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The Speaker’s State Coach is an iconic work of art and an important piece of Parliamentary history. It was used by the Speaker of the House of Commons to attend royal events for three centuries. The Coach is now cared for as a heritage object, the earliest surviving English coach in the United Kingdom.

In this story, we follow the coach for over 300 years, and take a close look at its design and imagery, to discover the long-intertwined relationship of Parliament and the monarchy.


The State Coach of the Speaker of the House of Commons is a one-of-a-kind piece. Dating from around 1698, it is one of the oldest carriages in Europe.  It is also the oldest of the UK’s three gilded ceremonial coaches. The others are the Gold State Coach, held at the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, and the Lord Mayor’s Coach, cared for by the Museum of London.

A gilded coach with an elaborately carved frame and painted panels. In this side view of the coach, three windows – one large and two smaller – and three painted panels featuring classical scenes are visible on the body. A small moulded crown sits on the top of the coach carriage. Small coats of arms are visible on the bottom corners of each painted panel. A large wheel sits to the rear of coach body on the left-hand side of the image, and a smaller wheel to the front, on the right-hand side of the image. The coachman’s seat at the front of the coach is covered in a red and gold fabric and bears a red, black and white coat of arms at the centre. It is photographed at a slight angle from the right front wheel against a stone wall background, with a small doorway arch just visible above the top of the Coach, and large stone floor tiles. It sits on wooden rests under each wheel and there is a large gold and black beam laid out between the two nearest wheels.
The Speaker’s State Coach in Westminster Hall, 2023; S710 ©UK Parliament/Andy Bailey

The Speaker’s State Coach is thought to have been made for King William III (1650-1702) and Queen Mary II (1662-1694). As we can tell from the ornate design, it is for grand ceremonial occasions.

It weighs just over 2 tonnes. This is slightly lighter than the Lord Mayor’s Coach (2.9 tonnes) and the 4-tonne Gold State Coach. The carriage has no brakes and was traditionally drawn by two Shire horses. 

A white, blonde-haired woman sits on a throne wearing a long blue skirt and a blue cape tied over her shoulders with a golden undershirt holds a staff. She reaches out with her left hand to receive a plate of fruit from a kneeling figure in a long white skirt with a pink sash by their knees. At the feet of the seated woman, a winged baby holds onto an oar. To the very far left, beneath a red velvet curtain overhead, is a shadowy figure of a woman in a dress, holding out a leaf. In the right, three white women in similar plan dresses, with their long blonde hair tied back, hold other branches or plants; the one on the far right holds it in a large horn-shaped container. Below them, another baby figure with wings looks towards the woman on the throne.  In the sky, a large cloud overhead is the seat for a woman in a pink and yellow-edged dress, reclining and looking down towards the plate of fruit, wearing a military-style helmet with a plume of pink feathers coming out of the top. The panel is painted in a baroque, realist style, with the background to the scene all gold. It is framed by intricate gilded carving of foliate shapes and swirls.
Painted panel on the left side of the Coach showing Mary II receiving the fruits of plenty. © UK Parliament WOA S710. 


A carved young child, with a wreath around his head, shown from the torso up (seemingly emerging from feathers or leaves). He blows through something in his mouth, perhaps a whistle or horn, and his cheeks are puffed out. He leans with his left arm propping himself up as his right arm holds the pipe or horn. The figure is gilded in bright gold. Above the top left of his head, a pitchfork with a hand gripping it is just visible.
Gilded carving on the Coach’s left front rocker © UK Parliament WOA S710 

The Coach is a significant example of the Baroque style, characterised by rich and elaborate ornament. This style became popular in England from the 1680s, partly driven by a growth in European craftspeople in the country. The Speaker’s State Coach is likely based on, or inspired by, the designs of Daniel Marot (1661-1752). Marot was a French Huguenot architect and furniture designer who was active in England and Holland.

