Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Royal Transportation

The Queen is the most travelled monarch in British history and she has the distinction of having taken every concievable mode transportation - horseback, carriage, train, plane, helicopter, car and bicycle. She's also ridden on an elephant, been transported on a barge and even taken public transportation.

Let's revisit some of the modes of transportation:

Royal Train - In Victorian times there were few options for royal travel but this changed in 1840 when the Great Western Railway Company built a splendid railway carriage for Queen Victoria and her family. It was also used by the Dowager Queen Adelaide, widow of William IV. It was not until 1842 that Queen Victoria could be persuaded to ride it. The first Royal train journey took place on June 13, 1842 transported Queen Victoria from Slough to Paddington. The trip took 25 minutes and her journals record the experience as 'delightful'. Thus began the history of royal rail travel. Since then, successive monarchs have used the train.

Royal Flight - While today flying is commonplace as a mode of transporation, the Royal Air Force wasn't formed until 1918. King George V never flew, even as a passenger. The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) was the first member of the royal family to fly. In 1936 he became the first monarch to do so. The first member of the royal family to become a qualified pilot was Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI) in 1919. Many members of the royal family have learnt to fly. While Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother took the controls of a Comet in 1952, the first female member to earn a private pilots licence is Sarah, Duchess of York in 1987. The present Queen first flew in 1945 with her parents to Northern Ireland. Since that point there are strict rules on members of the royal family flying together in the same plane or helicopter. To prevent disaster from striking twice, the Queen and Prince Charles do not fly together. Nor do Prince Charles and Prince William. Prince Philip was the first member of the royal family to fly the Concorde in 1972. The Queen flew in it five years later and the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother celebrated her 85th birthday in the cockpit of the Concorde.

Royal Carriage - The Royal Mews has over 100 carriages, the oldest being the Gold State Coach used by King George III in 1762. Another famous coach is the Glass coach, used to transport royal brides to their weddings. Royal Carriages are a symbol of pagentry, being used for ceremonial occasions such as the State Opening of Parliament, Trooping the Color and Coronations. Queen Victoria is said to have been very fond of taking daily open carriage rides regardless of the weather.

Royal Cars - Albert Edward, Prince of Wales was the first member of the royal family to own a car. He had his first drive in a "horseless carriage" - a Daimler - in 1896. In 1898, while some were still branding the new invention “dirty” and “evil”, he drove a vehicle for the first time on public roads. He bought his first car – again, a Daimler – in 1900. In 1905, by then Edward VII, he bought no fewer than seven Daimlers in a single year. The develoment of the motor car owes much to his enthusiasm for this mode of transport. Depending on the member of the royal family, it is quite possibly the most frequently used form of transportation. For most of her engagements the Queen uses a State car.

Royal Yacht -In the early to mid part of the 20th century, cross Atlantic royal travel was by ship. As Princess Elizabeth, the Queen arrived at her first overseas visit via HMS Vanguard in 1947. The royal family has a long tradition of sailing for sport and strong ties with the yacht racing community. While the Queen has christened many a ship, the one most closely associated with her is the Royal Yacht Britannia. Launched in 1953 it was designed to be a venue for official entertaining and receptions as well as a residence for Royal tours. During its 44 years of service it went on 696 overseas visits before being decommissioned in 1997.

Riding - While not as efficient a mode of travel to carry out royal engagements, riding is arguably the oldest form of royal transport. Since there has been a royal family there have been horses. Horses have been ridden into battle and to play polo, the sport of kings. Like carriages, they are used for ceremonial occasions. They are also used for competition and for pleasure. Most members of the royal family ride, most notably Princess Anne, The Princess Royal. She is an accomplished rider, having competed in the Montreal Olympics.

© Marilyn Braun 2009

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