Queen Elizabeth II – The Monarch of the People
Queen Elizabeth II sadly passed away on September 8 2022 after a lifetime of royal service. But she never lost touch with the people over whom she ruled. Although born into a life of privilege, she had a down-to-earth side from an early age.
When World War II broke out in 1939, 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret were only evacuated as far as Windsor Castle, instead of to a safe haven abroad, while her parents remained at Buckingham Palace. Seen as a sign of solidarity with the people, their staying in England helped boost the morale of the country as Germany rained bombs down on our cities. Even the palace was hit by five bombs during the blitz.
During the war unmarried women under 30 were conscripted to help the war effort by either joining the armed forces or working in factories or on the land. Princess Elizabeth was no exception. As soon as she turned 18 in 1945, she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). She was not given any special rank and was registered as number 230873, Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor.
The young Princess took a course in driving and vehicle maintenance at Aldershot and qualified in April 1945. As well as basic mechanics and map reading, she learned how to drive a lorry. It was the first time a female royal had trained with “ordinary people” and she became known as “Princess Auto Mechanic.” And thus began her love of driving.
After she acceded the throne in 1952, Queen Elizabeth served unswervingly for 70 years but, when her duties allowed, she maintained a relaxed private life. On her private estates, she dressed in casual clothes and often wore a head scarf as she took her family to picnics and shooting parties.
Monarch with a Passion for Driving
The Queen need never have driven during her reign, but she got behind the wheel at every opportunity, despite never passing a driving test and not having a driving license. As monarch she didn’t need one, as technically they’re issued on her behalf. Similarly, she never needed a passport for her extensive travels overseas.
While always being chauffeured during official engagements, when she was out of the spotlight, or as far out of it as she ever could get, she loved to drive around her private estates at Balmoral and Sandringham. She was even seen doing chauffeuring duties herself, ferrying family and friends from Windsor Castle to Ascot racecourse.
Despite having access to some of world’s most luxurious vehicles, her perennial favourite from the earliest days of her monarchy was the Land Rover. It was a passion shared by her husband Prince Philip who even helped design the Land Rover Defender that was to carry his coffin during his funeral procession in 2021.
The Queen was no slouch at the wheel either and, according to David Cameron, loved to drive “at breakneck speed”. She also shocked King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia during his 1998 visit by getting behind the wheel and driving him at a time when women in his country were forbidden from driving.
The Queen Didn’t Need Number Plates
As Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth’s official state vehicles weren’t required to display number plates, instead having the House of Windsor coat of arms above the windscreen. However, her personal vehicles had to carry legal number plates just like the rest of us. And she wasn’t averse to buying personalised number plates, along with other members of the royal family.
The Queen owned the rare ‘A7’ plate, one of the UK’s first registration numbers issued in 1903. Until the early 80s, she queen kept a rare Vauxhall Cresta estate at Sandringham with the registration ‘MYT 1’. It has been said the private number plate had later been arranged by Prince Phillip for the Queens funeral as the "Mighty One". During the funeral 2 other vehicles followed with "MYT 2" & also "MYT 3".
Other private number plates owned by the royal family have included the Queen Mother’s ‘NLT 2’, Prince Philip’s ‘OXR 1’, while Princess Margaret had ‘3 GXM’. The Duke of Kent, keen motorist and one time president of the RAC, displayed the plate ‘YR 11’. Princess Anne once had the plate ‘1 ANN’, but gave it up for security reasons.
Queen Elizabeth II was one of a kind and her like will never be seen again. Most of us have only known our country ruled over by her, and we are privileged to have witnessed her selfless and honourable reign.
R.I.P. Your Majesty - MYT 1 "The Mighty One"