Why the Queen drives without a licence

Staff writer

While the Duke of Edinburgh's driving has made the headlines in recent days, the Queen is also still driving at the age of 92 and reportedly insists on getting behind the wheel of her Range Rover when travelling within her private estates and to events including the Royal Windsor Horse Show.

And her majesty does all this without owning a driving licence. Why? Because of the 'royal prerogative' – the discretionary powers and rights that the Queen alone possesses. Her Majesty is the only person in the UK who can drive without a licence, she's never needed to take a driving test and is even allowed to drive without a number plate on her state car.

The Queen has been driving since she was a teenager in WWII. She joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service at the age of 18 where she was trained as a driver and a mechanic, learning how to change a wheel, tweak engines and drive larger vehicles including ambulances. She was promoted to honorary junior commander after just five months of service.

Her preference for larger vehicles was evident In a letter Elizabeth once wrote to author Betty Shew, she wrote, "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."

More recently, the Queen showed off her skills behind the wheel when she famously shocked the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, when she insisted on driving them around her Balmoral estate in Scotland.

Former British Ambassador Sherard Cowper-Coles recounted the meeting to the Sunday Times: "As instructed, the crown prince climbed into the front seat of the front Land Rover, with his interpreter in the seat behind. To his surprise, the Queen climbed into the driving seat, turned the ignition and drove off. Women are not – yet – allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, and Abdullah was not used to being driven by a woman, let alone a queen.

"His nervousness only increased as the Queen, an army driver in wartime, accelerated the Land Rover along the narrow Scottish estate roads, talking all the time. Through his interpreter, the crown prince implored the Queen to slow down and concentrate on the road ahead."

While the monarch is usually chauffeured to public engagements, while on her estates she is believed to have helped her children learn how to drive, both on and off road. Furthermore, her extensive car collection featuring various British marques is said to be worth more than £10m.

In addition to not needing a driving licence, the British Monarch also does not need a passport to travel overseas.

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