It’s no secret that Her Majesty the late Queen Elizabeth II adored horses and horse racing. But few people know that Her Majesty had a lifelong fondness for rocking horses too. It was an enjoyment that started in childhood and continued throughout her long reign.
Photographed in 1932, the young Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret sit on a rocking horse. Their beaming smiles demonstrated the unadulterated joy that the rocking horse brought them.
Yet, not always for play, rocking horses have occupied space in Royal Palaces as precious keepsakes since the 18th century.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, as an adult, Her Majesty (and her real horses) inspired many more. The most notable of which were made by British craftsman The Stevenson Brothers.
Founded in 1982 by twin brothers Marc and Tony Stevenson, the Kent based company produces luxury rocking horses that can be passed down through the generations. From miniatures that can sit on a side table to the best-selling full-size Dapple Grey, each product is handcrafted and made to order.
By their 40th anniversary in October 2022, they had made 9750 premium rocking horses, with seven of the very finest,
presented to the late Queen Elizabeth II over the last twenty years. These bespoke horses celebrated her Golden, Diamond and Platinum Jubilees and the Queen’s 80th and 90th Birthdays.
Considered details on every Stevenson Brothers rocking horse include the painted woodwork, often inspired by real-life horses or secret hidden compartments for precious keepsakes.
Working with other British artisans, these rocking horses are alive with the finest painted designs and embellishments. Refined details include the saddle cloth embroidery brought to life by Hand & Lock for extra special commissions.
Just as Hand & Lock are dedicated to preserving artisan craftsmanship of embroidery, the brother's Marc and Tony are committed to maintaining the highest standards for making rocking horses.
As with saddle cloths for full-size ceremonial show horses, an embroidered motif is often featured at the corner of the cloth behind the rider’s leg. Just as these large-scale saddle cloths have fine hand-wrought embroidery, the skilled workers at Hand & Lock deliver the same expertise and care for the scaled-down versions.
For the Queens rocking horses, Hand & Lock used the ancient goldwork embroidery technique to add her Royal cypher to saddle cloths. For a rocking horse presented in 2005, the team were also asked to include the name Tinkerbell in gold letters.
Later, for the Diamond Jubilee, a special saddle cloth design included a fond reference to Sir Winston Churchill’s military career.
The expert care inherent in fine embroidery reflects the bespoke designed nature of every Stevenson Brothers rocking horse. Just as Hand & Lock are dedicated to preserving artisan craftsmanship of embroidery, the brother’s Marc and Tony are committed to maintaining the highest standards for making rocking horses.
With the advent of computer games, mobile phones and gaming gadgets the humble rocking horse seemed destined to fade into obscurity. But thanks to the Stevenson Brother’s ingenuity and craft, this enduring symbol of childhood remains strong.
Work is already underway to celebrate future Royal occasions and the new King. See the latest creation from Hand & Lock and Stevenson brothers below.
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