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
The Duke of Edinburgh tries out the passenger seat of the new 3.5 litre Jaguar XKSS sports car during a 1957 visit to the Motor Industry Research Association’s headquarters near Nuneaton, Warwickshire
Prince Philip at the wheel of a Leyland Bus during his visit to their Lancashire Factory in July 1966. At the shout of ‘fares please’, he slipped the double-decker bus into gear and began cruising around the mile-long test track
During a 1960 tour of the Shetland Isles Prince Philip drove the Queen around in a Morris van which was used as a school bus
The driver – named only as a Mr Cooper in an ITV news report unearthed in 2019 – was injured and told how he was forced to swerve after seeing the Duke coming straight towards him.
And shortly after his engagement to the Queen’ had been announced in the summer of 1947, Philip – then in the Royal Navy – had an earlier crash while motoring to his base in Corsham, Wiltshire.
The car, which ploughed through a fence, was ‘fairly badly’ damaged and Philip twisted his knee. He was ‘slightly bruised’, according to the Daily Mail’s report of the accident.
In 2016, Prince Philip drove Barack and Michelle Obama and the Queen around Windsor during the US President’s state visit to Britain.
A year later, he gave up his eco-friendly black taxi, which he used for getting to engagements in London. It is now in the Sandringham museum.
In February, Philip’s personal Land Rover Defender, which was built to his specification, sold for more than £100,000. It boasted a black cloth interior and was finished in the rare Keswick Green colour.
It had covered just 15,623 miles and was sold from a ‘significant private collection of special motor vehicles’, according to Silverstone Auctions, who described the vehicle as being in a ‘gleaming’ condition.
Besides his exploits on the road, Philip was also an accomplished pilot. He began training with the RAF in November 1952 and gained his wings the following year.
Three years later, he got his helicopter wings and then gained his private pilot’s license in 1959.
But there was initially concern in government that it would be too risky to allow Philip to carry out solo flights.
Declassified documents released this year revealed how the then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan gave Philip permission take the risk – as the Queen’s consort – of flying in light aircraft after accepting that he could not stop the Duke from doing so.
In 1960, Mr Macmillan approved a set of rules that set out how the Duke’s flights should take place.
The Duke of Edinburgh is seen in the cockpit of a plane at White Waltham aerodrome near Windsor in the early 1950s
Prince Philip adjusts his safety straps before making his maiden flight in a glider in 1957. Afterwards, he said: ‘I wish we could have gone 1,000ft higher’
The Duke of Edinburgh takes the controls during a 75-minute flight in a British European Airways Trident jet airliner in 1964. The flight was made on a visit to the airline’s training unit at Stanstead
The Duke of Edinburgh is seen in July 1965 climbing aboard his helicopter after making a visit to RAF Fylingdales early warning station in North Yorkshire
The guidelines, which were approved by the PM, suggested that Philip should only fly in daylight, with a minimum visibility of three nautical miles and ‘steps should be taken to minimise air traffic over the airfield or airfield concerned.’
By the time he stopped flying in 1997 at the age of 76, the Duke of Edinburgh had amassed nearly 6,000 hours of time in the sky in 59 different aircraft, including at the controls of Concorde.
When he gave up polo in the early 1970s, Philip turned his hand to carriage driving, another hobby that became a passion.
He raced carriages near Norfolk before going on to represent Britain at several world and European championships, including in 1981, when he helped the UK team to victory.
The Duke even wrote a book about his carriage driving exploits. In 30 Years On and Off The Box Seat, published in 2004, Philip said: ‘I am getting old, my reactions are getting slower and my memory is unreliable, but I have not lost the sheer pleasure of driving a team through the British countryside.’
Prince Philip rides through the water during the Pony Four-in-hand carriage driving event at the Royal Windsor Horse Trials in February 2004
Prince Philip is seen driving a carriage beside his close friend Lady Brabourne at the Royal Windsor Horse show in 2009
Philip’s love for the countryside and four wheels was demonstrated after his death in April 2021, when, in line with his wishes, his coffin was carried to to St George’s Chapel at Windsor in a custom-built Land Rover hearse
That love for the countryside was demonstrated after his death in April 2021, when, in line with his wishes, his coffin was carried to to St George’s Chapel at Windsor in a custom-built Land Rover hearse.
The Duke took an active role in modifying the rugged off-road vehicle over the course of 18 years.
When discussing his send-off with the Queen, Philip is said to have told her: ‘Just stick me in the back of a Land Rover and drive me to Windsor.’
An apt send-off for a Prince of Speed.