The Royals and the Land Rover

The Royals and Land Rover

Queen Elizabeth II drove until the age of 93. She stopped driving three years ago after her husband the then 98-year old Prince Philip had had a car accident while he was driving. The Queen must have had a discussion with Philip that led to the conclusion that at this age reflexes don’t work as they used to so they should leave driving to the chauffeurs, better safe than sorry.

However, Elizabeth II has taken every opportunity to drive since 1944 and at Balmoral the Scottish castle where she died in September 2022 she always had a Land Rover ready and waiting to cruise on and off the country roads.

It started in 1944, when she joined the war effort as an 18-year-old princess. Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor was part of the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service where she donned a set of baggy coveralls and trained in London as a mechanic and military truck driver.

Almost immediately after her Coronation, the Queen and Prince Philip were spotted doing royal engagements in specially converted Land Rovers. 

The converted vehicles probably had Prince Philip’s design input, because he has always been really interested and keen on them.

The Queen and Prince Philip during a Caribbean tour in the 50’s on a special royal Land Rover, and right, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge in March on the same vehicle as they attend the inaugural Commissioning Parade for service personnel from across the Caribbean. The car’s used for ceremonial events so it’s only done 2,342 miles.

The Queen had owned around thirty Defenders over the years, but in 2002 Land Rover built her a custom edition. The 4.2-litre V8 workhorse was fitted with heated seats and electric windows and also benefited from a suspension lift which made it easier to get to the remote parts of the estate.

The Queen and Prince Philip with Prince Charles and Princess Anne in 1967

The Queen and her husband were pictured at the wheel of Land Rover vehicles many times on the estates of Sandringham, Windsor Great Park and Balmoral.

The Duke of Edinburgh at the wheel of a Land Rover in 1955 as Queen Elizabeth II is driven around in Windsor Great Park

And when not at the wheel the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were often seen waving to the crowds from specially adapted Land Rovers during royal visits.

Land Rover had a very special relationship with the Royal Family. The royals – and particularly the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh – were always fans of the brand and it is something that was reflected most poignantly following the duke’s death.

Prince Philip’s coffin was transported by a specially adapted Land Rover Defender at his funeral in April 2021 and the duke even had a hand in its design himself – a process that began many years before his death. Traditionally, gun carriages are used for royal funerals but the Land Rover ‘hearse’ started off as a joke between the Duke and the Queen in the 1980s which he turned into a reality.

But the story is not finished yet, we are ahead of the coronation of King Charles III for which the Stone of Destiny, pictured here being carried by a Land Rover will be needed.

The Stone of Destiny is an ancient symbolic stone, which was used in the inauguration of Scottish kings for centuries, was seized by King Edward I and built into a throne at Westminster Abbey in 1296. 

The Queen sat above the stone when she was crowned in 1953 and it was returned to Scotland in 1996, and it will be a part of the ceremony for her son. So, the stone is to be moved from Edinburgh Castle to London for the Charles III King’s coronation.

Peter Faidt

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