She started her reign even before she ascended to the throne at the very young age of 25, and she did it by leading by example. In the process, she became a female pioneer and a lifelong auto enthusiast, and to this day, she remains the only female Royal to have served in the Army. Queen Elizabeth II was a lot of (all great) things, including a horse collector and a huge Corgi lover, but she was also an accomplished auto mechanic, a truck driver, and a passionate driver.
The Queen’s coming of age was marked and deeply influenced by WWII, which started just as she was entering her teenage years. By 1942, learning from her father, King George VI, and her mother, Queen Consort Elizabeth, then-Princess Elizabeth had already started building a public presence by doing her first solo assignments. That year, she was named Honorary Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, and she’d started showing an interest in women’s involvement in the war effort.
to war was wrong. The Royal Family had already made the decision to maintain their public profile with frequent morale-boosting appearances, even though Buckingham Palace was being bombed repeatedly. Princess Elizabeth remained steadfast in her decision and, on turning 18 and still very much against her father’s wishes, enrolled in the Auxiliary Territorial Services.
She began training at Camberley as an auto mechanic, taking classes in mechanics theory, map reading, and servicing, maintaining and driving heavy armored vehicles.
Women in ATS were soldiers, but they weren’t allowed in combat or, for that matter, to shoot guns. Their main responsibilities consisted of desk duties (postal workers, telephone dispatchers, secretaries), but they also worked as mechanics, drivers, and spotters for the anti-aircraft unit, even though they weren’t allowed to shoot the anti-aircraft guns. The ATS aimed to free up the men, so they could fight on the frontlines.
No. 230873 Elizabeth Windsor enlisted in February 1945 and, by the time she completed her training, the war had ended, so she never got the chance to “do her bit” for the war effort. She graduated as Honorary Junior Commander, and the mere fact that she was there for the training, working with the other ATS trainees for seven hours a day, helped raise awareness and bring more female volunteers for the unit. She was dubbed Princess Auto Mechanic, and she lived up to that name until her final years.
Labrador hood ornaments on her estate. Legend has it that she would often pop out before a planned drive to diagnose and fix issues with the engine of the cars in the garage and that she was quite fond of driving fast.
Queen Elizabeth II never had a driver’s license, because, in the UK, all driver’s licenses are issued in her name and, as such, she could not issue herself one. She was also exempt from certain rules that we, commoners, have to follow, such as wearing a seatbelt. Throughout her time as monarch, Elizabeth II was a competent and cool driver, and a passionate car collector with a soft spot for Land Rover and Rolls-Royce.
Queen Elizabeth II was a lot of things to a lot of people. To auto enthusiasts, she was a female auto pioneer, and her contribution could and will never be forgotten.
The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) September 8, 2022
The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/VfxpXro22W