There’s one question gripping the UK today and for once, it’s not about Brexit.
Why is Prince Philip still driving at the age of 97, especially when he has access to a fleet of royal chauffeurs?
Remarkably, the Duke of Edinburgh managed to walk away from the crash unscathed. The prince was “obviously shaken,” an eyewitness told the BBC, but he was able to stand and showed concern for the occupants of the other car. The female driver of the other vehicle and her passenger suffered minor injuries, and there was also a baby in that car who wasn’t hurt.
It’s unlike Philip to obsess about media coverage of his life but if he does tune in, he will probably feel a mixture of bafflement and despair about the focus on him after this crash.
Despite his clear sense of duty to Queen and country, he’s never had much time for royal protocol, as his long history of unapologetic public gaffes demonstrates.
The Duke of Edinburgh is also famously independent and has been caught on several occasions getting frustrated by the strictures of his public role, asking photographers to “get on with it” and ignoring the instructions of aides.
The quid pro quo for being a member of one of the world’s most famous families are the many trappings that come with it – from historic castles to all-expenses paid hospitality and a fleet of luxury cars, complete with chauffeurs. So why doesn’t he use these drivers?
Well, imagine being locked away behind palace walls, unable ever to take a walk outside the grounds, even for a cup of tea without a stifling security detail. The only sense of freedom you can enjoy is grabbing the car keys and hitting the open road. In that case, it’s the security teams that are confined – to the follow-up car.
That’s why Prince Philip insists on driving even when he doesn’t have to. It’s why he famously picked up US President Barack Obama from his helicopter at Windsor Castle in 2016, to the astonishment of the Secret Service. It’s why the Queen once reportedly drove the former King of Saudi Arabia around her Scottish estate. It’s also why Prince William refuses to give up his motorbike, and why he insisted on driving his heir, Prince George home from hospital in 2013.
William told CNN at the time: “There are times when you can’t do it yourself and the system takes over or it’s appropriate to do things differently. But, I think driving your son and your wife away from hospital was really important to me. And I don’t like fuss so it’s much easier to just do it yourself.”
When most people would welcome a bit more fuss, the royal family yearn for the opposite. That’s why I wonder whether Philip will give up driving and why he’s probably bemused by all the discussion about whether he should.