Carriages fit for royalty

2011-04-22 08:24

Prince William and his soon-to-be bride Kate Middleton have been hailed as the New Age youngsters bringing the royal household into the 21st century. And in one of the instances where they break from tradition, Middleton will arrive at Westminster Abbey in London in a Rolls-Royce Phantom VI instead of the 1902 state landau horse-drawn carriage used in 1981 by Princess Diana and Prince Charles.

While there is an array of stretch limousines and beautiful cars to choose from, she cannot arrive at her royal wedding in a Lamborghini or a car too modern.

So here are three very British alternatives that would make a fitting choice for the bride if she wanted to be a tad more rebellious.

Horse-drawn convertible carriage made for first citizens

The royal couple will depart the ceremony for the procession back to Buckingham Palace in the century-old state landau carriage. If the weather doesn’t hold, the 1881 Glass Coach which transported the late Princess Diana to St Paul’s Cathedral for her wedding ceremony, will be used.

The state landau was built in 1902 and has matching round buckles which forms part of the state harness.

The lightweight, four-wheeled, horse-drawn convertible carriage was named after the German city of Landau in the Rhenish Palatinate where they were first produced. Lord Hopkinson built the first English landaus in the 1830s.

The carriage has facing seats over a dropped footwell. The soft folding top is divided into front and rear sections.

The royal options

Bentley

Queen Elizabeth II usually drives around in one of two custom-built Bentley state limousines for state and special occasions.

Bentleys exude luxury and the quality material used are available in 17 standard leather colours to choose from, although a hide shop can match any colour you desire.

There are 400 separate pieces of leather trim in every car. It can take up to 15 hours to assemble a steering wheel and up to six days for the whole trim.

It takes about nine to 17 cows to trim a Bentley and each one provides about 4.27m² of leather.

Burr walnut is the most familiar trim used in these cars, but other woods are also available. Each car’s veneer (pattern) is unique, marked with the vehicle’s chassis number.

The Bentley Azure offers the ultimate glamour, sophistication and comfort. While the Continental GTC is more modern and almost daring, the Azure would add a nice touch in keeping with tradition.

Rolls-Royce

The distinctive claret and black 1977 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI will be used to take Middleton to Westminster Abbey.

It is currently undergoing repairs to damaged paintwork and windows.

According to officials at the Royal Mews, the official garage that houses the monarch’s fleet, the car was damaged last year when Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles were attacked by student protesters with sticks and bottles.

The other Rolls-Royce in the garage is the Phantom IV which was bought in 1950 by Princess Elizabeth. It became

the state car upon her accession to the throne two years later. There are also two Phantom VI models – the bespoke Silver Jubilee car with a raised roof for enhanced visibility, presented by the

British motor industry in 1977, as well as a standard model from 1987.

The modern Phantom drophead coupé would be a more fitting car for the wedding with its spacious rear, chrome finishes and cashmere trim. The fabric hood is the largest of any modern convertible car and its acoustic insulation is exemplary.

Five layers of material ensure minimum road noise and a quiet space even when driving at high speeds. An optional teak deck which resembles that of a boat hides the hood when it is lowered.

Jaguar

Queen Elizabeth ll is usually chauffeured around in an armoured Jaguar XJ when she is not on official state business. The SS 100 is a British two-seater sports car built between 1936 and 1940 by SS Cars Limited of Coventry in England.

The coupé model is considered one of the most aesthetically pleasing Jaguars ever designed. With its low stance, it has perfect visibility for the crowds to see the bride on her way to the ceremony. With that said, she might just trip over her dress when trying to get out even though the car has a side-step outside.

A unique feature is the windscreen which can be folded down, offering maximum visibility. Of the 198 units ever made, only one of them was a convertible version. Most of the cars were sold in Britain while 49 units were exported. Because the car dates back to the 1930s, the interior gives off a classic, retro look with big dials and soft-beige leather seats.


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