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How the Duke of Edinburgh loved driving fast cars and carriages and flying planes and helicopters

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His status as consort to the Queen often saw the Duke of Edinburgh play second fiddle to his wife. 

But Prince Philip – born 102 years ago today – was firmly in the driving seat behind the wheel of his cars, in the cockpits of planes and helicopters or when in charge of a racing carriage.

The Queen had famously said how her husband ‘enjoys driving and does it fast’ and noted how he had once driven her up to London in a ‘tiny’ MG sports car.

Using his personal number plate of OXR2, Philip owned a series of stylish cars including an Aston Martin Lagonda, an Alvis TD 21 Drophead Coupe and Reliant Scimitar Triplex, and, much like other senior royals, used a succession of Land Rovers.

It was in one of the latter that he notoriously suffered a serious collision with a car carrying a mother and baby near the Sandringham Estate in 2019. 

His status as consort to the Queen often saw the Duke of Edinburgh play second fiddle to his wife. But Prince Philip was firmly in the driving seat of his cars, in the cockpit of planes or when in charge of a racing carriage. Above: The Duke of Edinburgh trying out the controls of an Aston Martin race car at Goodwood, Sussex, in 1963

September 1957: The Duke of Edinburgh drives his eldest son, the then Prince Charles, to Cheam School, near Newbury, in his Aston Martin Lagonda with The Queen sitting alongside

Philip was also an accomplished pilot. He began training with the Royal Air Force in November 1952 and gained his wings the following year. Above: the Duke of Edinburgh prepares to fly a Turbulent ultra-light aircraft in 1959

The Duke, then aged 97, had to be pulled from the sunroof of his vehicle, before asking the others involved: ‘Is everyone alright?’

That crash was the most serious of at least four accidents that the Duke had behind the wheel during his life. 

His late wife, who had been a passenger when two of the prangs occurred, knew all about Philip’s love of speed before they were even married. 

Her governess Marion Crawford told in her 1950 book how, when the Duke began visiting Elizabeth during their courtship in the 1940s, he would arrive at the Palace in his small sports car, ‘usually a deal too fast.’ 

Then, ahead of their November 1947 wedding, the princess told author Betty Shew – who was putting together a souvenir book to mark the royal union – how Philip would take her out in his sports car. 

‘Philip enjoys driving and does it fast! He has his own tiny M.G which he is very proud of – he has taken me about in it, once up to London, which was great fun, only it was like sitting on the road, and the wheels are almost as high as one’s head,’ she said.

The Duke bought his custom-made Aston Martin in 1954. 

The racing green four-seater was fitted with an extra vanity mirror so that the Queen could check her hat. It also had a radio telephone allowing the Duke to talk to his wife and children back at Buckingham Palace. 

It boasted a three-litre, six-cylinder engine and could reach a speed of around 100mph.

In 2019, the Duke had a serious collision with a car carrying a mother and baby near the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk

Philip, then aged 97, had to be pulled from the sunroof of his car before asking the others involved: ‘Is everyone alright?

Philip emerges from his Reliant Scimitar Triplex at London Airport in 1966. The glass-topped car could reach 120mph

Philip is seen in November 1955 driving into Buckingham Palace in thick fog with the Queen in the passenger seat

Philip even had a hand in influencing the Lagonda’s production. It originally had the gear stick positioned near the steering wheel, but  he wanted one located on the floor – which then became standard

The Duke of Edinburgh gives the Queen and a young Prince Charles a ride in his Alvis TD 21 Drophead Coupe in April 1962

In 1967, Philip and the Queen were involved in a collision in the Berkshire village of Halyport, around 15 miles from Windsor Castle. It went largely unreported. The other driver – named only as a Mr Cooper in an ITV news report unearthed in 2019 – was injured and told how he had been forced to swerve after seeing the Duke of Edinburgh coming straight towards him

Philip even had a hand in influencing the Lagonda’s production. 

The Daily Mail’s 1957 news report of the Duke of Edinburgh’s car crash, when the Queen was a passenger

While it originally had the gear stick near the steering wheel, he said he wanted one on the floor. 

That set-up then became standard and owners had to pay extra if they wanted the original placement. 

The Duke used the Lagonda to take Prince Charles to and from Cheam prep school and for trips to West Sussex’s Cowdray Park for the polo.

On one occasion, when speeding through the park with the Queen and Lord Mountbatten in the car, the Duke is said to have threatened to throw the Queen out after she repeatedly ‘yelped’.

According to Giles Brandreth, Philip’s friend and biographer, he told the Queen: ‘Look, if you do that once more, I will put you out of the car.’

Asked by Mountbatten why she didn’t protest, she was said to have replied: ‘Oh, but you heard what he said – and he meant it.’ 

However, it was in his Lagonda, which boasted a three-litre, six cylinder engine and could reach a speed of 100mph, that Philip had one of his other less well-known accidents. 

The car collided with a Morris 8 near Staines station in 1957 as the Duke was driving with the Queen to Windsor for a dinner with Commonwealth prime ministers. 

The Daily Mail reported: ‘Hatless and wearing dark glasses the Duke left the wheel of his car to exchange addresses with the driver of the other car. 

‘They were delayed for about five minutes.’

It added that the Queen ‘did not leave her seat and appeared quite unshaken.’ 

Ironically, the crash came just three hours after the Duke addressed the Automobile Association. 

A decade later, Philip and the Queen were involved in another collision that went largely unreported. 

While driving through the Berkshire village of Halyport, around 15 miles from Windsor Castle, the Duke’s car collided with another vehicle.

Prince Philip prepares to drives away from the Rootes Factory in Coventry in 1963 in one of their new Hillman Imps. The Duke drove the new Hillman at speeds of 80mph. Rootes would be taken over by Chrysler soon afterwards



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