Formal audiences. How it works: The Royal Stables
Motiv: Preparations in the stable at the Royal Stables. Coachman Sara Thavenius harnesses Lillegutt. Photo: royalcourt.se
One of the Royal Stables' regular duties involves taking part in formal audiences. The Royal Stables bring a sense of beauty and elegance to the ceremonies. The ambassador is collected from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on Gustaf Adolfs Torg in a parade coupé drawn by four horses, and is driven to the Royal Palace of Stockholm.
At half past six on a chilly winter's morning, work begins at the Royal Stables, situated at Väpnargatan 1 next to the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Östermalm, Stockholm. The uniforms are hung out, the stables are mucked out, and the horses are fed and groomed. But the preparations actually began a few days before. All the equipment has been checked. The shiny sections of the harnesses have been polished, as have the uniform buttons. The horses have been shampooed, and their manes, tails and fetlocks have been trimmed.
The Karl XV Parade Coupé is wheeled out. The carriage was commissioned in 1859 from carriage maker von Lauenstein in Hamburg. Photo: royalcourt.se
The ceremony associated with formal audiences traces its roots back to the time of King Johan III, in the late 1500s. Today, three newly-arrived ambassadors will formally present their credentials to The King. This represents official approval of their commission in Sweden. On this particular morning, the Karl XV Parade Coupé, Coupé 23 and Coupé 17 will be used. All three date from the mid-19th century. The metalwork is gleaming, the wheels have been oiled, and the carriages have been polished inside and out. They are checked over one last time, before being wheeled out as slowly as possible to avoid them getting over-chilled in the cold morning air.
The horses wait patiently ahead of their day's work. Photo: royalcourt.se
Back inside the stable, the ornate ceremonial harnesses are hung out ready. The horses wait patiently while they are harnessed. Silver-mounted harnesses are used for the two-horse coupés. The four horses drawing the Karl XV Parade Coupé have gold-mounted harnesses.
One final check. The hoofs are polished using a mixture of hoof grease and blacking. Photo: royalcourt.se
The horses are led out into the stable yard and harnessed ready for the coaches. The outriders mount their horses, and the cortège starts to take shape. The outriders are followed by the parade coupé drawn by four horses, after which come the two coupés with two horses for the ambassador's colleagues.
Coachman Sara Thavenius drives the parade coupé in a carriage and pair, dressed in a winter coat, bearskin and fur collar. Photo: royalcourt.se
The cavalier coachmen that will be driving the carriages put on their warm winter coats with triple-layered capes. These winter uniforms were made in the mid-19th century, and the fabric is of a quality that is no longer available, so great care is taken to look after them. They also wear bearskins with matching fur collars.
Crown Equerry Mertil Melin and a coachman sit in an escort car. They keep a close eye on the time, since everything must run smoothly. "A few years ago, we ensured that the ambassador stepped out of the carriage exactly when the Stockholm Cathedral bell chimed, on the hour or the half hour. The King heard about this and thought it was a good idea, so now The King wants the ambassador to enter the East Cabinet in the Bernadotte Apartments when the clock strikes. Now we arrive at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs at 17 minutes to the hour, and leave there at 14 minutes to. We travel via Norrbro, over Skeppsbron, up Slottsbacken and in through the West Gate to the East Gate, where the ambassador gets out. By then, the time is 4 minutes to."
Crown Equerry Mertil Melin. Photo: royalcourt.se
The Crown Equerry and the coachman who drove ahead to the Royal Palace welcome the ambassador in the Inner Courtyard. When the ambassador is received by The King, the horse and carriage leaves the courtyard to collect the next ambassador. This morning, the cortège will make three round trips between the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Royal Palace.
The Karl XV Parade Coupé, drawn by four horses, arrives at the Royal Stables' inner courtyard. Photo: royalcourt.se
Visit the Royal Stables
The Royal Stables were built between 1890 and 1894, and was designed by the palace official Ernst Jacobsson. He was assisted by architect Fritz Eckert, who designed the façades and the ornamentations. The building replaced Tessin's old Royal Stables on Helgeandsholmen, and was opened in 1894 by King Oscar II.
Read more about visiting the Royal Stables