Every woman wishes to travel in style on her honeymoon and the 12th Earl of Moray was determined that his new wife would enjoy every comfort. Described as ‘six feet in stature, dark complexioned and handsome’ the honourable John Stewart had organised a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe for his honeymoon and commissioned a stylish, black travelling coach for the trip.
As a solider and politician he was engaged to the daughter of the Earl of Elgin during the 1830’s and six magnificent white horses had been bought to pull their coach. But, for some reason, the longed for marriage didn’t take place and the heartbroken Earl is said to have had the horses shot. He ordered the coach to be withdrawn from sight and it was taken to the coach house where it sat, unused, for the next 120 years.In 1951, the coach was finally moved to the Tyrwhitt Drake Carriage Museum in Maidstone where it now sits is stately but subdued grandeur. Even its window shutters are drawn against enquiring eyes and, as I stood looking at it, the romantic in me couldn’t help but feel sad for the Earl who largely withdrew from public life while he was still in his thirties.
Even in earlier life is seems the Earl wasn’t a fan of the limelight and despite acting as an MP for Newport on the Isle of Wight between 1825 and 1826 he was a lax attender at Parliament. In 1859, at the age of 62, he succeeded his elder brother, who was apparently insane from childhood, to the peerage and took control of his family extensive estates in north-east Scotland.
Remaining unmarried, the honourable John Stewart died in November 1867, having ‘for many years taken no part whatsoever in public affairs.’ I just hope he wasn’t alone.
PS. Despite its low key appearance, the Tyrwhitt-Drake Museum of Carriages (which is also known as the Maidstone Carriage Museum) is well worth a visit. It covers two large floors and is said to be one of the finest in Europe. The museum’s attendant is very friendly and keen to point out features that a visitor may otherwise overlook.
It’s also a bargain at £5 for a family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children) and there’s plenty for the children to see including a Mayor’s carriage decorated with the only crest featuring a dinosaur, lots of carved animals – including dragons and snakes – an original ice cream cart and Queen Victoria’s pony cart which was pulled by her beloved donkey, Zora.
I hope you enjoy it too.