QUEEN Elizabeth did not mince her words when she told a stablehand about riding to her Coronation in the Gold State Coach: “It made me feel travel sick.”
Charles and Camilla will suffer no such queasiness on their journey to Westminster Abbey on May 6, thanks to that same loyal worker.
Now home in Australia, Jim Frecklington spent ten years building the most comfortable coach in royal history, in a shed in the surf-side Sydney suburb of Manly.
And to the Aussie’s amazement, the new King and Queen have personally chosen this coach to take them to their Coronation, breaking a tradition dating back to 1831.
The jolting, swaying Gold State Coach that has delivered royals in the past will this time only be used for the royal couple’s trip back to Buckingham Palace.
By then, the danger of looking green while being crowned will be safely over.
Jim, 72, told The Sun: “Never in my wildest dreams did I think they would choose to use my coach. I feel exceptionally proud.”
The Diamond Jubilee State Coach has hydraulic suspension that its creator says makes it feel like riding in a Rolls-Royce.
It also boasts electric windows, air-con and heating — an upgrade to the hot water bottle Her Majesty previously used.
But it is far more than just a cushy ride.
Built into the coach are thousands of years of British history, thanks to more than 100 artefacts Jim painstakingly collected and crafted into its interior.
There is even a piece of the Stone of Destiny, the sandstone block that was used in the coronation of Scottish monarchs for centuries, and which was stolen from Westminster Abbey in 1950, then found and returned four months later.
Jim said: “The stone got broken when it was stolen and a few fragments were kept as back-up in case it was ever stolen again.”
One of those fragments is now set into a panel below the coach seat where Charles and Camilla will sit on their historic ride.
Other panels feature items including wood from Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose, part of the sled used by Captain Scott in the South Pole in the early 1099s, and a piece of fuselage from a Lancaster bomber that took part in the Dambuster raids in World War Two.
There is also a scrap of a ladder used by Sir Edmund Hillary when he climbed Everest in 1953, a fragment of Hut 6 at Bletchley Park where the German Second World War Enigma Machine was kept, wood from a descendant of Sir Isaac Newton’s famous apple tree, and a chunk from the original 1760 door frame of 10 Downing Street.
There is even a piece of timber from the Althorp estate in Northants — a reminder of Princess Diana, who is buried there.
Meanwhile, the armrests that hide the controls for lighting, heating and air-con are made from the hand rails of the late Queen’s beloved royal yacht Britannia.
Jim said: “Time capsules are generally put underground where no one ever sees them. I wanted to make something that’s a time capsule that we can all see now.”
The former Royal Mews worker is the only person to have built a new royal coach since 1902.
He became besotted with ceremonial carriages when he landed a job, aged 21, in 1972 working with the royal horses.
The country boy had grown up working with teams of horses on his family farm in Peak Hill, 250 miles north west of Sydney.
His first job in England was looking after the Duke of Edinburgh’s four-in-hand team of carriage horses at Windsor Castle.
He later moved to Buckingham Palace to care for the animals there
Jim recalled: “The Duke of Edinburgh was almost like a father to me. When we’d take the coaches across to Windsor or to London, he’d come and see me almost every day.
“And he was really a world authority on horse-drawn vehicles.”
He added: “I was also extremely close to the Queen because I used to go riding with her.
“She told me how horrible the Gold Coach was to ride in, because it rocked around so much. Its only suspension is leather straps.
“Every monarch who has ever ridden in it has said it’s like being in a ship on the roughest seas.”
Her Majesty confided to Jim it was so bad it left her feeling travel sick on her Coronation day in 1953.
Jim moved back to Australia in 1975 but the Queen did not forget him, asking him to help manage an exhibition that toured Australia to mark her Silver Jubilee in 1977.
That show included two carriages — the Glass Coach and the 1902 State Landau.
Jim had to repair them when they were both slightly damaged on their journey from England, then he looked after them on their travels.
He recalled: “They became like my children.”
By 1980 he was obsessed enough to build his own replica of the landau — a horse-drawn four-wheeled carriage — just for fun.
At the time his only previous coach-building experience had been as an eight-year-old boy.
He said: “We had a little Shetland pony and he became so cunning you couldn’t ride him, so I decided to make a little cart to go behind him.”
Now Jim became so skilled that he was invited back to the Palace to help get coaches ready for big occasions such as the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981.
Then, in 1987, the Queen gave him her approval to build her a new carriage from scratch.
Known as the Australian State Coach, it was presented as a gift from Down Under the following year.
But perfectionist Jim, whose day job was as a Sydney estate agent, said: “We can always look back and say, ‘Perhaps I could have done better’.”
So in 2004, with Her Majesty’s approval, he began to build what would be his masterpiece, the Diamond Jubilee State Coach.
The idea was to present it to the Queen for her 80th birthday in 2006.
But in the end it was not finished until 2013, when it was handed over as a commemoration for her Diamond Jubilee the previous year.
The build took ten years because of Jim’s brainwave to make the coach into a travelling museum crammed with history.
He was struck by the idea after discovering that there was some wood stashed away that had been taken from Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory.
Jim got permission to have some of it carved into a crown to sit on top of the coach — then he began to wonder what else was out there.
After some inquiries it turned out there was a lot — usually left over after restorations.
The craftsman explained: “They never throw it away.”
Treasures began pouring in, often just popped in the post to him at his rented workshop at an old army barracks in Manly.
Donations included fragments from the Mayflower, Bath’s Roman ruins, one of Florence Nightingale’s dresses and a Bronze Age boat.
Another sliver came from a clock built by John Harrison, the 18th-century craftsman whose marine chronometer cracked the problem of working out longitude at sea.
There is also a musket ball from Waterloo, wood from the royal box at Ascot and a button from the World War One battlefield of Gallipoli.
All came with official documentation.
Jim said: “The only refusal I got was for a piece of the wood from the desk in the Oval Office at the White House.”
The desk was a gift from Queen Victoria, made of oak from the polar exploration ship HMS Resolute.
Jim built most of the coach by himself, teaching himself techniques such as how to steam and bend the Australian hardwood he used to make the body.
And he did it all with just rough designs which he chalked on his workshop floor.
He told The Sun: “I’m the world’s worst drawer.”
Specialists helped out with items such as the carvings, lamps, the gold silk upholstery and the aluminium wheels — which were specially designed to fling water from puddles away from the carriage.
They were made at a factory in Sydney that usually makes wheels for drag racing cars.
The result of all that work is literally fit for a King, according to Sydney local Graeme Blackman, who got to try it out.
He told The Sun: “I lay down in the back. It was very comfortable. It had to be — it was made for the Queen’s bottom.”
Jim, who is single, mortgaged his home in Manly to finance his £2.7million creation.
The Aussie government gave him a small grant and donors stepped in to reimburse his costs.
Her Majesty rode in it for the first time to travel to the State Opening of Parliament in 2014.
Jim was there, and said: “She was very happy.”
She showed her gratitude by awarding him the Royal Victorian Order, a medal which is the personal gift of the Monarch.
Now, on May 6, the coach filled with history will itself become part of history.
And because it is built to last hundreds of years, Jim suspects its use at this Coronation will make it part of coronations for centuries to come.
He added: “Most people don’t leave much behind. But works of art are the great treasures of humanity. I wanted to make a work of art, not just a carriage.
“But most works of art only tell one story. This one tells 100.”
History behind Royal carriage
These were handmade from Edinburgh crystal.
Wood from the Mary Rose ship and from a descendant of Sir Isaac Newton’s famous apple tree, piece of fusealge from Dambuster plane, part of a ladder used by Everest climber Sir Edmund Hillary, fragment of Hut 6 at Bletchley Park where the Enigma Machine was kept, a chunk from the original 1760 door frame of 10 Downing Street, timber from Althorp, Princess Diana’s home.
These are designed to fling water from puddles away from the carriage.
They were made at a factory in Sydney that usually produces them for drag racing.
A fragment of the ancient Stone of Destiny is embedded in a panel below the seat.
Made by a New Zealand jeweller and decorated with 24 diamonds and 130 sapphires.
Inside the coach are controls for the lighting, heating and air-con, made from the handrails of the royal yacht Britannia.
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