Speaker's State Coach used for Charles and Diana's wedding tagged in 'woke' Parliamentary review for links to slave trade

5 January 2023, 21:26

The coach 'depicts enslaved people', the committee has said.
The coach 'depicts enslaved people', the committee has said. Picture: Alamy/UK Parliament

By Emma Soteriou

The Speaker's State Coach used for Charles and Diana's wedding has been tagged in a 'woke' Parliamentary review for featuring a Roman slave.

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The three-century old carriage, which was last used for the couple's wedding in 1981, is one of 343 artefacts labelled as being linked to slavery.

A carving of a slave on the coach is understood to be the reason behind it being seen as "depicting enslaved people".

But the cross-party Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art is now considering changing the labelling of the collection or how it is presented.

The carriage is described on the Parliamentary collection website as being made for William III around 1698.

It was initially used for ceremonial events but is now on display in the National Trust Carriage Museum at Arlington Court.

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The State Coach, inside Westminster Hall, in the oldest surviving part of the Palace of Westminster.
The State Coach, inside Westminster Hall, in the oldest surviving part of the Palace of Westminster. Picture: Alamy

The review of around 9,000 artefacts was launched in 2020, amid worldwide Black Lives Matter protests which saw the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol.

At the time, the committee said: "In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, the Parliamentary Art Collection is being reviewed to identify depictions of individuals and activities related to the British slave trade and the use of forced labour of enslaved Africans and others in British colonies and beyond."

The Parliament website does not specify details of the depiction
The Parliament website does not specify details of the depiction. Picture: UK Parliament

A spokesman for the Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art said: "The documents that have been published as part of the Committee's review have been developed through rigorous academic research. 

"The purpose of the list – which is under continuous review - is to ensure accuracy within Parliament's collections and to catalogue items which relate to the transatlantic slave trade, including works depicting people who had financial interests or family connections to the transatlantic slave trade and slavery, as well as artwork featuring abolitionists. 

"On the long-term siting of Parliament's works of art, there are no plans to remove specific artworks from display. This list of artworks is not comprehensive and is updated biannually as research becomes available."

When asked whether it would be relocated or labelled differently, he added: "Parliament is exploring ways in which it can develop enhanced standards and frameworks for the management of its Collections. 

"This includes how items in the Collections are explained to visitors, staff and Members. 

"Work is at an early stage, and Parliament will be engaging with Members, staff and visitors - as well as a range of external partners – to ensure a diverse range of views are heard throughout the development process."

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