The main body is ornately carved oak which is gilded in gold. The undercarriage of the coach, and the end supports (also called standards), are original, making them over 300 years old.

The coach also features painted panels on its body and doors. The scenes and symbols depicted include royal, parliamentary, and patriotic themes.

A white woman with a castle or fortress on her head like a crown and her hair pinned back, her right breast exposed, is sitting on a throne (its red velvet and golden carved top just visible).  She is holding a short staff, with a fleur-de-lis pattern at the end of it, in her right hand. She wears a yellow flowing dress or tunic with a loose red robe about her middle and draped over her left arm. Underneath her to the left of the throne is a male lion, its right paw outstretched.  Behind the throne, two white female figures talk to each other; one has wings on either side of her head, wears a green flowing dress or tunic, and holds an orb with an inverted triangle on the top. The other holds a pair of compasses aloft, has blonde hair tied back, breasts exposed above a flowing white dress. Behind them in the distance is the dome of a church or cathedral. In the foreground before then and the lion is a man wearing seemingly nothing, but a wreath of leaves around his head with a small chin beard, his back facing us. He is leaning with his left arm on an overflowing large terracotta jug on its side. The figures to the left are more shadowy and harder ot distinguish clearly; one is a woman with a long dress with her back facing us, her left shoulder exposed, and she looks over her right shoulder. Beyond her, another white woman in a grey or green dress wearing a crown or small structure on her head, looks towards her. In the sky in the middle ground, a naked man with wings on either ankle flies horizontally, with a turquoise cape flowing behind him; he wears a turquoise helmet with wings on the left and right and holds a small bag in his left hand and a small staff in his right made from three circles and a straight line going through them, with an eagle insignia at the end of it. On the top right, brown curtains are folded together and above the the woman in the throne a curtain pull dangles down. In the distance on the right and centre are clouds suggestive of a storm and beneath it the sea. The prow of a large ship is just coming into view: it has a flag draped down from a pole at the prow, which is marked by two golden bands of carved decoration. Two large masts, the second larger than the first, rise up with white sails draped through them.
Upper rear painted panel from the Coach showing Britannia with her lion and attendants © UK Parliament WOA S710 

Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689

Two of the Coach’s panels feature what are likely depictions of William III and Mary II, who became King and Queen of England following the ‘Glorious Revolution’.  This ‘Revolution’ refers to events leading to the overthrow of the previous King, James II (also James VII of Scotland) (1633-1701).

An historical scene of a group of people richly-arrayed, with guards visible to the left, presenting a throne and a book to a white man and a white woman sat on thrones.  The throned couple sit in front of a red cloth backdrop on which is fixed a large coat of arms in gold and blue and brocaded stitching running down the left and right. The woman wears an elaborate blue and red dress and skirt, with her hair fixed tall and running down onto her shoulders, with a veil on the back of her head. He is wearing an ermine shawl and a long blue coat, with a lacy ruff and long dark hair coming down below his shoulders at the front. On the left is a group of guards wearing ruffs and carrying pikes, dressed in red uniforms. In the foreground, a young boy holds his hat behind him and a painting or framed document in his left arm, his long blonde hair visible above his red jacket and ruffed cuffs. In front of him is the back of an adult male figure with similar hair in a don’s long black gown. He holds aloft a document in white paper, before his eyes. To his left, a richly-dressed figure in similar ermine and velvet gown to the throned man and also with long flowing hair below his shoulders holds a blue cushion on which is a crown. The crown is golden with jewels and a cross at the top, with red velvet in the centre. To the right, two men dressed in similarly elaborate outfits look on, while to the left of the Queen a lady-in-waiting, with her ginger hair fixed up with a small tiara and a blue bowtie, wearing a blue and white gown, looks on. The scene is painted in realist style but with slightly washed-out colours.
The Lords and Commons Presenting the Crown to William and Mary in the Banqueting House, 1688; Mural by Edward Mathew Ward that forms part of the mural scheme in Members’ Corridor in the House of Commons. © UK Parliament WOA 2606 

Leading bishops and politicians believed that James II was trying to establish a Catholic dynasty with no regard for parliamentary consent.  In response to a series of acts and declarations by the King, they invited the King’s Protestant daughter Mary and her husband William (also James’s nephew) to intervene. Although a so-called ‘bloodless’ revolution, the Dutch leader William amassed troops, invaded the country, and replaced the King.

