A general election looms, but first there is the national excitement of a new Royal baby making headlines. So what car awaits the new arrival’s first road trip?
A sleek black Range Rover was the first car that our future king, baby Prince George, ever travelled in. It was the patriotic Royal choice of transport when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge drove away from the London hospital where he was born.
That was nearly two years ago, and with another Royal birth imminent, a Range Rover is the likely limo for the debut journey of the new baby too. Land Rovers, Jaguars and Audis are the most popular makes of car favoured by younger members of the Royal family. The first two makes are British-bred, of course, but Audis joined the list of Royal preference when Princess Diana favoured them in the 1990s, and it is a choice that has continued with her sons.
Prince Charles famously owns a fine classic Aston Martin, given to him by his mother, her Majesty, on his 21st birthday. The 1969 Volante DB6 Mk II is one of the rarest Astons ever made, one of only about a dozen similar models produced by the Buckinghamshire-based luxury sports car manufacturer.
It is the eye-catching car that Prince William ‘borrowed’ to drive his new bride away from Buckingham Palace after their 2011 wedding, resplendent in white ribbon and with ‘L’ plates mischievously added for the occasion. But the Cambridges and Prince Harry are more often seen arriving in Land Rovers or Audis when they unwind at polo matches.
When she is at leisure, the Queen is frequently found at the wheel of a Land Rover, although in earlier times her favoured incognito ride was often a Rover saloon. For state occasions, though, her Majesty will normally be seen in either a Rolls-Royce or Bentley. The most beautiful of these is the Bentley State Limousine that was specially made by the Crewe-based luxury car firm to mark the occasion of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.
This is some car, powered by a twin-turbocharged 6.75 litre V8 engine and equipped with broad, rear-hinged coach doors that open to almost 90 degrees at the back. The bodywork is painted in claret and black, like all British state limousines.
The body and glass are both armoured, and the cabin is blast resistant. The lambswool-clad rear seats are set unusually high, to give the cheering crowds a better view of their monarch as she glides past on State occasions.
When her Majesty is on board, the car wears the Royal Standard on its roof, a similar plaque atop the windscreen, and her personal mascot on the bonnet – either a standing lion, or St George slaying the dragon. But there are no number plates. None of the official State cars wears number plates. As monarch, the Queen is the only person in Britain entitled to forego them.
There are a total of eight State limousines: two Bentleys, three Rolls-Royces and three Daimlers. There are also a variety of other vehicles in the Royal fleet, kept in the mews at Buckingham Palace. They include a number of Volkswagen ‘people carriers’.
Over the years, the Royal car collection has included an even more eclectic mix. When a fascinating exhibition of cars owned or used by the Royal family was brought together for a Cartier ‘Style et Luxe’ exhibition at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, it included – predictably – six Daimlers, four Rolls-Royces and three Aston Martins. But more unexpectedly, it also featured a 1956 Ford Zephyr Estate, a 1961 Vauxhall Cresta estate, a 1963 Rover P5, a Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman and a Citroen SM Opera.