According to a former diplomat, Queen Elizabeth II once scared a crown prince with driving skills she learned while serving in an auxiliary military branch during World War II. And it probably didn’t help his anxieties that women in his country were banned from operating vehicles.
What skill-related nickname did the then-princess earn during her time in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in WWII? And how did she scare the future king of Saudi Arabia using skills she learned during that time? Plus, how long before she died did she stop driving on public roads? Read on to find out.
Queen Elizabeth II was ‘Princess Auto Mechanic’ in World War II
When then-Princess Elizabeth turned 18, she said she wanted to meet the expectations held for non-royals her age regarding military service (per Time). And she became known as “Princess Auto Mechanic” in World War II while serving in the ATS, a women’s army auxiliary branch.
Once enlisted, Elizabeth passed a driving test, learned to decode maps, and began mechanical work. However, she didn’t stay at camp with her ATS peers and continued to sleep at Windsor Castle. Still, she said the experience taught her about life outside the palace, including what non-royals went through to prepare for royal visits.
“I never knew there was quite so much advance preparation [for a royal visit],” LIFE quoted the Princess as saying (per Time). “I’ll know another time.”
Notably, Elizabeth was the first woman from the royal family to become “a full-time active member in the women’s service.”
Queen Elizabeth chatted away to Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia while driving
The story of a terrified then-Crown Prince Abdullah started with Elizabeth asking him if he would like to go for a drive after lunch while he visited her at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. He hesitantly agreed, and she had the fleet of Land Rovers fetched.
The future king came from Saudi Arabia, where women were banned from driving until 2018. So, he was reportedly surprised when Elizabeth hopped in the driver’s seat beside him and took the wheel.
Diplomat Sherard Cowper-Coles shared the story in a memoir and revealed Queen Elizabeth zoomed around the estate’s roads, chatting away at her guest. “Through his interpreter, the Crown Prince implored the Queen to slow down and concentrate on the road ahead,” Cowper-Coles recalled (per HuffPost).
Terrified as he might have been, everyone survived the tour around the palace grounds.
Queen Elizabeth II was a fan of driving herself places, even in her 9th decade
The queen didn’t need a passport or a driver’s license, thanks to her status as a ruler. And she could have broken any traffic law she pleased, but she seemed pleased to obey them.
After Prince Philip, her husband, was in a scary accident at age 97, Elizabeth decided to give up driving on public roads in 2019. However, she continued to hop behind the wheel to buzz around on her private estates because she enjoyed the driver’s seat.
After a record-setting 70-year reign, Elizabeth died at 96, and Prince Charles is now King Charles III.
“We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother,” he said (per BBC). “I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.”