She doesn’t have a driver’s license and employs a posse of chauffeurs, but Queen Elizabeth still loves to get behind the wheel — and put the pedal to the metal. As part of the “royal prerogative” — the powers and rights the sovereign alone possesses — Elizabeth is the only person in all of Britain who can drive without a license — and she can go as fast or slow as she wants!
The queen has long been enamored of anything on wheels. In 1945, the 18-year-old then-princess, desperate to aid the war effort, joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service — and actually drove ambulances. Today, though she owns a car collection that’s worth an estimated $13 million and includes vintage Bentleys and Jaguars, Her Majesty usually chooses to motor around in one of her rugged Land or Range Rovers, especially across the picture-perfect landscape at Balmoral, her rural Scottish retreat. But over the years, the road-loving royal hasn’t been able to steer completely clear of trouble.
According to author and royal expert Phil Dampier, in 1993 she hurtled through Windsor Great Park at 60 mph — double the speed limit — forcing Nigel Dawson, who was out taking a stroll with his three young sons, to dive frantically for cover. Dawson was allegedly so upset — Elizabeth is said to have waved him aside when he shouted for her to slow down — that he made an official complaint and received a personal letter from the queen apologizing for the “alarm and inconvenience” she’d caused. Dampier wrote that a nurse also complained that she and her son were driven off the road by the queen, who raced past with Philip in the passenger seat. “She looked really sour-faced and angry,” said the nurse. “It was totally irresponsible.”
In 2003, a cavalier Elizabeth apparently “terrorized” Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah when she offered him an impromptu driving tour of Balmoral. “To his surprise, the queen climbed into the driving seat, turned the ignition and drove off,” recounted British diplomat Sir Sherard Cowper Coles. “Abdullah was not used to being driven by a woman, let alone a queen.” Especially when he realized she was a speed demon in disguise. “His nervousness only increased as the queen … accelerated the Land Rover along the narrow Scottish estate roads, talking all the time,” the diplomat added.
Through his interpreter, the crown prince implored the queen to slow down and concentrate on the road ahead.” But should she break down one day on some remote country road, chances are Elizabeth would be able to get her car up and running in no time. As part of her wartime duties, she also trained as a mechanic, learning how to replace spark plugs, clean carburetors and even rebuild engines. This is one sovereign who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty!