The King’s Watermen: Duty Done

Robert Coleman, Bargemaster to the Watermen’s Company and 1996 Doggett’s Coat and Badge winner, was one of four Royal Watermen to walk alongside the Gold State Coach bringing the King and Queen back from Westminster Abbey after the Coronation. The others were: Bob Prentice, Bargemaster to the Fishmongers’ Company and 1973 Doggett’s winner; Paul Prentice, 1976 Doggett’s winner; and Jeremy McCarthy, 1992 Doggett’s winner.

8 May 2023

By Tim Koch

Although the Sovereign no longer retains a Royal Barge for travel on the Thames, the Royal Household still retains 24 Royal Watermen under the command of The King’s Bargemaster. They are chosen from the ranks of the Thames Watermen who work manning craft such as tugs and tourist boats. Many are Doggett’s Coat and Badge winners though it is not a requirement.

The last Royal Barge was Prince Frederick’s Barge, built in 1732 and used by successive British monarchs until 1849. It is now in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Picture: Katie Chan (CC BY-SA 4.0).

The Royal Watermen’s roles are now purely ceremonial and the rarest of these must be to be part of the escort to the Sovereign’s carriage at a Coronation. There are probably no surviving Watermen who last performed this task for Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation in 1953. However, at the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III on 6 May, seventeen Royal Watermen were chosen for this once-in-a-lifetime duty.

Escorting the Gold State Coach, on the far left is Bob Prentice and (obscured behind him) is his brother Paul. On the far right is Robert Coleman and, behind him, is Jeremy McCarthy. Picture: @RoyalFamily.
Immediately alongside the coach were the four Royal Watermen,eight grooms, six footmen and four Yeomen of the Guard. The outer guard on each side was made up of eighteen representatives of Commonwealth and British Overseas Territory Armed Forces. Picture: @RoyalFamily. 

In my preview piece on 6 May, I suggested that other Royal Watermen would be acting as boxmen on various carriages. This turned out not to be the case but thirteen Royal Watermen, including the King’s Bargemaster, Chris Livett, were part of the large contingent leading the passage of the Gold State Coach. The others were Simon McCarthy (Doggett’s 1984), David Arnold, Jonathan Hobbs, Gary Anness (Doggett’s 2011), Tony Maynard, James Clifford, Dan Ludwig, Paul Bryant, Sean Collins (Doggett’s 1990), Tim Keech, John Dwan (Doggett’s 1977) and David Eldridge.

The thirteen Royal Watermen marching in two rows along the Mall are marked with an “x”. Picture: @RoyalFamily. 
Approaching Buckingham Palace, the Royal Watermen are again marked with an “x”. Picture: @RoyalFamily. 
A picture taken during nighttime rehearsals shows the dismounted Household Cavalry in the foreground and, in the background, left to right: The Royal Company of Archers (the Sovereign’s Bodyguard in Scotland); The King’s Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (the Sovereign’s Bodyguard); The Royal Watermen; The Yeomen Warders of the Tower of London. Picture: Debbie Whittingham/@GowyCottage. 
One thanks you all for coming. Picture: @RoyalFamily. 

The pictures marked @RoyalFamily were uncredited on the Royal Twitter account and are posted here under a claim of fair use. However, they will be removed at the request of any copyright holder. 


  1. Will do, Jonathan, though all pictures on HTBS are at the highest resolution that I have and can be taken directly from the website.

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