A young white man with short blonde hair sits on a throne, receiving documents that read “Magna Carta” and “Bill of Rights” from a young white woman, as other figures look on.  The seated man is wearing a Roman military tunic cut off above the knees and Roman sandals, as well as a long robe in red velvet and white ermine fringe. To his left, a white woman with blonde hair wears a blindfold over her eyes and a white dress, holding a sword aloft in her right hand. In front of her sits a young baby or child, but his body is obscured by an oval coat of arms pasted on top (showing a wheel, a bird, a fish in the red top portion, a white chevron containing a ruler and other mathematical instruments; and a black lower portion showing a ship with a blue-and-white checkered sail. The woman handing the documents wears a simple classical white dress and a red robe, with Roman sandals, and her hair braided at the back. Behind her, a winged naked young baby or boy holds an oval shield with the Union flag on it. A woman in a yellow dress rings a bell above him, while to her left three other women in flowing robes look on, one holding a book and the other a basket, the third in the distance obscured by the other figures. In the far left, in some shadow, a woman in a blue dress holds a plate of jewels. On the top right, a velvety curtain is pulled back and a curtain pull dangles just above the throned man’s head. In the sky, in front of a white cloud, a woman with large wings flies horizontally, blowing a trumpet; she wears a flowing white dress with a thin belt in the middle, her right breast exposed, and holds some leaves in her left hand by her side. The panel is painted in a baroque, realist style, with the background to the scene all gold. It is framed by intricate gilded carving of foliate shapes and swirls.
Painted panel from the right side of the Coach showing William III presented with the Bill of Rights and Magna Carta © UK Parliament WOA S710 

A constitutional agreement was put in place as a condition of William and Mary’s accession to the throne. The new monarchs signed an Act of Parliament called the Bill of Rights (1689). This statute secured a degree of personal liberty and democracy for the peoples of England, Scotland, and Ireland. This Bill is regarded by some as the basis of the UK’s constitutional monarchy today.

The Coach is an expression of this pivotal moment in history. It is therefore an important historic document as well as an ornate design object. 

Ceremonial Use

Queen Anne is thought to have presented the Coach to the Speaker of the House of Commons in around 1700.  

The ceremonial aspects of the Speakership grew over the 16th and 17th centuries. This included the rise of the tradition, still observed today, of the Speaker’s procession from his official residence to the Chamber. The Speaker is accompanied by the Serjeant-at-Arms bearing the ceremonial mace. The Coach reflects this increased ceremonial significance of the Speakership with a carving of a pair of maces below each door panel.

Two carved maces form a cross pattern. They are carved in gilded, bright gold. At either end, both maces have a looped head intersected by another loop, looking like a crown. These loops have small decorative beads carved into them. Below, between the top and the base, is a large cup-like detail, decorated with figures and foliage. The long handles have two rings at either end, also with decorative floral details. They are tied in the middle with a carved bow. Through the middle runs a large screw, with a hat-like detail above it. Just above the carved panel above this hat is a large fleur de lis ornately decorated with foliate carvings. The panel is framed by intricate gilded carving of foliate shapes and swirls.
Carved maces on the right door of the Coach © UK Parliament WOA S710 

Our earliest reference to the Coach comes from Speaker Sir John Mitford (Speaker from 1801 to 1802). A letter in the Gloucester Archives shows us his predecessor, Speaker Addington (Speaker in 1801), requested £300 for the vehicle in 1801.

