Saturday, October 4, 2008

Musings On The Royal Mews

Scroll Down For More Pictures of "The Royal Mews"

Located in the very heart of London are the royal stables, known today as the “Royal Mews”. The word “mews” is a derivative of an old French word “mue” (which is taken from the Latin “mutare, meaning to change). In this case it is the changing of plumage. For in the Middle Ages the king kept his falcons in a “mews” during their “mewing” or molt.

Prior to 1537, the royal stables were in Bloomsbury. However fire destroyed the Bloomsbury stables and the horses had to be moved. At this time the mews for the falcons was at Charing Cross. Needing quarters for the horses after the fire, the falcons were moved from their mews and the horses were then stabled there.

Buckingham House was purchased by George III in 1762, and later became Buckingham Palace. This gave the Monarchy the stables at Charing Cross and Buckingham Palace. In 1824 George IV had the stables and the coach houses at Buckingham Palace re-designed, and in 1825 this became the “Royal Mews”.

In 1855, Queen Victoria established at her own expense the “Royal Mews School” to provide education to the children of the servants belonging to the Royal Mews. The school remained for over 20 years.

Today all state vehicles are housed and maintained at the Royal Mews, thus it serves as an important working department within the Royal Household.

Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermes (President and fifth generation descendant of Hermes founder, Thierry Hermes) visited London in 1990. As part of his stay he visited the Royal Mews. Here he was inspired by the exquisite craftsmanship and beauty of the Royal coaches and the historical association with horses. He knew he was experiencing the perfect subject matter for an Hermes scarf.

He also knew that he had in mind the perfect artist for such a piece, his old friend and someone who had designed other scarves for Hermes, Colonel Jean de Fougerolle. Colonel de Fougerolle was beseeched to visit the Royal Mews himself. Once there he too was inspired by the rich possibilities for design offered by the setting.

Appropriately in 1993, during Hermes theme the “Year of the Horse”; Colonel Jean de Fougerolles rendition “The Royal Mews” scarf was released. And would remain The exclusive to Great Britain until the end of 1993.

The scarf’s design incorporates at its center depictions of the horses and carriages of the royal family, the Queen’s Equerry and Master of Horses are facing each other. The carriages depicted are: The Golden State Coach, The Irish State Coach, The Barouche, The 1902 State Landau, and queen Alexandra’s State Coach.

Hermes presented this scarf to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, on May 13, 1993.
An interesting side note is that the site where Buckingham Palace now stands was originally a mulberry garden planted by King James I (r. 1603-25) to rear silkworms. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong kind of mulberry bush, and silk production never took off in Britain.

We can be forever thankful that this was not the case in France.

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