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The other Museum that was of interest to me, was the Royal Carriages Museum across the street from the Belem Palace, a former Royal Palace now the Presidential Palace. The Coches or Carriages used to be housed in the old Royal Stables, they are now housed in a modern building where they are well displayed with ample explanations on their style and usage.

It is a very large collection and spans 500 years of Portuguese history. Not only are there carriages but also uniforms of staff and all the accoutrement for horses and musical instruments used in processions.

The Carriages were manufactured in Italy, Holland, France, England and Austria and brought to Lisbon by ship, because some carriages are very large, often bigger than a modern large SUV and weighing several tons, up to 12 ships would be required to bring them to Portugal. The monarchy was abolished in 1910 but the Government of Portugal kept the accoutrement of royalty in its museums, certainly makes for a rich collection.

Many were gifts from the Sun King Louis XIV to mark the wedding of one of his relative to the Royal Portuguese Family. Some were manufactured to be used in processions during diplomatic missions to the Holy See, in all cases they were made to impress. It seems that you simply had to have the carriage that fit the occasion to convey the right message about the King of Portugal and his intentions.


This carriage is very similar to the carriage used by King Henri IV of France on the day he was stabbed to death. It is 400 years old and typical of the type of carriage used by Royalty at the time. It has glass panes in the windows, an unbelievable luxury at the time. Cannot imagine it was very comfortable to ride given the poor suspension mechanism. Made of wood, leather and decorated with expensive cloth.

This coach was used by the King for his trip from Madrid to Lisbon in 1619.




State Carriage, ordered by Austrian Emperor Joseph I in 1708 for the marriage of his sister Marie-Anne of Austria to the King of Portugal, Joao V. This carriage is all sculpted wood with gold leaf incrustation. It has royal symbols like the lions and painting at the back of the carriage, windows in glass. A crew of 4 men would served on it. Two Postillon at the back and 2 coach men at the front. Up to 6 horses would be used.

The carriage was made in the Netherlands and came to Lisbon transported on 11 ships.


The elaborate uniforms worn by the escort who would walk along on either side of the carriage. They also carried mace in solid sterling silver, to be used to clobber any one who presented a threat to the royal person. Pretty sure a blow would kill anyone.


Here is some embroidered cloth to dress the horses of the carriage, robes for the drums and a trumpeter’s uniform.




At the back of the carriages a special crank used to tighten the leather straps which were used as suspension for the box compartment carrying the passenger. The Coronation coach used to go to the Opening of Parliament in London has exactly the same suspension devices. Queen Elizabeth remarked in an interview how uncomfortable the carriage is bouncing around even at low speed. I suppose these royal carriages were made for show not comfort.


The collection is quite complete with carriages for every purpose including one to transport Royal BUT illegitimate children around town, another one to transport Princesses who are going to be married to the King from one Kingdom to the other and then would change to a new carriage to indicate the crossing of the border and their impending new status. Carriages for Archbishops, Carriages for religious icons during major Christian Festivals and then this carriage to transport a Blessed ribbon sent by  Pope Clement XI in 1715 for the baptism of the Heir to the Portuguese throne Don José. The figures on the four corners represents the 4 continents where the Portuguese Empire extend and the foot step is a Sea shell, Christian symbol of baptism.


The most impressive carriage was this one with its highly decorated human figures almost life size made of carved cork wood which is very light in weight.

This carriage ordered by King Joao V in 1716 was to celebrate a triumph in Rome and display the might of the Portuguese Empire in the World. The Ambassador of King Joao V would have ridden in it on his way to see the Holy Father, Pope Clement XI who at the time also ruled over the City of Rome and Central Italy and was a power broker amongst the Catholic Sovereigns.


At the back of the carriage covered in gold leaf we see the two Oceans the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans shaking hands. This celebrated the passage of the Cape of Good Hope by Portuguese navigators.


This coach also part of the triumphal procession shows Victory with a trumpet crowning Portugal at her feet two male figures, one African (African colonies) and the other Asian (Macau). The Ambassador of the King, Rodrigo Anes de Sa Menezes, Count of Fontes would ride in this carriage. The whole idea of such parades in Rome was to show the power and magnificence of Portugal and its King Don Joao V. Though these carriage are 300 years old, they remain truly impressive in terms of the artistry used to tell a story. Note also in the photo below between the two male figures the symbol of the Royal House of Braganza, the winged mythical dragon.