Portrait of a white man with a grey crimped wig or hair running below his shoulders on each side at the front.  He is standing at his desk, his right arm resting on a paper scroll. Beside the scroll, the head of a mace is visible, with its golden, ornate carving. He is wearing a long black gown with golden details along its fronts and arms, and a white lace ruff falling down his front. The table is ornately carved with shapes and foliage and has a face in the corner above the leg. Above the subject’s head is a velvet drape coming down from the ceiling, and to the left either side of a pillar glimpses of gothic buildings on the skyline.  It is painted in a classical, realist style.
Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth 1757-1844; Painting by Thomas Phillips and John Singleton Copley © UK Parliament WOA 2718

The following year, Mitford sold it to Speaker Charles Abbott (Speaker from 1802 to 1817) for the substantially greater sum of £1,060 (around £47,000 in 21st-century money). Abbot’s diary mentions that the coach had been repaired in 1801, presumably at Mitford’s own expense, which may explain the increase in price.

Since then, the Speaker of the House of Commons has used the coach to attend many events. These include coronations and celebrations of the monarch. We include a full timeline of its history and uses below.

Eleven  figures stand in front of an old coach, with two horses attached to it, their leads held by a figure sat in front of the coach. The image is in black and white.  At the back on the right of the image, a cavalryman or guardsman wearing a white hat is mounted on a horse. The two figures on the left are wearing lighter coloured long coats with high white socks. The other figures, hard to discern in detail, are wearing darker dinner jackets or gowns, one in the centre with a tall hat and the fourth from the right wearing a long wig like a judge. They are stood just below and in front of an awning coming out of a stonework building with two turrets on either side, featuring statues or gargoyles, with a carved front fascia. In the foreground is a plain stretch of road or courtyard.
The Coach outside the entrance to Speaker’s House for the Coronation of George VI in 1937 Photograph by Elliott & Fry © National Portrait Gallery Photo credit: Parliamentary Art Collection WOA 1582 

Speaker George Thomas (Speaker from 1976 to 1983) rode in the Coach during its last use in a ceremonial occasion—the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. It was drawn by two horses and the Speaker was accompanied by his Secretary, Chaplain, and the Serjeant at Arms. They also carried the Mace, which is the symbol of the monarch in Parliament. A member of the Household Cavalry rode next to the Coach, and two footmen walked alongside the driving coachman.

Coats of Arms

The Coach is also decorated with Speakers’ coats of arms. Each Speaker of the House of Commons has or acquires their own coat of arms. On the Coach, these are shown on painted oval plaques, which have been added over the centuries for some, but not all, Speakers.

The Coach currently displays the arms of Speakers Michael Martin (Speaker from 2000 to 2009) and Bernard Weatherill (Speaker from 1983 to 1992). These were applied over the arms of other Speakers, which have been found during conservation. The oldest yet discovered (found during cleaning in 1935) were those of Speaker Addington, who was Speaker in 1801.


A major conservation project by Plowden and Smith took place from 2006 to 2008, which restored the magnificence of the Coach.

Following centuries of use and display, the painted panels had become chipped and hard to see. The metalwork had corroded, and the gilding discoloured. A team of experts, whose skills matched the craftspeople that made the coach, undertook the big task of conserving the coach.

By removing decades of dirt, and layers of over gilding and varnishing, they revealed the fine nature of the carvings, and the colour and quality of the paintings.

The Coach is now seen as intended over 300 years ago.

A painted panel distantly visible is shrouded in shadow. It is framed by bright gold gilding of figures and foliage. On the right a figure with a naked torso and defined muscles holds his right arm aloft; he has a toga draped around his groin. ON the left, a similar figure wearing Roman military uniform of a short shirt and a feathery kilt holds his left arm aloft; in his right arm he holds a shield with a face on it. In the foreground is a connecting beam and two gilded beams coming out towards the viewer.  in the centre between them is a carving of a head and torso in finely decorated armour, wearing a helmet with beaver. The bar is decorated with swirls and leaves, as are the two beams projecting forward, which have visible screws and nuts attached to the underside near the cross beam.
Intricate gilding from the rear of the Coach. Hercules on the right and Mars on the left adorn the standards.  © UK Parliament WOA S710 

Where do you park a State Coach?

