Horses are as related to monarchies as royal jewels, thrones, palaces, and the nobility. Just like the nobles and the monarchs, royal horses are no regular creatures, and their homes must reflect that. Thankfully, Sweden is no exception which is why in this post, we discover not only the current home of the noblest of horses in the country but also the history of royal stables in Stockholm.
Just as many other concepts and institutions, the royal stables were introduced to Sweden by the legendary King Gustav Vasa. He had the first stable built in the location of the present-day House of the Swedish Parliament (Riksdagshuset) on the Helgeandsholmen Island, only a stone’s throw from the Tre Kronor Palace where he resided.
Soon after the completion in 1535, the Royal Stables were too small to accommodate the king’s stallions, and the original structure was replaced by a new building standing where you would find the Royal Swedish Opera (Kungliga Operan) today.
Even though both Gustav II Adolf and his successor Queen Christina considered moving the Stables again, it was only during the era of Karl XI that the institution moved back to its former location next to the Royal Palace.
Karl XI appointed Nicodemus Tessin the Elder, one of the foremost architects of the era and the man behind structures such as Stenbock Palace (Stenbockska palatset), Wrangel Palace (Wrangelska palatset), or the monumental Drottningholm Palace (Drottningholms slott). Architect Tessin designed a house that offered enough room for 60 horses, a riding house for training, as well as a carriage house and an armoury.
However, the Swedish Royals were unlucky in the last few years of the seventeenth century with Tessin’s Royal Stables having burned down only a year before the catastrophic fire that destroyed the famous Tre Kronor Palace.
It was the architect’s son, Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, who was tasked with building yet another stable for the royalty. The fourth home of the Royal Stables in Stockholm was not only much more modern than the three that came before it but also more elaborate and significantly larger.
As Sweden and its influence grew, so did the number of stallions in the king’s stables. Their new home could accommodate as many as 150 at a time while offering them more luxury than their predecessors could ever have dreamed of. Thanks to modern technology, each resident of the stables now had access to water from the nearby Strömmen directly at his box.
The wings, one on each side of the massive building accommodated a riding house and a carriage house, helping this house cover all king’s needs related to transportation.
The stables designed by Tessin the Younger broke the tradition of building new ones every few decades by standing and functioning for almost two centuries. They could have stayed in their location to this day had the idea of a new Parliament House not appeared.
It was in the 1870s when the authorities began discussing the construction of a new Parliament House and a new headquarters for the Swedish National Bank (Sveriges Riksbank), that King Oscar II offered to move the stables to another location. Assuming he could find an appropriate place that was.
As he was the king, finding a suitable location proved to be no problem at all and the Parliament soon allocated roughly a million Swedish kronor for the construction of Royal Stables in his chosen location. The plot of land he found was located in a part of the city that was about to blossom.
Although it might be hard to believe, in the late 1880s, Östermalm was still largely occupied by simple houses and the district had no monumental palaces, no Royal Theatre and no world-famous boulevard on Strandvägen.
The massive house stretching from Strandvägen 1 to number 5 is the only structure that separates the Royal Stables from Nybrokajen, meaning the royal horses live in a location much more prominent than most Stockholmers ever will.
Architects Ernst Jacobsson and Fritz Eckert got to work shortly after funding for the project was secured. What they came up with was a massive design resembling a medieval castle with numerous towers and thick red-brick walls protecting the spacious yard from the surrounding world.
Immediately after the building was completed, in 1894, it received a tonne of criticism from all sides. Although rich details, colossal appearance, and large variety were typical architectural features at the time, neither the public nor the experts appreciated the design of the new Royal Stables.
What you cannot see from the outside is the beautiful yard which is by some considered an oasis of peace protected from the rush of the surrounding city. Trees, flowers, a pond with a fountain, walking paths and large open spaces all contribute to the overall image and atmosphere.
Long gone are times when the Royal Stables used to accommodate 150 horses, though. Today, there are around twenty horses living in the facilities in Östermalm. They are, however, accompanied by more modern transport vehicles as the royal car fleet is also kept in the garage in the same building.
Unlike some forty carriages that have been preserved from the 1800s, the oldest royal cars have not been saved for future generations. The collection does include some beautiful veterans, though, including a 1950 Daimler Limousine and a 1969 Cadillac Fleetwood providing proof of Sweden’s associations with the American culture at that time.
Interestingly, you might get a chance to meet a few royal stallions even outside of the stables as they regularly train out in the stunning environment at the Royal Djurgården. There and in the riding house they go through their thorough training during which they learn how to walk in elegant formations, deal with loud noises and stressful milieus they will have to face once they accompany the Royals during audiences and festivities.
If you would like to explore the Royal Stables more thoroughly and in the most exciting way possible, a great opportunity to do just that is coming up. On Sunday, September 2, you can be a part of the Royal Stables Day. For more information, I recommend you visit the official website.
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The Royal Stables. [kungligaslotten.se].