According to a double piece by Paul Eccleston in the 17 June, 2006 issue of the London Daily Telegraph, that wonderful man, Jim Frecklington has designed and constructed a new State Coach, Britannia, an awe-inspiring craftsmen-built vehicle 10ft high. “It will take a team of six horses to pull it and it will eventually be handed over to the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace as a gift from Australia to the British people to mark the Queen’s 80th birthday.”
It is no exaggeration to say that the photographs in the Telegraph are breathtaking, and show an extraordinary work of art which links us to the past and to our oldest institution, the Crown.
Mr Frecklington is a proud Australian and an ardent and unapologetic monarchist. "I think we live under one of the best systems in the world and why should we want to change it?" he said. "I hope the royals will continue to reign over our land for a long time to come."
In 1988, to commemorate Australia’s bi-centenary, he designed and built the Australian State Coach which again was a gift from Australia to Britain.(This is pictured above.) He did this in less than a year. The coach, Britannia, is a four-wheeled carriage, an ornate black and golden coach from another age that will exude opulence and luxury. Its materials include are fragments from Britain’s history: Nelson’s flagship Victory, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, stately homes and palaces. She cost almost £500,000 to build and, as the Telgraph says, she is a majestic work of art. Every inch has been hand-made, wrought, carved, stitched and painted by some of the few remaining artisans with the skills capable of producing a state coach. But more than anything, as the Telgraph says ,Britannia is the result of one man’s single-minded pursuit of a dream to create a vehicle encapsulating and symbolising the history and traditions of the British.
Britannia is also a magnificent showcase of historic milestones. Items were selected for the carriage from sites and events that were of particular significance during more than 1,000 years of British monarchy. The project was also endorsed by the Queen and the Australian government and there were similar letters of support from the Lord Chamberlain and English Heritage.
The carriage has hydraulic stabilisers which will make it the most comfortable of all the royal carriages. It is heated and has electric lighting. The controls are hidden in the arm rests, which are made of timber taken from the rails on the royal yacht Britannia.
There are pieces of wood in the door panels from the Mary Rose, Osborne House, Blenheim Palace,Hampton Court
and Holyrood House. There is also a segment of oak gear teeth made by John Harrison, who in 1726 created the world’s first accurate sea clock. Canterbury Cathedral and St Paul’s as well as many other cathedrals, stately homes and historical sites also contributed materials.
Mr Frecklington is trying to preserve the art but doubts very much there will ever be a coach like Britannia built again. “Great processions involving royal carriages have been so much a part of British tradition and I want to see that tradition continue for a long, long time."
Mr Frecklington has done an extraordinary service and produced something of rare beauty. He is to be congratulated.There is a photograph of Britannia under construction at the website of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust