Scott Williamson proud of part in Coronation
May 22, 2023, 7:52 am
When Sergeant Major Scott Williamson was growing up at Rocanville, he never imagined he would be meeting with royalty and part of events seen around the world.
Williamson is Riding Master of the RCMP Musical Ride. In that capacity, he led the RCMP contingent that escorted King Charles during the Coronation, and he was there to present Noble, a mare from Saskatchewan trained by the RCMP, to the new King just before the Coronation.
He was also in London last fall to lead the procession for the Queen’s funeral. Following is an interview editor Kevin Weedmark had with Williamson on his return to Canada.
How does it feel to be part of this?
You’ve got to pinch yourself. When I joined the RCMP 23 years ago, these were not things that I saw in my future aspirations or things that I would get to do.
It sounds cheesy, but you have to think, “How the heck does this small town farm boy from Saskatchewan get to these positions where you’re talking with the king, handing a horse over to the king, staying at Windsor Castle and participating in these massive state events?”
It’s certainly incredibly, incredibly humbling and it makes you proud. It really does.
It makes me proud to represent Canada, to represent the RCMP and certainly represent Saskatchewan. Not just the simple fact that I was there representing Saskatchewan, but even the horse itself, Noble, had some Saskatchewan links—that was the young boy from Saskatchewan who had named that horse.
A lot of these things almost seem serendipitous. Burmese, the first horse that was presented to the Queen, was born and raised in Saskatchewan and then eventually made her way out to become the Queen’s horse—she was an all black mare. Then all of a sudden here we are in 2023 gifting the first horse to the King and it just happens to be an all black mare that also has links to Saskatchewan.
When we breed our horses it’s kids across Canada that name them, but if it’s a mare which Noble is, the actual registered name has to start with the first letter of the sire. So in this case, Noble, her sire is actually Henry, which is a stallion that we have at the breeding farm.
So her actual registered name when I went and looked at her passport is actually Her Noble.
So again, it just seems serendipitous that her actual registered name is Her Noble and that this was chosen back in 2016 before we ever thought of her being the King’s horse.
Tell me how this came about.
Similarly to the Queen’s funeral the request came in from the royal household that we were going to be requested to attend the royal coronation. A few months ago that came, that it was likely going to be happening, but it probably wasn’t until a month prior to the coronation where everything was solidified and confirmed that we would be attending.
The King chooses who would be the representatives of the Commonwealth and again, similar to the Queen’s funeral, there was a contingent of Canadian Forces the King had requested and he also requested the RCMP attend as well.
How was it decided which five members would go? Did you make those decisions?
There are a lot of similarities to the queen’s funeral. There was direction from the Commonwealth that there would be a certain rank, structure so very similar to the queen’s funeral. There was a commissioned officer, a warrant officer and some NCOs. Where things get quite a bit different from say a contingent of the Canadian forces who is marching, was we had to ensure that the members who attended had the skill set to ride the horses. So that would have been a main criteria and we knew early on if we attended the coronation that it was going to be quite a bit different than the Queen’s funeral. The funeral itself was quite subdued and quiet as opposed to the coronation.
We were fully expecting a celebratory atmosphere which means full of noise and commotion, which we knew would affect the horses. So we knew that the main factor had to be skills and the members had to meet a certain skill set requirement. Then once we had narrowed that down it was a focus of ours from there to make sure that we had members that were well representative of Canada. Anyone can look at the members that were riding in the coronation parade and be proud that they were demographically what Canadians would expect to see.
We had one from Quebec, one from the Maritimes, one from the Halibu First Nations, one who is of Tibetan ancestry.
Noble, King Charles’ horse, at the burial site of Burmese, who was the Queen’s horse.
When you went over there, was it a similar situation where the horses and riders had to get accustomed to one another?
Very similar. It was kind of nice going back because we had just been there in September for the Queen’s funeral, so we had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen, where we were staying, etc. We already knew a couple of riders that went for the coronation who were already there for the funeral. So we knew right away that we were going to continue to match them up with the same horse.
A couple of the riders were new and we wanted to get them accustomed to the horses so we put them on horses that we thought would be the best match. Then after a couple of days we watched to see how they would bond and how they worked. We did, in fact, have to make one change because the rider and the horse just weren’t fitting together as we’d hoped. So we made a change in that regard and then once we had done that it was all focusing purely on the coronation itself. So everything we did, every time we exercised the horses and moved them around the property of the castle we made sure that we set it up exactly how we were going to do it for the coronation. We mimicked that scenario as best as we could.
Did you have a dress rehearsal on the streets of London at any point?
We did. We had one full rehearsal on foot and that one was held at the Royal Air Force base. That one was different than at the queen’s funeral. There were more rehearsals for this than there were for the funeral. The first rehearsal that we had was at the Air Force base and it was more to deal with the timing. There was a lot of stepping off all at the exact same time and we’d go down the route maybe a hundred yards and we’d stop and then do it again and then stop and do it again. So there was a lot of getting that timing absolutely perfect.
