 2011 for the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, now the Duke and
Duchess of Cambridge, may have noted that the trip to Westminster Abbey was a break with royal tradition in that there were no horses. Instead, the procession included a motorcycle escort, a 1950 Rolls-Royce Royal Phantom IV for Kate and her father, and other limos and mini-vans. In absolute contrast, the splendid procession back to Buckingham Palace featured the trotting Royal Mews carriage horses, and the trotting mounted Household Cavalry regimental horses of the Life Guards, and the Blues and Royals.
The carriage horses in the procession were mainly Windsor Greys and Cleveland Bays from the Royal Mews, a 32 horse stable near Buckingham Palace. All the royal carriage horses are ﬁrst trained to be ridden, and then they are taught to pull a carriage. Most were bred at the private Royal Mews, Hampton Court Palace. The Greys pulled the 1902 State Landau of the newlyweds, as well as the 1830 Scottish State Coach with the Queen and Prince Philip. The Bays pulled the Ascot Landaus, and the 1988 Australian State Coach. In the procession, there were four outriders on four of the carriage horses.
Riding alongside a beaming Prince William and his bride Catherine in the 1902 State Landau was William’s friend, Major Nicholas van Cutsem of the Household Cavalry, on his beautiful charger Darcy. The happiness of the royal couple in the open landau delighted the crowd.
Other notable horses in the Household Cavalry mounted procession included Valerian, Goliath, and surprisingly, the horses Beatrice, William and Catherine (also known as Fat Kat!). Viper and Valerian are twenty years old, the oldest of the 184 horses on duty on that day. While the average regimental horse stands at 16.2hh or bigger, Goliath is18.2hh. According to his regiment, Goliath is a “loveable horse with great manners, that is, until he is in sight of the feed stall. He will certainly escape and get his ﬁll.”
These and the other mounted horses are all Irish Draught/Thoroughbred Crosses, bred in Ireland to be strong enough to carry the weight of the rider, heavy regimental kit, and tack. There are 235 Cavalry Black horses, along with 14 greys, and 3 drum horses (not used on the day), all housed in the Hyde Park Barracks.
The Life Guards, regimental horse troops who protect the sovereign, originally date back to the restoration of King Charles II in 1660. All the mounted riders in the wedding procession took great care with their kits. One of the riders, Lance Corporal Daniel Hughes told the Telegraph “We’re proud and we’re always striving to be the best.”
It took 5 hours to clean the tack, and 6 hours to clean the uniform, shine the brass armor and helmet topped with horsehair, whiten the gloves, and then he had to shine the boots to a mirror image, and extra time, of course, to groom the horses to a glossy coat, with perfectly cut mane.
Once ready, the horses and riders were given an official inspection by the Silver Stick (the historic protective officer for the monarch), Colonel Stuart Cowen, Commander Household Cavalry. Captain Roly Spiller told the Telegraph, “The main thing is that we get the bride and groom from the Abbey safely back to the Palace.”
Most of the mounted riders are primarily operational soldiers who have been deployed in places like Bosnia and Afghanistan. A special charity looks after the returning soldiers – the Household Cavalry Central Charitable Fund which incorporates the Household Cavalry Operational Casualties Fund.
The hours of training of the all the horses by the coachmen and regimental riders resulted in a resplendent joyous procession on the royal wedding day of William and Catherine
More on the topic:
- The Work of the Royal Mews
- Facebook page of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment
- The Horse’s Role in British Ceremonial Life
- Spit and Polish are the Secret weapons for Troops on Royal Wedding Parade
- Lewisham horses to feature in Grey escort