King Charles III's Coronation Is the Most Famous 14-HP Event in the World

·3 min read
gold state coach to be used for platinum jubilee celebrations
Coronation Will Be World's Biggest 14-HP EventPool - Getty Images
  • Two coaches—one old, one new—will carry the new King and Queen Consort during the splashy coronation ceremony this weekend in London.

  • British coronations have used the Gold State Coach for hundreds of years, but the Diamond Jubilee State Coach is actually comfortable to ride in.

  • The Gold State Coach led, indirectly, to the creation of Matchbox cars 70 years ago. This year, Bentley, Škoda, and Williams Racing are some of the brands getting involved in the event.

The last time a new British royal ascended to the throne—Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953—it ended up leading indirectly to the creation of Matchbox cars. Whether today's coronation of King Charles III will have that kind of impact on the toy-car scene or not, there are plenty of automotive angles to a royal coronation.

Like the Matchbox story, which starts for our purposes when a pair of metal-toy-car makers in London found tremendous success in selling a million miniature models of the ornate Gold State Coach (pictured at top). This 260-year-old carriage has been used at every coronation since that of William IV in 1831, so the toysmiths had some warning that it would be used for Queen Elizabeth II. They released two models of it around the time of her coronation, and the smaller of the two became insanely popular, selling a million copies.

When the daughter or one of the modelmakers later wanted a small toy that could fit inside a matchbox, you can probably guess what he built for her. Mattel, which now owns the Matchbox brand, reminded us of this history because it is currently offering a limited-edition, dramatically updated model of the Gold State Coach. The model costs $60, and it's at the same 1/64 scale, so it will fit right in with your Matchbox collection.

gold state coach to be used for platinum jubilee celebrations
Pool - Getty Images
gold state coach to be used for platinum jubilee celebrations
Pool - Getty Images

The real-world Gold State Coach is a beast. Over 20 feet long and 12 feet tall, the coach can't move faster than a walking pace, even with a full complement of eight horses, because it weighs four tons. Royals have complained about how uncomfortable it is to ride in the Gold State Coach, which partly explains why there will be other vehicles involved in the coronation ceremony.

queen elizabeth ii attends the state opening of parliament
The Diamond Jubilee State Coach.Matthew Lloyd - Getty Images

Buckingham Palace has also confirmed that the Diamond Jubilee State Coach (above) will be used in today's ceremony. This coach uses six horses and isn't quite as old as the Gold State Coach; the Diamond Jubilee State Coach was first used in 2014. While it still looks suitably old-fashioned, this is a modern design with an aluminum body, hydraulic stabilizers, electric windows, and an HVAC system. It was built in Australia.

Other Cars in the Stable

There are a dozen or so vehicles in the royal collection that could make an appearance sometime Saturday, between the ceremonies and parade, including Bentley State Limousines and three Rolls-Royces (a 1977 Silver Jubilee Rolls-Royce Phantom VI, a 1986 Phantom VI, and a 1950 Phantom IV). The only vehicles confirmed for the event, though, are the two coaches.

king charles in bentley state limousine
King Charles exits Bentley State Limousine.Mark Cuthbert/UK Press - Getty Images
camberley, united kingdom april 14 embargoed for publication in uk newspapers until 24 hours after create date and time king charles iii arrives in his bentley state limousine to inspect the 200th sovereigns parade at the royal military academy sandhurst on april 14, 2023 in camberley, england the sovereigns parade, first held in 1948 in the presence of king george vi, marks the culmination of 44 weeks training and the passing out of the 171 officer cadets who have completed the commissioning course it is the first time king charles iii has inspected sovereigns parade at sandhurst since becoming monarch photo by max mumbyindigogetty images
Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images

There are plenty of other automotive connections, especially from U.K. brands. Williams Racing will display the Coronation Emblem on the noses of two of its Formula 1 cars during the Miami Grand Prix this weekend. Škoda U.K. is offering a new Royal Green exterior paint color on select models.

williams racing fw45
bentley coronation cushions

And Bentley will be offering a limited number of these bespoke, handcrafted cabin cushions to celebrate the coronation. The cushions have 30,000-stitch embroidered Coronation Emblems on leather that was "sourced from Northern Europe where the temperate climate and lack of barbed wire fencing reduce imperfections." The pillows are intended to decorate Bentley's press cars and will not be sold.

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