Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Royal Sleighs

by Anita Mae Draper

This is Part 3 of my series on sleighs:
  • Part 1 is about 19th century adult and Santa sleighs.
  • Part 2 is about 19th centurychildren's sleighs.

For Part 3, I wanted to showcase some of the more expensive sleighs in history. Because I'm a Canadian, let's start with Queen Victoria who lived from 1819-1901, ruling the British Commonwealth for much of that time.

This is a pencil drawing showing a sleigh built by Hooper & Co for Queen Victoria c1850-1870 under the personal supervision of the Albert, Prince Consort.

This painting is in the Royal Collection and shows Queen Victoria and the children being driven by Prince Albert just as envisioned in the above drawing.

The actual red and gold sleigh, which is lined with red velvet, is shown here at a seasonal exhibit at Windsor Castle:

An extract from Queen Victoria’s journal of February 12th, 1855 records a winter outing in the sleigh with Princess Clementine of Orleans:
"Another sharp frost and a fine day – Albert drove Clem and me out in the sledge…with the exception of 2 or 3 little places, we went beautifully and as smoothly as though we were on ice. The sun bright & the sky so blue. We were out for an hour!"

It doesn't look that big above with the huge castle tree, but look at it here in perspective:

I think those 'crown' ornaments are cute for a castle tree.

King Ludwig of Bavaria (1845-1886) spent most of his life building castles. His Schloss Neuschwanstein Castle is famous the world over as the inspiration for the Disney's iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle. Although Ludwig never married and had no children, he loved beautiful, romantic things.

The above is a child's sleigh preserved in one of his many castles.

In the Kremlin in Moscow, we find the oldest of the royal Russian carriages. This one is from the 18th century and was one of many to carry the royal court from city to city. For example, when Catherine the Great (1729-1796) made her trip from St. Petersburg to Moscow for her coronation, she did it in 13 days in a sleigh similar to this.

According to the book, Russian Imperial Style, by Laura Cerwinske, Catherine’s sleigh was a "palace on runners! It contained a salon, library and bedroom all warmed by porcelain stoves. It had six windows and was wide enough for 8 people to pass abreast! Behind her sleigh was a procession of 19,000 horses and 14 large sleighs and 184 smaller ones carrying the royal court."

St. Petersburg is the home of The Hermitage, the legacy of Catherine the Great's love of art. One of the pieces she collected for her gallery is this carved sleigh. It's a gilded treasure of St. George slaying the dragon.

Here's another of Catherine the Great's sleighs which is said to have extraordinary embroidery:

Finally, back in March 2009, Norway's Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit visited the Sami region of Finnmark. They bundled up in traditional costume to deal with the -13F/-25C temperatures.

One thing I learned from researching these sleighs and sledges was the inordinate amount of treasures to see. Castles and museums with carriages, sleighs all gilded and sitting there. It boggles my mind.

Have you ever visited a foreign museum? Which one and why? Which one would you like to visit if you had a chance?


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and 2 of their 4 kids. She writes stories set on the prairies of Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Anita Mae has semi-finaled in the Historical Romance category of the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest and finaled in the Inspirational category of the 2011 Daphne du Maurier, the 2011 Fool for Love, the 2011 Duel on the Delta and 2009 Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests. You can find her at http://www.anitamaedraper.com/


  1. I visited the Louvre in Paris and also another art museum there in an old train station. I love art museums and old architecture. I also got to see the royal jewels in Sweden. They were kept underground in what looked like a really clean dungeon.

    1. My brother in law lives in Stockholm, so I've been there twice.

      Favorite old building to date, Notre Dame.

  2. Dina, that's wonderful that you got to see the Louvre. All those old masters must be truly a sight. Same as the Swedish royal jewels.

    Although I can appreciate their beauty, I probably wouldn't have joined you on those tours, but I would've been right beside you for the old architecture. :)

    Did you go to Sweden or were the royal jewels on exhibition in Paris?


  3. Oh, wow. These are simply gorgeous. I love Catherine's sleigh with the embroidery on it. The Norway prince's sled made me laugh.

    Although I'm sure I've been to a museum in Japan, I don't remember it. I do remember going to the emperor's palace, though. That was kind of like a museum. They had a lot of things on display.

