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Latest News - Traditional Driving

Harmuth Huber's impressions of AIAT AGM 2017 in Copenhague

The AIAT Annual General Meeting in Copenhagen,
February 03rd – 05th, 2017

Hartmuth Huber (D)

Carriage and horses enthusiasts at Christiansborg Castle

Around 3 degrees centigrade and fog was just the kind of weather suitable for a sleigh ride. However, there was no snow in Copenhagen. Braving the elements but resisting the temptation to shiver, the AIAT judges assessed 23 turnouts whose drivers had been invited by Henrik Koier-Andersen, the very competent organizer of the meeting, to appear in front of Christiansborg Castle for this very purpose. And they bravely did so, after which the judges fled to the warmth of the castle’s stables.

The judging and the tour of the stables and indoor riding school was watched with interest by H. R. H. Prince Henrik, prince consort of Queen Margarethe II. of Denmark. It may be that his particular interest arises from his family history. The Prince, née Count Laborde de Monpezat, himself a celebrated sculptor, is a descendant of Henri Auguste d’Ainecy comte de Monpezat who was a famous and passionate gentleman driver and painter. He left us many fine paintings of accomplished gentlemanly turnouts, presumably from his own stables and coachhouse

Everybody was glad to be able to withdraw to the stables and was most impressed by the high vaults of the stables, resting on 76 columns of Norwegian marble. They are well designed in the style of mid 18th century guaranteeing good ventilation, which is important for the horses. (The Crown Equerry had demanded the marble columns, as the horses tended to kick sharp fragments out of brick pillars.) The stables used to house up to 250 horses at one time, today stabling is required for some 13 greys only, bred in Kladruby, in the Czech Republic. Although daily exercise is compulsory, many of the beautifully designed historic stalls have been converted to loose boxes to comply with animal welfare regulations. Therefore, the stables offer much additional space now, which is used to store the historic royal carriages.

The oldest and most grandiose vehicle is the Dowager Queen Juliane Marie’s State Coach (a seven-glass coach), which dates from 1778.

What is more, the ornately handcrafted original State Harness for eight horses belonging to that coach is also on display.
The finest carriage still in use is the Gold State Chariot (a five-glass chariot built by Henry Five, London, in 1840). It is used e.g. when the royal couple is driven to and from the New Year levee at Christiansborg Palace.

The wedding carriage was used for the wedding of Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary in 2004. It is a beautiful and well-restored barouche built by Neuss, Berlin, in 1906 and is best suited for weddings as it permits the onlookers a clear view of the royal occupants.

Other carriages, such as the landau and the State Coach are used for the royal couple’s annual tours of their country, or the reception of newly appointed ambassadors.

Many interesting exhibits, such as old photographs, sets of state harness and saddles, together with historic uniforms and liveries are displayed in show-cases in a showroom adjacent to the stables.

Suddenly the sound of a horn was heard and everybody was called to the front of the stables: the carriages were at the door! All the representatives and judges taking part in the meeting were asked to get into the carriages that were waiting there. The stunning view of a cavalcade of 12 turnouts filled everybody with enthusiasm (Pic 7). Getting into the carriages the passengers were glad to find warm blankets ready for them as the temperature had fallen to near zero by then. And off they went! The cavalcade was headed by two carriages driven by royal coachmen (and women) in full Royal Livery, an arrangement that turned out to be extremely advantageous as the cavalcade crossed so many red traffic lights but was respected as a royal procession and all cars stopped patiently. The cavalcade toured almost the whole of downtown Copenhagen including such sights as the Rosenborg Castle and the famous little mermaid, they thundered over the wooden bridges to and from the historic Castellet and ended with two laps of honour around the courtyard in Amalienborg Castle (not in honour of the drivers but in honour of the royal couple who watched the carriages from one of the upper windows with interest). Everybody enjoyed the drive very much but was nevertheless glad when they could get off at last and stomp back to their hotel, crawl under the shower and thaw out! When everybody had recovered and dressed decently in tuxedo or cocktail dress, they crossed the street to the Odd Fellow Paleet where the Gala Dinner then took place.

                        Hartmuth Huber