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An Australian Coach for the Queen

Marian T. Horvat

An Australian monarchist is about to complete a superb present made for Queen Elizabeth II, a black and gold jewel-encrusted coach named Britannia. It is a gift for the Queen’s 80th birthday (April 21, 2006), and even though he didn’t finish it on time and will deliver it one year later, the gesture loses not an iota of its significance.

The Brittania coach

The Britannia, a gift from Jim Frecklington and the Australian people to the Queen

Photos from Point de Vue, March 19, 2007
Jim Frecklington, an Australian carriage builder, traveled the world to find the most skilled workers and the most noble materials possible for the gilded coach that will be drawn by six horses. After two years under construction, the completed Britannia is 20 feet long, 10 feet high and weighs 2.75 tons. And every inch of her was carefully planned by the master coach-smith and executed by a host of topnotch craftsmen.

The door handles are made of New Zealand gold and encrusted with 130 sapphires and 24 diamonds. The glass panels are hand blown and cut by Edinburgh Crystal. The four coach lamps are spun in brass and topped with the royal crown. The wheels, crafted in alloy to be safer, are gold plated. The interior is upholstered with 20 yards of pale gold silk brocade, woven in England.

Jim Frecklington

Jim Frecklington, ardent monarchist and master coachmaker
Then, to make it a unique and truly historic gift, Frecklington embedded in it many fragments and precious pieces of English history. On the roof is a gilded Imperial Crown, carved with wood that came from the timbers from Nelson’s flagship Victory. A piece of a Lancaster bomber from the 617th Squadron symbolizes the Royal Air Force. A metal bending that came from a musket ball from Waterloo represents the land army.

After he started to build the carriage knowing that his project enjoyed the favor of the Queen, Frecklington received funding for it from the Australian Government. Even so, costs soon rose above the budget. So Frecklington mortgaged his house and drew on assets to complete the work.

Was it worth it? Of course, is his quick response. “The Queen is our Queen, and the monarchy is the best form of government in the world … I like to think there will be a British monarch riding in Britannia for at least the next 200 years” (1).

Preserving the art

The gift fit for a queen comes from the hands of a man of the people. Frecklington’s family settled in New South Wales in the 1850s as free settlers, sheep and cattle farmers. In his childhood he was fascinated by carriages and made carts for his Shetland pony on the family farm. Then, as a young man, he moved to England and found a job with the royal household, caring for the Queen’s horses and carriages and driving the coaches on ceremonial occasions.

Sevants preparing the royal horses and carriage

Frecklington worked at London's Royal Mews, which houses the State vehicles and the horses
He loved the beauty, pomp and ceremony that surrounded him there, and returned to Australia bent on becoming a master coach-builder. That is exactly what he did. The high culture and superior taste he had admired while working at the Royal Mews reflected in his work. His reputation as master carriage maker grew and spread.

For the 1988 bicentennial celebration of Australia, he was asked to construct the Australian State Coach, a gift from Australia offered to the English Sovereign, who uses it every year to go to the Parliament for the traditional opening ceremony. The builder of carriages of all kinds made a Roman cart of 24 carat gold for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Now he adds to his accomplishments the Britannia, his masterpiece. He compares the creation of a coach for the Queen to the jeweled eggs made by Fabergé for the Russia Tsars: “These are treasures of the world. Why not make new ones?” (2)

A greater than utilitarian value

Not everyone appreciates Jim Frecklington’s grand gesture. When Labor Senator John Faulkner heard that the Australian government had contributed $350,000 to the project, he protested. The money could have been better spent on programs for the Australian people, he ranted. Some practical American readers may agree with him.

Paula Churhc painting the emblem of St. George

Paula Church puts final touches on St. George on his white horse slaying the dragon
In truth, Senator Faulkner is wrong. The royal coach is more than a gilded carriage. The work of Frecklington is the expression of a significant part of the Australian people who prefer to elevate their souls with a noble and beautiful gesture rather than have a new food program or receive a free vaccine. The government understood this sentiment quite well, and sponsored the work because it wanted to be associated with this expressive gesture.

The carriage will be a gift from Frecklington as much as from the Australian people. This magnificent coach expresses the general admiration for the culture the Australian colony received from England, as well as gratitude for what Australia is today as an independent member of the Commonwealth.

Even though we at TIA do not think monarchy should be applied indiscriminately to every country, it is nice to pay note to this general Australian admiration for the English monarchy in the person of Queen Elizabeth II, and the sentiment of gratitude this gift represents.

Such a gesture represents the exact opposite of how all the revolutionary media likes to present Australia. During each visit of the Queen to that country, the media magnifies every small protest against the Sovereign, trying to send the message that everyone is furiously anti-monarchy.

The episode of Frecklington’s coach gives me the opportunity and pleasure to stress that this image is false.

Footnotes

1. “Crowning glory,” The Telegraph online, August 8, 2007
2. Jo Chandler, “Made in Australia: A carriage fit for a queen”, The Age, July 15, 2006
3. Linton Besser, “Almost Ready,” Sydney Morning Herald, May 23, 2007


Posted August 27, 2007

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