In its earliest years as a ceremonial vehicle, the Coach was kept in a special coach house adjoining Westminster Hall.

Between 1802 and 1808, the architect James Wyatt (1746-1814) rebuilt Speaker’s House—the Speaker’s official residence on the parliamentary estate. He relocated the coach house to the ground floor near these new lodgings.

A side view of a coach being pulled by two horses with a driver on top. The coach is elaborately gilded and carved with painted panels just visible. In this side view of the coach, three windows are visible – one large and two smaller – and three painted panels featuring classical scenes are visible on the body. Two large wheels sit to the rear of coach body on the right-hand side of the image, and a smaller wheel to the front, on the left-hand side of the image. The coachman’s seat at the front of the coach is covered in a red and gold fabric and bears an oval plaque. The coachman wears white with a black and white hat on. In the background is an arch to the left with a lantern over the centre and two windows of a stone brick building, with plain road or courtyard in the foreground.
The Speaker’s State Coach at the Houses of Parliament for the Silver Jubilee celebrations of George V, 6 May 1935; Print by Unknown © UK Parliament WOA 2449 

During World War 2, the Coach travelled to Mentmore country house in Buckinghamshire to escape bombing across the capital.

In 1978 the Coach moved to the Whitbread Brewery in Chiswell Street, near the Barbican in London. This may seem a strange location, but there was a long link between the beer brewing family and the Speaker’s Coach. Speaker Charles Shaw-Lefevre (Speaker from 1839 to 1857) married Emma, the daughter of Samuel Whitbread II, and was himself a partner in the company for 48 years. Two shire horses from the brewery pulled the Coach accompanied by three Whitbread draymen (people who deliver beer by horse-drawn wagon). In 1988, Speaker Weatherill opened a new coach house in the brewery’s courtyard.

The Coach was periodically on display in Westminster Hall from 1995, before it went for conservation. From 2011 to early 2023, it was on display at the National Trust Carriage Museum at Arlington Court in Devon.

In May 2023, the Coach returned to Westminster Hall for a display in honour of the coronation of King Charles III.

Selected Timeline

About 1698: Manufacture of the coach

About 1702: Queen Anne is thought to have gifted the Coach to the Speaker of the House of Commons

1801: Speaker Mitford purchased the coach from his predecessor, Speaker Addington. The Coach was repaired

1802: Speaker Abbott purchased the Coach from Speaker Mitford

About 1808: Coach housed in new stables adjoining Speaker’s House

1834: Fire destroyed the existing Palace of Westminster (including Speaker’s House, but not the State Coach)

1869: Coach underwent extensive repairs 

1872: Coach featured in a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral (or the recovery of the Prince of Wales from typhoid)

1897: Coach used in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee address, when it broke down, leading to further repairs 

1902: Coach featured in Edward VII’s coronation

1911:  Coach used again in George V’s coronation

1935: Silver Jubilee celebrations for George V included the Coach

1937: Coach featured in George VI’s coronation

1952: Repairs in preparation for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation

1953: Coach used in coronation of Elizabeth II 

1977: Silver Jubilee procession for Elizabeth II featured the Coach

1981: Last use of the Coach in a ceremonial occasion, by Speaker Thomas at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer

2005: Speaker Martin formally retired the coach 

2006-2008: Extensive conservation work undertaken to stabilise and return the Coach to former magnificence after years in use

2011: Coach loaned to the National Trust Carriage Museum at Arlington Court, Devon

2023: Speaker Hoyle returned the Coach to Westminster Hall for temporary display marking the coronation of King Charles III