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Queen's new state coach encapsulates British history

Queen Elizabeth II rides to parliament on Wednesday in a brand new state coach that incorporates more than 100 priceless fragments from British history.

LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II rides to parliament on Wednesday in a brand new state coach that incorporates more than 100 priceless fragments from British history.

Crafted in Australia over the course of a decade, the glittering Diamond Jubilee State Coach is only the second new horse-drawn state carriage to be built in more than 100 years.

Covered in around 400 books of gold leaf, it contains timbers from king Henry VIII's flagship the Mary Rose, which sank in 1545, and Isaac Newton's apple tree, which inspired him to form his theory of gravity.

The carriage is almost five and a half metres (yards) long, more than three metres high and weighs more than three tonnes.

It will be drawn by six horses and will be used by the queen for the first time as she travels from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster for the state opening of parliament.

The coach was made by Australian craftsman Jim Frecklington in his workshop in the Sydney suburb of Manly.

He also helped make the Australian State Coach, which marked the bicentenary of Australia in 1988 -- the first new state coach since 1902.

"I wanted to create something very special to mark the queen's reign," Frecklington said.

"Our present queen will go down in history as one of the greatest monarchs that's ever lived and I thought something very special -- a tangible item -- should be produced."

The crown on the top of the coach was carved from oak from HMS Victory, Admiral Horatio Nelson's flagship at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar. It can host a camera to film crowds lining the route.

"In 1922 there was a major refit of the ship and I learnt the Admiralty had put some of that timber away," said Frecklington.

"I learnt who was in possession of that timber, I approached them and asked if they would donate that piece of timber."

The inside, lined in yellow silk, incorporates items donated by more than 100 of Britain's historic sites and organisations.

Many are pieces of wood that have been fashioned into small varnished squares used to decorate the interior walls and door panels.

The seat handrails are from the decommissioned Royal Yacht Britannia.

The window frames and inside panels include material from Caernarfon Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, Durham Cathedral, 10 Downing Street, and the Antarctic bases of polar explorers Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton.

A British lead musket ball from the 1815 Battle of Waterloo and a piece of metal from the casting of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for military bravery, are also built into the coach.

It also contains fragments from Scotland's Stone of Scone, on which monarchs are crowned.

The coach does have some mod-cons, with six hydraulic stabilisers -- covered in gold leaf -- fitted to the carriage to ensure a smooth ride, plus electric windows and heaters.

Frecklington received initial funding from the Australian government and also used his own money. The coach has now been bought by the Royal Collection Trust, almost entirely with money from a private donation.

The Trust looks after the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, where the state coaches and the horses that pull them are kept.

The coach will go on display at the mews from Sunday.

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