Present Custodian and Licensee of Windsor Carriages
Life as a child growing up on The Royal Estate,
Some of my memories..
by Rebecca Seear
I grew up within Windsor Great Park surrounded by horses and carriages, and a world somewhat unchanged for centuries. At 8 years old I recall asking my father if there was anything Victorian I could take into school, for a project, and my father retorted:
‘Yes, your grandmother.’
My grandmother was quick to point out she was Edwardian, not Victorian, but that always stayed with me. Victorian life was something in living memory for my grandmother who had Victorian parents. I enjoyed listening to their stories and growing up driving Victorian carriages, my father's livelihood, like so many Hackney Carriage coachmen before him, was everyday life to me.
I always imagined each generation held a thread of memories and connection from the past that was passed onto the next, and it was a thread I gladly grasped and held tightly.
Polishing the Victorian carriages, a regular childhood job, I was always intrigued to be touching something someone else had over a hundred years ago. The lamps, top hats, aprons, harnesses and even the umbrellas all came from a Victorian and bygone age. On my father's and grandfather’s carriage trips around the park, they would talk fondly of experiences and memories on our Royal Estate. I say ‘our’ as I always felt this was my estate. I believed from a young age that everyone had a queen who would visit their school for prize giving; a princess who would give out the rosettes at the local horse events, and a duke who would help build the carriage-driving obstacles with dad. It was all very normal to me. My cousin recalls visiting our home in the park and Princess Anne would be sitting on the sofa drinking tea!
I have memories of riding a naughty pony at 10 years old when I fell off and in a tantrum, had to walk myself and the pony home, not being able to remount. A smart car pulled beside me and a kind lady asked if I needed any assistance. 'No’ I grumped, 'I will walk home.’ By the time I returned home to the stables, word had reached my father that it was none other than Princess Margaret who had offered to rescue me. I was scolded and had to write a letter of apology to Her Royal Highness apologising for, in my father's words: 'inconveniencing'* her. This was a fairly regular day.
(*Dads perspective of a nuisance child, not Her Royal Highness's opinion, who I am certain would have given me a leg up and sent me on my way!)
In addition, I went to a Victorian school established by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert themselves to educate the children on The Estate, named The Royal School. Present to this day as the only part-Crown funded school in the UK, teaching primary children on The Estate, and now from the wider borough. In our classroom stood a floor-to-ceiling, wall-wide, glass cabinet with the cane and various Victorian paraphernalia reminding us of our manners, and teaching tactics from a bygone age.
Sundays on The Estate revolved around morning service at The Royal Chapel, which meant practising my best curtsy for Her Majesty, and admiring The Queen Mother's car, which her chauffeur would fondly polish while he waited to take her home a few yards away at Royal Lodge. My youngest sister even had The Queen Mother attend her christening at The Royal Chapel. A serendipitous occasion as the Royal Family were considering the chapel to christen Prince Harry and it was decided the Queen Mother should attend one there, and my sister's was next on the schedule!
I don’t believe my experiences are particularly unique or unusual, as they were shared with many others who grew up on The Estate, but I appreciate that I am in a unique position to be able to share them with you, which is a great privilege and joy. My best friends at school were fourth or fifth generation ‘parkies,’ whose great grandfathers were gatemen, groundsmen and foresters. It was a regular occurrence for Her Majesty to visit us each year at school, where one privileged child would be selected to present The Queen with a posy of flowers. Her Majesty would take great interest in our studies; an annual flower show would allow us to prepare and present our latest projects to both The Queen and The Queen Mother. I myself, once played the Pied Piper at The York Club, aged 7, and when it was finished The Queen Mother remarked, ‘Oh is it over?’, which I believe meant she enjoyed it enormously! The Queen Mother loved the presence of children and those from The Estate visiting her. She could often be spied on a summer's day, walking out from Royal Lodge, towards the netball and tennis courts of Cumberland Lodge, complete with thermos, folding chair and tupperware to watch the children play netball.
It felt like not a lot had changed on The Estate in hundreds of years, and that was a thought that always brought me comfort, stability and wonder.
Spending time on and around the carriages meant meeting lots of like-minded people throughout my life, who would share their estate experiences with royalty and over time I have found myself with a treasure trove of stories and anecdotes, which I would love to share with you...
I look forward to meeting you!
Present Custodian and Licensee of Windsor Carriages