Aug 20, 2023

King Charles III's Coronation Is the World's Most Famous 14

Bentley, Škoda, and Williams Racing are all joining the pomp and ceremony—and the fairy-tale coach once inspired the creation of Matchbox cars. So read on.

The last time a new British royal ascended to the throne—Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953—it ended up leading indirectly to the creation of Matchbox cars. Whether today's coronation of King Charles III will have that kind of impact on the toy-car scene or not, there are plenty of automotive angles to a royal coronation.

Like the Matchbox story, which starts for our purposes when a pair of metal-toy-car makers in London found tremendous success in selling a million miniature models of the ornate Gold State Coach (pictured at top). This 260-year-old carriage has been used at every coronation since that of William IV in 1831, so the toysmiths had some warning that it would be used for Queen Elizabeth II. They released two models of it around the time of her coronation, and the smaller of the two became insanely popular, selling a million copies.

When the daughter of one of the modelmakers later wanted a small toy that could fit inside a matchbox, you can probably guess what he built for her. Mattel, which now owns the Matchbox brand, reminded us of this history because it is currently offering a limited-edition, dramatically updated model of the Gold State Coach. The model costs $60, and it's at the same 1/64 scale, so it will fit right in with your Matchbox collection.

The real-world Gold State Coach is a beast. Over 20 feet long and 12 feet tall, the coach can't move faster than a walking pace, even with a full complement of eight horses, because it weighs four tons. Royals have complained about how uncomfortable it is to ride in the Gold State Coach, which partly explains why there will be other vehicles involved in the coronation ceremony.

Buckingham Palace has also confirmed that the Diamond Jubilee State Coach (above) will be used in today's ceremony. This coach uses six horses and isn't quite as old as the Gold State Coach; the Diamond Jubilee State Coach was first used in 2014. While it still looks suitably old-fashioned, this is a modern design with an aluminum body, hydraulic stabilizers, electric windows, and an HVAC system. It was built in Australia.

There are a dozen or so vehicles in the royal collection that could make an appearance sometime Saturday, between the ceremonies and parade, including Bentley State Limousines and three Rolls-Royces (a 1977 Silver Jubilee Rolls-Royce Phantom VI, a 1986 Phantom VI, and a 1950 Phantom IV). The only vehicles confirmed for the event, though, are the two coaches.

There are plenty of other automotive connections, especially from U.K. brands. Williams Racing will display the Coronation Emblem on the noses of two of its Formula 1 cars during the Miami Grand Prix this weekend. Škoda U.K. is offering a new Royal Green exterior paint color on select models.

And Bentley will be offering a limited number of these bespoke, handcrafted cabin cushions to celebrate the coronation. The cushions have 30,000-stitch embroidered Coronation Emblems on leather that was "sourced from Northern Europe where the temperate climate and lack of barbed wire fencing reduce imperfections." The pillows are intended to decorate Bentley's press cars and will not be sold.

Sebastian Blanco has been writing about electric vehicles, hybrids, and hydrogen cars since 2006. His articles and car reviews have appeared in the New York Times, Automotive News, Reuters, SAE, Autoblog, InsideEVs,, Car Talk, and other outlets. His first green-car media event was the launch of the Tesla Roadster, and since then he has been tracking the shift away from gasoline-powered vehicles and discovering the new technology's importance not just for the auto industry, but for the world as a whole. Throw in the recent shift to autonomous vehicles, and there are more interesting changes happening now than most people can wrap their heads around. You can find him on Twitter or, on good days, behind the wheel of a new EV.

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Two coaches—one old, one new—will carry the new King and Queen Consort during the splashy coronation ceremony this weekend in London. British coronations have used the Gold State Coach for hundreds of years, but the Diamond Jubilee State Coach is actually comfortable to ride in. The Gold State Coach led, indirectly, to the creation of Matchbox cars 70 years ago. This year, Bentley, Škoda, and Williams Racing are some of the brands getting involved in the event.