    In Canada, I've been to the Provincial Museum three times. It's a lovely place. And I've also visited a miniatures museum in Canada and a wax museum. Not exactly what you're looking for, Anita, I know. But that's the extent of my foreign travels. I would absolutely love to go to the Louvre.

  4. Anita, I'm going to have to include a sleigh in my next story, just I can use some of this information. So interesting! I'm still trying to wrap my head around Catherine's sleigh. I guess it makes sense that the Russians would have perfected that particular means of transportation.

  5. Oh, and for what it's worth I've been to lots of foreign museums, including the Louvre and the Hermitage. Although I don't remember seeing the sleigh on display there.

  6. Suzie, that's exactly what I'm looking for. :)

    By provincial museum, I'm guessing you mean one in Victoria, British Columbia (BC), but what is the title? I might get a chance to swing by this summer before I meet you.

    I've been to the wax museum in Niagara Falls. I was amazed at how life-like the figures were.

    And although I've been to the US, I've never been to an American museum. I'm hoping to rectify that this summer. :)

    So actually, you, my dear Suzie, have more foreign museum explorations under your belt that I. :o Haha.


  7. Oh, Lisa, how fascinating. You must have so many memories to share in your books. :)

    Catherine's sleighs are mentioned in detail in many documents including her memoirs. Online photographs give attribution to them being at Catherine's Palace as well as the Hermitage. There is also a reference to an exhibition of her carriages and sleighs, which I assumed was on display at the Hermitage instead of their permanent home at Catherine's Palace.

    Researching this topic is inciting me to travel overseas - something I had thought of but never dwelled on. Yet the museums and castles which house these conveyances are magnificent and the likes I don't think will ever be built again.


  8. Anita, yes, it is in Victoria. And I do believe the name is the Provincial Museum. Also, if you go there, you should also go to the parliment building. It's right across the street and they give an amazing tour. The paintings on the rotunda ceilings are stunning.

    The cool thing about the wax museum is that the royal family is the first display you come to, and it includes the current family, Diana, and many past members including Henry and his many wives. Oh, and they have Perry Mason there, too. Lol.

  9. Oh, those are neat. Sleighs always make me feel Christmassy. :D

    I've been to the Louvre and the British Museum (and the surrounding ones).

    What I'd really like to see is the Smithsonian!

  10. Great post, Anita! I am still agog over Catherine's sleigh. Wow-ee.

    I've been to the miniature museum and the Parliament building in Victoria, too, Suzie--both were very interesting to me.

    I've been able to see some fascinating exhibits on tour at local-ish museums, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Romanov family gems and their Faberge eggs.

    The Smithsonian is wonderful, DeAnna. I could spend weeks there. Goodness, I barely saw anything while I was there, yet I saw a *lot* if that makes sense.

  11. as always, loving this post Anita. the size of Catherine's sleigh boggles the mind. hard to imagine such wealth to be able to create such a vehicle along with the entourage that accompanied her.

    i've visited a Bottmingen Castle in Basel, Switzerland, a couple of museums in Germany (one at checkpoint Charlie before the fall of the Berlin Wall), and a few Soviet museums in the Ukraine. The armour at the Swiss castle amazed me because all the armour was so tiny. The most interesting museum was the one near Kiev which was about all the cities abandoned after the meltdown at Chernobyl and the health results on families and especially children there from the fallout.

    I love traveling around the globe. I've yet to reach the Orient (the Phillipines don't quite count) and Australia. I always joked when I was single that if I visited there, I'd come back married because I adore the Aussie accent.

    Anita, if you're anywhere near Washington D.C., any of the Smithsonian museums are a must-see.

  12. oh, i've been to the museum in Israel where the Dead Sea Scrolls are as well. How could I forget my visit to Israel and all the sites there? Masada and the Dead Sea... just everything there.

    And the Great Pyramid at Giza. Rode a camel there too...

  13. Lovely post! I enjoyed the pictures and history of sleighs so much. The other night I was watching one of my all time favorite TV shows from the 90's Little Men, where a sleigh was featured and I thought that it was so cool that they actually found a sleigh! Thanks, Ms. Draper :)

  14. Dina! You could've ridden in the reindeer-pulled sledge if you wanted! Awesome! Or maybe you did and aren't telling.

    The story that went with the Crown Prince and Princess of Norway told how they both fell out of their sleighs when someone spooked the reindeer, but they laughed about it and got back in. I thought that was admirable.

