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WHEELS OF FORTUNE; State Coach is made of solid gold, is 240 years old and is worth a cool pounds 28m.


AS jalopies go, it's a nice little runner. Just 240 years old, it has had eight very careful owners and is always garaged at night.

Not too many miles on the clock either, and it's in pretty good nick for its age.

Okay, so the four tonnes of solid gold might play havoc with the pavement, and you may have trouble with thieves.

But if you're interested, it's yours for roughly pounds 28million. Of course, the owner might accept less for cash. This is the Gold State Coach, the most striking piece of machinery in the world.

Yesterday, it made only its second journey in 25 years when it carried the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh during the procession to St Paul's Cathedral.

Its last outing was for the 1977 Silver Jubilee celebrations.

Designed by architect Sir William Chambers, it was built in 1762 for George III, needs a team of eight horses and is festooned with carvings of dolphins, mermaids and cherubs. Paintings by Florentine artist Giovanni Cipriani decorate its sides and four gold tritons - half-man, half-fish - represent Britain's seafaring heritage.

The carriage is made of four tonnes - or 128,000 ounces - of gold, worth almost pounds 28.5m at today's price. That works out at a staggeringpounds 222 per ounce.

Legend has it that during preparations for King Edward VII's coronation in 1902, the Duke of Portland, who was in charge of arrangements, had a dream that the coach got stuck under Horse Guards Arch on its way to Westminster Abbey.

In the morning he checked the route and found that the road under the arch had been raised during resurfacing and the coach would have become stuck. But rather than alter the height of the coach by cutting off the crown on the top, the decision was taken to lower the road.

Since 1762, it has been used at the coronations of George IV, William IV, Queen Victoria, Edward VII, George V, George VI and, of course, Elizabeth II.

But it was not popular with monarchs. William IV said it was like being on a ship in a rough seas, while Queen Victoria hated its "distressing oscillations".

The original cost was pounds 7562, including pounds 1673 to builder Samuel Butler, pounds 2500 to carver Joseph Wilton, and pounds 315 to the artist who painted eight allegorical scenes on the panel.

The coach is 12ft high, 24ft long and 8ft 3in wide. It requires eight horses to pull it along and has a driving crew of 13 men.

It's similar in appearance to the second oldest in the Queen's selection of 150 horse-drawn coaches and carriages, the Scottish State Coach.

It was used last weekend during the Golden Jubilee celebrations in Edinburgh. Drawn by four white horses, it was escorted by two squadrons of the Household Cavalry as it carried the Queen from Holyroodhouse to the Assembly Hall to open the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

Built in 1833, it bears the Royal Arms of Scotland and insignia of the Order of the Thistle and has a model of the crown of Scotland on its roof.

Before this year, it was last used by the Queen at the opening of the General Assembly in 1969. But it wasn't used for the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 in case the Queen stole the show by arriving amid such pomp and ceremony.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 5, 2002

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