Those who tuned in for Prince Philip’s funeral on Saturday may have noticed that the Duke of Edinburgh’s casket wasn’t carried to St. George’s Chapel in a typical hearse.
That’s because the 99-year-old royal, who reportedly didn’t want a fuss made over his funeral, requested his casket be carried in a vehicle more personal to him: a Land Rover modified to his liking.
“Just stick me in the back of a Land Rover and drive me to Windsor,” Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband of more than 70 years, reportedly quipped about his funeral arrangements.
The duke got his wish.
His coffin, adorned with his naval cap, sword, a flag representative of his Greek and Danish heritage, and flowers chosen by the queen was carried by eight Grenadier guards dressed in red. The guards hoisted and fastened Prince Philip’s casket onto the back of the customized Land Rover.
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According to Buckingham Palace, the duke picked out the Land Rover Defender TD5 130 that would bear his coffin 18 years ago and designed the chassis cab vehicle to his specifications. These included adding an open top rear section to carry his coffin and having the original Belize green color repainted dark bronze green – a color used for military Land Rovers and a nod to the prince’s military background.
The palace noted that Land Rover has maintained the vehicle since it was built in the company’s factory in Solihull, England, in 2003 and collaborated with the royal household to prepare it for the funeral. The vehicle underwent its final changes in 2019.
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Prince Philip’s Land Rover speaks to his personality
The truck is a sharp contrast to the hearses that have carried caskets at past funerals for royal family members. But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that the Land Rover, with its “unique and idiosyncratic silhouette,” perfectly sums up the kind of person Prince Philip was.
“He was above all a practical man, who could take something very traditional, whether a machine or indeed a great national institution, and find a way by his own ingenuity to improve it, to adapt it for the 20th and the 21st century,” Johnson said.
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American royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith called the Land Rover a “stroke of genius.”
“It is so much in his character – he used to drive around Sandringham in an electric van in the ’80s – that he would devise this,” she told USA TODAY Wednesday.
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Prince Philip was a longtime Land Rover fan
According to Buckingham Palace, the duke had a decades-long affinity for Land Rovers, using them throughout his adult life and granting a royal warrant – a mark of recognition to people and companies who regularly provide goods and services to the royal family – to the company 40 years ago.
The palace added that Prince Philip made several visits to the company’s manufacturing facilities and accompanied the queen when she opened the company’s engine manufacturing center in Wolverhampton, England, in 2014.
In 2016, The Guardian reported that the duke hopped behind the wheel of a Land Rover to chauffer then-President and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama, as well as the queen, to lunch at Windsor Castle.
“We are deeply privileged to have enjoyed a very long and happy association with The Duke of Edinburgh over many decades,” Thierry Bolloré, Jaguar Land Rover’s chief executive, said in a Buckingham Palace news release, adding that the duke would engage with hundreds of Land Rover employees during his visits.
“The Duke was a truly remarkable man and will be greatly missed,” Bolloré said.
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Prince Philip’s passion for Land Rovers was well known among his fans. Someone even paid respects to the duke after he died on April 9 by leaving a model version of a Land Rover outside the palace as a message of condolence.
At 97, Prince Philip gave up his driver’s license after emerging unscathed from a car wreck in January 2019 that left the Land Rover he was driving overturned. A woman riding in a Kia suffered a broken wrist in the collision, which occurred near the royal Sandringham Estate. Her friend who was driving suffered minor cuts, and the friend’s 9-month-old baby boy was unhurt.
Following the Duke of Edinburgh’s death, Land Rover posted a tribute on its website.
“Our thoughts and condolences are with Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family at this time,” the company’s statement read. “His Royal Highness devoted his life to public service and made a significant contribution to British manufacturing, engineering and design.”
Contributing: Maria Puente, Sara M. Moniuszko and Elise Brisco
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