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History of the Royal Mews

Royal Stables in the Mews Charing Cross, 1793

Royal Stables in the Mews Charing Cross, 1793 ©

Origins

The current Royal Mews was built in the gardens of Buckingham Palace in 1825.  However, the history of the institution goes back much further, to the King's Mews in the reign of Richard II in the late 14th century. For around 100 years until the reign of Henry VII, the King's Mews was at Charing Cross on the present site of the National Gallery in London.

The name 'Mews' comes from the royal hawks that were originally kept at the King's Mews. The word 'mew' means moulting, and the birds were kept in a 'mews' as they weren’t used for hunting whilst their feathers moulted. The building was destroyed in a fire during the reign of Henry VIII in 1534 and rebuilt as stables but kept the name 'Mews' even though it had a different function.

George III's Procession to the Houses of Parliament

George III's Procession to the Houses of Parliament - the first outing in 1762 of the Gold State Coach. ©

George III

After George III bought the then Buckingham House in 1762, he moved some of his horses and carriages to the grounds and commissioned the architect Sir William Chambers to create a riding school.  However, the main royal stables housing the ceremonial coaches and their horses remained at Charing Cross.

George IV

John Nash; who was in charge of rebuilding Buckingham Palace for George IV; also built the present Royal Mews. The buildings were completed in 1825 at a cost of over £65,000. Nash built grand stables for 100 horses around the riding school, a Doric-style arch, surmounted by a clock tower, leading into the quadrangle of the Mews, as well as coach houses and harness rooms.

 

A group of men and children with Webster, the pony, by the main doors of the Royal Mews. ©

Queen Victoria

In 1837, Queen Victoria became the first monarch to live in the redesigned Buckingham Palace. At which point the Royal Mews became a much more active place, developing into what the present Queen has called 'a small village which belongs to Buckingham Palace'.  Queen Victoria established a school in the Mews for the children of families working there, and her husband, Prince Albert, added a new forge and other buildings. All of Victoria and Albert's children learnt to horse ride in the Riding School at the Mews.