The history of the Royal Stables dates back many hundreds of years, to 1535 when King Gustav Vasa had stables built for the royal horses. Just as in the case now, the main duty was to meet the king's needs for both everyday and ceremonial transportation.
Noble horses and magnificently equipped carriages have always lent a sense of grandeur to the monarch and royal power.
The first royal stables were built on the island of Helgeandsholmen, next to the Royal Palace, on the site of the current Parliament building. The location soon proved to be too small, and new stables were built towards the end of the 16th century next to St Jakob's church, where the Royal Swedish Opera now stands.
The devastating fire of 1696
Although detailed plans were drawn up for the relocation and expansion of the Royal Stables by both King Gustav II Adolf and Queen Kristina, the stables remained in the same location until King Karl XI commissioned Nicodemus Tessin the Elder to build magnificent new stables back on Helgeandsholmen. These stables had room for 60 horses, and also included a riding hall, coach house and armoury. Unfortunately, these stables burnt down 1696, the year before the dramatic fire that destroyed the Tre Kronor palace.
Tessin the Younger takes over
Nicodemus Tessin the Younger was now commissioned with building the new stables on the same site. The stables were modernised and made more partial this time, with room for 150 horses. A pumping system enabled water from Strömmen to be brought straight to each stall. Two wings were also built as a riding hall and a coach house. This served as the Royal Stables for almost two hundred years.
The Royal Stables move from Helgeandsholmen
In the 1870s, it was proposed that two state buildings – the Riksdag building and the central bank – should be built on Helgeandsholmen. King Oscar II offered to relinquish Helgeandsholmen free of charge if another suitable location could be provided for the Royal Stables. In 1888, the Riksdag granted just over one million kronor for the construction of the new Royal Stables at their current location on Artilleriplan at the beginning of Strandvägen, now known as Väpnargatan 1.
An unpopular building
The architect was the palace official Ernst Jacobsson. He was assisted by Fritz Eckert, and they gave the Royal Stables the appearance of a mediaeval castle, a palatial creation complete with towers and walls surrounding a grand stable yard. The new Royal Stables were completed in 1894. The building was heavily criticized, and was one of the least popular buildings of its time.
Today, this is an irreplaceable historical building where duties such as organizing royal transportation are still carried out. There are significantly fewer horses now compared with the 1890s, since the majority of transportation takes place by car, but the role of preserving the elegant art of riding and equipage remains.
Top image: 1881 painting by Georg Arsenius.