As the seasons turn, it becomes less appropriate to drink The King’s Ginger neat (to warm one’s cockles), and more of a time to start thinking about long, cold cocktails to drink in the warm sunshine. Or maybe it’s just the two days of sunshine we had that’s made me do some seriously wishful thinking! Anyway, the sun was out when I motored down to the New Forest last week on the trail of King Edward VII. So, dear readers, to Beaulieu, where His Majesty went several times in his life, to meet the man who sparked in him the passion for motor cars which would last until his passing… not to mention the very reason for the existence of everyone’s favourite royal themed liqueur!
Back when I started doing these King’s Ginger adventures, I touched upon King Edward VII’s love of cars and visited Brooklands Museum, but I only really touched upon it then. As I wrote in that original piece, King Edward owned a remarkable four Daimler motor cars upon his coronation in 1902 but he was introduced to cars in the late 1890s by early car fanatic John Walter Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 2nd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu. As we all (hopefully) know by now, The King’s Ginger was invented by Edward’s physician, specifically to keep him warm when he was out driving. There wasn’t much in the way of heating in cars in those days, after all. I decided it really was time for me to pay a visit to the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu and the place where the King’s passion was born and therefore, where the roots of The King’s Ginger ultimately lie!
The Hon John Scott-Montagu (father of the present Lord, who still lives at Beaulieu) was born in 1866 and had a lifelong interest in engineering. He was first into sailing (Beaulieu being very close to Buckler’s Hard, where war ships were built), then trains. He trained as an apprentice at the London & South Western Railway (something which came in handy during rail strikes in 1919 and 1926, when he volunteered to drive trains himself). But he also saw first-hand the invention of the horseless carriage and the early motor car and could see the potential in this new form of transport. He became a passionate campaigner for motoring, taking part enthusiastically in early events and races in Europe (because man cannot invent a mode of transport without then racing it), winning the first ever medals for British drivers in British cars.
He’s generally acknowledged to have introduced Bertie, then Prince of Wales, to motoring, when he took the Prince for a drive in his 1899 Daimler. Bertie was so enchanted that he soon ordered his own Daimler. Royal officials were flabbergasted! Montagu was also the first man to ever drive a car into the courtyard of the Houses of Parliament, invented number plates and got the speed limit raised from 12mph to a hair-raising 20mph on public roads.
The King visited Montagu at least twice more – in 1902 and again in 1904, though he went by train on the latter date.
The National Motor Museum was founded in 1952 by John’s son, Edward Douglas Scott-Montagu, and at first, contained only five cars parked outside the Palace House. Nowadays, it has over 250, with everything from the very earliest cars and motorbikes to modern F1 cars and James Bon’d most recent Aston Martin. Plus the most amazing art deco Aubern as driven by Marlene Dietrich, one of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang cars (there were apparently several – one with wings, one without, etc) and the car that Truly Scrumptious drives in the film as well.
But the most interesting thing, with regards to this blog, is looking at the cars that actually belonged to King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.
This car is a Renault, built in 1906 with a body by Hoopers of London. The way quality cars were made back in those early days involved the car manufacturer making the chassis and the buyer then choosing one of the many specialist coachworks to make the body, in order to show off their excellent tastes. Of course the King did it this way! After Edward passed away, Queen Alexandra continued to use the car, and it was apparently one of her favourites to go shopping in. The staff at Beaulieu kindly allowed me to go around the exhibit ropes to take some detail photos.
Apart from the tiny crown on the back which you could easily miss, there’s no indication it was a royal car. Well, except for this, perhaps.
This car was used personally by Queen Alexandra!
There are plenty of other amazing cars from around the same period, the dawn of motoring.
PS. As I have occasionally had questions from people asking about pronunciation of words, if anyone’s wondering, Beaulieu was known in the 1600s as ‘Bewley’, and that is indeed how it’s still pronounced despite its fancy spelling!