    Hmmm... Notre Dame. I know it's a Basilica... in London? I'd have to google to be sure, but I've seen pics. It's Gothic, isn't it? Very dramatic, too. Very nice architecture. Always knew you had good taste.

    (Are you sure you haven't met a reindeer?)

  15. Thanks, Suzie, I'll have to check. Every province has a provincial museum of history or natural history or something and it's hard to keep track from one province to another.

    Yes, the rotunda paintings sound similar to other provincial legislature buildings. For your info, the actual Parliament buildings are in the nation's capital of Ottawa in Ontario. The rest are called legislature buildings.

    Hmmm... I wonder if High Tea at the Empress Hotel can be considered a museum tour? Certainly its historic. And it's one of the few items - so far - on my bucket list. :)

  16. LOL DeAnna - this was going to be the post I did on Dec 20th, but did my Nativity scenes instead.

    It's interesting to note that Queen Victoria's sleigh first went on display to the public at Windsor Castle in 2008. From what I gathered, it's now an annual display (with the crown Christmas tree) from Dec to mid-Jan only. Perhaps the current royal family uses it the rest of the time?

    Another Louvre lover. Interesting. (Say that 10 times fast.)

    Yes, the Smithsonian is definitely going on my bucket list. Plus a week or 2 to discover it all. Will that be time enough, I wonder?

    The British Museum? Hmm... I'm not familiar with it as most things British that catch my eye seem to be in castles. No, I'm not talking princes, although they are distracting.

  17. Susie - with both you and Suzie talking about the miniature museum, I should probably see it as well. It sounds intriguing.

    Oh, the Romanov family gems and their Faberge eggs... yes, those intricate works of art would pull me in to the exibit as well.

    And yes, I see you and I would have the same trouble in the Smithsonian. It's not a museum you go to just look at... you need time to digest it as well, eh.

    One thing about your location, Susie is that you have access to so many wonderful things. That's certainly something to consider when a person is looking to buy a home.

  18. Okay, DebH - you win. When it comes time for me to travel the globe, I'm taking you with me. :D

    What wonderful places you've discovered. I hope you have photos to get Guppy interested. I love getting out and 'exploring' with my kids.

    I can totally see you as a blogger telling others about your travels.

    And about that accent... a Navy accent on one hand ... an Aussie one of the other... hmmm interesting choice. Looks like the Navy man spoke your lauguage. LOL

    You've been to the Holy Land, too? You'd be a great resource for a writer of biblical fiction. I'll have to keep that in mind.

    Thanks for sharing, Deb. I never knew you'd traveled so much. It's a new facet to your shine. :)

    Hmmmm... I wonder how many of those places you've dived in?

  19. You're welcome, Faye.

    I really enjoyed the Little Men TV show as well, but I didn't catch all the episodes. If I wasn't so worried about the technology changing, I'd buy the DVD set of the series.

    Your comment reminded me that we used to use sleighs here on the prairies similar to Catherine's. Not at all that luxurious, but they were enclosed little rooms to bring the kids to school and back. Like a school bus, but with a pot bellied stove inside and pulled by a team of horses. If I find photos, I'll do a post on them as well.

    Thanks for your interest, Faye. I appreciate it. :)

  20. omigosh. Amazing. I think I'm due to watch Dr. Zhivago.

    These are beautiful and you've done such a nice job with the whole series.
    Our local carriage museum has some sleighs and supplements their monthly 'carriage ride day' with sleigh rides. Only, our snow is so 'unreliable' these days....

    I am a bit envious of all travels everyone has taken. Wow.

  21. Deb, Dr. Zhivago is my MIL's favourite film, although I've never sat through the complete film. Every time I want to, Nelson goads me to change the channel because his mom made him sit through it 15 times or so.

    When I come and visit you someday, you'll have to take me to see your carriage museum. I've never been to one. We have the Western Development Museum of Transportation here, but there's only a couple carriages and sleighs. The rest are every type of conveyance you can imagine. Except boats. I don't remember any boats. But there are planes hanging from the rafters.

    Wait! Now that I think of it... they have the enclosed school bus sleigh with the stove inside. Wheee! It's 2 hrs west of here, so I'll plan for a spring trip. Perhaps after Victoria Day so I can ride the steam engine. :)

    And don't be envious... put it on your bucket list. It's something to strive for. :)


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