April 24, 2024

For many years the National Coach Museum was the only museum of note in Lisbon.  (That’s since changed.) It has also been derided among certain culturati for it’s royalist leanings and lack of panache, but remains, in my mind, one of the more interesting exhibitions of its kind. The collection of royal coaches is the largest in the world, ranging from a rare 17th century coach belonging to King Phillip (with a cleverly hidden potty seat) to the famous 19th century carriages sent by King João V to Pope Clement XI.  Also on view is a royal sedan built in London and last used by Queen Elizabeth II for a state visit.  The carriages – made in Italy, Portugal, Spain, Austria, France and England – make for fascinating historical snapshots; moreover, they trace the development of sculpture, gilt work and the applied arts over the course of two centuries.  For this we have to thank Amelia, the last Queen of Portugal.  In 1905 she saw the advent of more efficient means of transportation and to that end thought the royal collection worth preserving. A good thing she saved them when she did: three years later her husband, the King, would be assassinated; two years after that, the royal family was sent into exile with the establishment of the Portuguese Republic.


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