It has been announced that HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have chosen to use the Ascot Landau carriage at their wedding, assuming the weather stays fine, so we thought we would take a very quick look at the Landau, as it was first used in Britain in the 18th-century, but was named after the German city of Landau in the Rhenish Palatinate where it was first produced. Today, the royal family presently have five Landau’s, all of which are post-Georgian.
A Landau is a coachbuilding term for a four-wheeled luxury convertible carriage. Its main feature was that it had a low body which gave maximum visibility of the occupants and their clothing, so ideal for processions and for the gentry in all their finery to be seen by onlookers.
The earliest reference to a Landau being used in England that we have found dates to July 1738 in the London Evening Post.
Last night his Grace the Duke of Marlborough, accompanied by Lord Hervey, Henry Fox Esq and another person of distinction, arrived in town in a landau and six, from Sir Robert Walpole’s seat at Houghton Hall in Norfolk.
Clearly even in the 1750s the public enjoyed catching a glimpse of members of the royal family as this report from Bath in August 1752 describes.
Princess Amelia, (daughter of George II) arrived here in an open Landau, attended by a large retinue, and escorted by some of the Oxford Blues. Her Royal Highness passed through the city and went on to the seat of Ralph Allen Esq. The bells rang, the cannon were fired, and the flag was displayed on the Tower. Her Royal Highness walked publicly about on Saturday and yesterday, and numbers of people flocked from all parts of the country to see her.
Ascot, was, as it is today, the place to see and to be seen. Amongst others was have a report from June 1786 in the London Chronicle that ‘their majesties were yesterday on the Ascot race ground, in an open Landau, with the younger branches of the Royal family. They partook of a cold repast in their carriage, consisting of ham and chicken’. It seems highly unlikely that Prince Harry and his new bride will be dining in theirs, to be honest!
One clearly had to be looking at one’s best when on display as the comment about the Prince of Wales showed in this report from the Whitehall Evening Post of May 1800 ‘The Prince of Wales, on Friday, took an airing in his open landau and looked considerably better than his Royal Highness has been for some months past.’
This one gives you an idea of how much they cost from The Suffolk Chronicle; or Weekly General Advertiser & County Express. 13 April 1816
TO BE SOLD
A very handsome Landau Barouche, town-built, nearly new, the property of a gentleman going abroad. Price 80 Guineas.
That was a cheap one in comparison to this one in the Hampshire Chronicle of July 1816 for a Landaulet, which was a cutdown or coupe version of the Landau
TO BE SOLD A BARGAIN
A handsome Landaulet, nearly as good as new on its first wheels; cost 320 guineas – lowest price 200 guineas.
It seems that no expense was spared when a new landau was required.
Our final image is a sketch of Landau by the coachbuilders Hooper & Co. Unfortunately, this sketch is not dated, but the company was founded in 1805. The seal says that by then they were ‘coachbuilders to her Majesty and the Prince of Wales’.
London Evening Post (London, England), July 20, 1738 – July 22, 1738
General Advertiser (1744) (London, England), Thursday, August 13, 1752
Landscape with Carriage and Horses – William Ashford – Ulster Museum