We were looking at almost two kilometers of procession and the front of the parade had to step off at exactly the same time as the back end of the parade—like when the Gold State Coach left the Abbey. So there was a lot of precision in that regard and trying to get the timings right for the people that were marching and of course the horses. So getting that timing right was the very first rehearsal. The second rehearsal that we did was the full dress rehearsal through the middle of the night, so we made our way into London at about 10 o’clock at night and then we were mounted by about 2 o’clock in the morning and made our way to the Abbey and did a full rehearsal from about 2:30 in the morning to about 3:30 in the morning, so that was our main dress rehearsal.
How do they decide the order? It looked like it was you folks on horseback and then the Household Cavalry. How do they figure out who goes where?
In our position itself, we were the lead of the Sovereign’s Escort. It was made very clear to us that ours was the key position of the entire procession because if our horses didn’t move forward then that meant the horses behind us got clogged up and then the Gold State Coach would stop and that was considered a mission failure. So it was critical that in our position we kept those horses moving forward—so again, similar to the queen’s funeral, it was quite the honour to be given that position and I think it only speaks, once again, to our close relationship with the Royal Family. Not just the RCMP either, I suggest that for all of Canada there’s no question the close relationship with our country, and I think it shows by the positions that we get put in at these large state occasions.
So how did it go? Were there any hitches or did it go exactly as planned?
I honestly couldn’t be happier. If I had scripted how well it went we definitely hit all of the marks. The team that went had put in a lot of work with long hours and days, but the work paid off for itself and the horses were tremendous. I couldn’t have been happier.
I know that before the Coronation, the RCMP had presented Noble to the king. Were you there for that as well?
I was, yes. So we flew in on April 27 and we got into Windsor at about one in the morning and then by five in the morning we were back up and preparing for the gifting of Noble to His Majesty. So it was a bit of a whirlwind and it was pretty special, for sure.
And how did that come about? Had he requested a horse or had the RCMP offered it?
It was Her Majesty that had requested it and the request came in about a year and a half ago. The horse that the King has been riding is a horse by the name of George who we gifted Her Majesty quite a few years back. Now that he’s 23 years of age, he’s getting to that point where he’s ready to retire, so about a year and a half ago, Her Majesty had quietly made some comments to the stud groom that she’d be ready to accept another RCMP horse. So the stud groom had advised us and we started putting the microscope on a few horses to look at what they might want and we were told at the time that they were looking for a gelding and that they were looking for a horse that had been in the Musical Ride for quite some time—so was a seasoned veteran.
Then it just so happened that last May when he was the Prince of Wales he actually came to Canada and he came to the stables. We had put a couple of horses aside that we thought might meet what he would be looking for and he made a comment when we showed him these two horses, about the size of them. So then we got thinking, “Okay maybe these couple of horses that we showed him, that we thought would be a good fit for him, are too big.”
So we went back to the drawing board and with that we couldn’t come up with a gelding that we felt would fit his needs. But this one young mare who was in her first year last year in the Musical Ride, she just kept standing out as a horse that we thought showed really good potential. Then when the Musical Ride came back to Ottawa in November, I took the mare on and started to do some work with her. I started specifically to do some work that I thought her job would entail when and if she went over to the King. Sure enough, everything she did she hit it out of the park. She was exactly what we were looking for. So then we advised the Royal Household and said that we were leaning towards this mare and that she’s a young mare—so both points that they were initially looking for, we were going in the opposite direction. They said, “We’d still be happy to take that horse. We have full trust in you that that’s the horse you’d choose.” So that gave me the full green light and we just put a lot of work into the horse and that’s kind of how it came to be.
What was involved in that ceremony?
The king actually chose to do the gifting right in the quadrangle, which is a large open area on the south side of Windsor Castle. There were four of our horses that we had gifted the Queen as a backdrop and we had Noble up front.
I was holding Noble as the King came up and then I handed over the reins of the horse to the Commanding Officer of the Musical Ride and then handed the reins over to the Commissioner of the RCMP and Commissioner officially handed the reins over to the King.
It just signified the handing over of the horse from Canada and the RCMP to the King, and he officially accepted it at that time.
Have you heard lots from people back at home? Did lots of people see you as part of the coronation?
Yeah, my dad and many of my friends that still live back home in Moosomin and Rocanville sent lots of messages and it’s been quite nice. It’s nice to be able to represent, for sure.
So how are you going to top this?
Ha ha. I think by retiring. I don’t think there’s any topping this—being part of the Queen’s funeral and now the Coronation, this is the Stanley Cup for us, and all of it to come in one year is crazy. Tweet