QEII wrenches

If we lived in the United Kingdom, we would have known Queen Elizabeth II was a gearhead. It was common knowledge that at the age of 18, she self-enlisted in the women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). It was what she trained to do that set her apart from other Royals.

Princess Elizabeth poses next to her British Army Ambulance during WWII.

ATS was a branch of the Army. To date, the Queen was the only female royal serving this branch. During her time with the ATS, Princess Elizabeth spent her wartime driving ambulances and repairing all varieties of heavy-duty trucks on the battlefield.

Her parents, King George and the Queen Consort, also known as Elizabeth, were hesitant to accept the young Princess’s desire to do her part during World War II. When newspapers published the story, they found it well-received by the public. Thanks to the press, she became known as the Princess Auto Mechanic.

QEII Austin
Princess Elizabeth poses with an Austin 10 “Tilly” Utility Supply Truck that she maintained during World War II.

Queen Elizabeth II loved to drive

Her vehicular activities began a lifelong love of the automobile and of driving. As head of the monarchy, she rarely had the chance to drive through London. Napleton News has driven through the city ourselves, and frankly, don’t blame her. Her Majesty enjoyed showing off her skills driving around her almost 50,000-acre estate, Balmoral, in the Scottish Highlands. She would frequently climb behind the wheel of one of the many vehicles in the royal motor fleet. She was typically accompanied by her personal police officer in the passenger seat, while she cranked the gearbox on one of many royal Land Rover Defenders. An easy way to see if she was driving was if the Defender had a Labrador mascot with a pheasant in its mouth as a hood ornament.

Some of her passengers have had their hackles raised. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was one. As the story has circulated, she invited a hesitant Abdullah for a tour of the estate. He agreed, and off they went. A royal Land Rover awaited its charges in front of Balmoral Castle. The King hopped into the passenger seat with his interpreter behind him. To his surprise, the Queen hopped into the driver’s seat. In 2003, Saudi women could not drive. To this point, the King had never been driven by a Queen.

The route through the estate wasn’t a gentle one, with narrow Scottish roads and trails winding around the property. Queen Elizabeth II was familiar with these routes, whipping wheel around the acreage. The King remained nervous. The Queen persisted, displaying her military-grade driving skills and talking all the while.

Maybe she was discussing the need for women drivers back in Saudi Arabia?



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