The Last Of Its Kind

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Here's an interesting article from today's Telegraph. The finishing touches are being put on the newest, and possibly very last, royal coach for the British monarchy. The coach is being built in Australia by probably the last living person with the requisite knowledge and skill to build one of these magnificent, obsolete conveyances. Jim Frecklington, the builder, also built the last coach added to the royal coach fleet in 1986. Before that, the last addition had been in 1902. Carriage building in general is kind of a lost art.

The newest addition to the fleet of royal carriages is being given the finishing touches in Australia before being flown to Britain as a gift to the Queen.

A time capsule containing elements from centuries of British history, the royal state coach Britannia has been designed and built as a labour of love by Jim Frecklington who learned his trade working in the Royal Mews.

A proud monarchist, he is probably the only man alive capable of building a royal carriage on such an epic scale.

He has lavished years of hard work and mortgaged his home in Sydney to help towards the estimated £620,000 building costs and the Australian government has also loaned financial assistance.

The project has the approval of Buckingham Palace and has been overseen by Prince Philip, a renowned carriage driver.

In 1986, to commemorate Australia's bicentenary two years later, Mr Frecklington, 57, designed and built the Australian State Coach which was a gift from Australia to Britain. The coach is used regularly by the Queen for the State Opening of Parliament.

Before that the last coach to be made was in 1902 for the coronation of Edward VII.

Mr Frecklington's labours on Britannia included scouring the globe for the finest materials and the few remaining craftsmen and women with the requisite skills and knowledge to build a traditional state coach. It is unlikely that anything remotely like Britannia will be built again.

The coach incorporates bits of wood and metal from many historical events or objects. Wood from HMS Victory and Henry VIII's flagship the Mary Rose. A piece of metal from a Lancaster bomber that flew with the legendary "Dambusters" of the 617 squadron and lots of other things. Fascinating and quite beautiful even if it isn't the most modern of ways to get around.

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