Prince Philip was given an official warning by police yesterday after he was caught driving without a seatbelt – just 48 hours after being pulled from the wreckage of a horrifying car crash.
He was pictured breaking the law while driving his new car along a country lane a mile from the scene of Thursday’s collision, which left him shell-shocked and bloodied.
Driving without a seatbelt is punishable by a fine of up to £500 but police said officers simply gave the 97-year-old Duke a ticking-off.
Prince Philip (pictured) was spotted behind the wheel of his brand new Land Rover on Saturday just two days after flipping his car in a horror crash
The Duke of Edinburgh, 97, could be seen driving the car on his own without a seatbelt into the main entrance gate to the Sandringham estate on Saturday afternoon
A Norfolk Police spokesman said: ‘We are aware of the photograph. Suitable words of advice have been given to the driver and this is in line with our standard response when being made aware of, or receiving, such images.’
But last night the Duke’s cavalier approach to safety was branded ‘reckless’ and ‘crazy’ by Princess Diana’s former Royal protection officer, Ken Wharfe.
Mr Wharfe told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The senior officers in charge of his protection have serious questions to answer because someone needs to be able to stand up to him and put a stop to this now before there is another incident.’
It is unclear whether police have interviewed the Duke over Thursday’s crash near the Queen’s Sandringham Estate, which left him trapped in his overturned Land Rover. Two women travelling in the other car with a nine-month-old boy needed hospital treatment for minor injuries.
A driver claims Prince Philip almost crashed into her as near Sandringham estate before his shocking crash on Thursday (pictured)
Depending on the outcome of a police probe, the Duke could be forced to surrender his licence. But having taken delivery of a replacement racing green Land Rover Freelander just one day after the crash, he carried on regardless, determined to defy those calling on him to quit driving.
Before returning to the wheel yesterday he passed a police eyesight test.
The extraordinary picture of him not wearing his seatbelt came as:
- The Queen was pictured wearing a seatbelt while driving near Sandringham yesterday – a day after eyebrows were raised when she was spotted without one;
- Video of the horrific crash filmed by hi-tech cameras fitted to Philip’s car was being examined by police investigating whether he should be prosecuted for careless driving;
- Dramatic new details of the crash aftermath emerged, including how a witness ‘ripped off the sunroof’ to haul the Duke to safety.
The Queen was seen driving along a public road on Friday, less than 24 hours after Prince Philip’s accident, without wearing a seat belt
The Queen was wearing a headscarf and bright red lipstick and was accompanied by a companion as she drove out of the Sandringham estate on Saturday
Yesterday, the Duke was driving west on a public single-track road towards the hamlet of West Newton, just south of Sandringham, when he was spotted without a seatbelt.
He was photographed in his new Land Rover as he drew up to the junction of the narrow road and the B1440, where he turned right. After driving north on the B-road for a quarter of a mile, he turned off into the Sandringham Estate.
His accident on Thursday sparked calls from politicians to consider tougher checks for older drivers.
Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon said: ‘I know there’s self-certification of the fact that people over a certain age are able to drive. We may need to look at something more robust.’
Dickie Arbiter, former press secretary to the Queen, said last night: ‘Not wearing a seatbelt at any time is not very sensible. Maybe he was injured and wrenched his muscles and putting on a belt might have been uncomfortable – I don’t know.
‘If he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt then there has got to be good reason and if it was arrogance, then that is not reason enough.’
The route the Prince took while driving without a seatbelt towards Sandringham. And inset where the crash took place on Thursday
Meanwhile, Mr Wharfe added: ‘The Duke of Edinburgh is known to be very difficult when it comes to personal protection officers, especially at Sandringham. I know he is stubborn, but this is ridiculous and sounds like he is driving without a seatbelt on purpose to send a message. His security team must be pulling their hair out.’
Mr Wharfe said change in the system of guarding the Royals was partly to blame for the incident. Previously, senior Royals each had their own personal protection unit, but now officers have a rota system.
He said: ‘In the past you would have officers with decades of experience who would know how to deal with the Duke. That’s all gone.’
Norfolk Police declined to divulge details of the crash investigation, saying it was ‘ongoing’. But they confirmed they had carried out an eyesight test which the Prince passed. It is understood the Duke was asked to read a number plate from 65ft away.
Cameras fitted to Royal cars for security reasons are thought to be able to record and transmit live images to personal protection officers. It is understood that the cameras on Philip’s Land Rover were filming from several angles as the accident unfolded.
If the footage suggests that Philip was at fault and driving carelessly, then it could be used as evidence in a prosecution. Magistrates would have the power to fine him £5,000, disqualify him from driving or put nine penalty points on his licence.
The accident happened as Philip pulled out of a side road on to the 60mph limit A149 road. His Land Rover collided with a Kia car, sending his vehicle tumbling across the road where it ended up on its side.
The 28-year-old woman driver of the Kia suffered a knee injury and her 45-year-old woman passenger sustained a broken wrist. A nine-month-old boy strapped into the back seat escaped serious injury.
Philip told people at the scene that the crash happened after he was dazzled by the low sun.
Roy Warne, who helped after the accident, said: ‘We do not know whether it was his fault. I have been saying to people, “Don’t rush to judgment here. It might have been a mechanical fault. Maybe the accelerator pedal jammed.”’
He said of Prince Philip: ‘His legs were trapped, but he was amazingly calm. He didn’t show any interest in his own situation but was very keen to see that everyone else was all right.’
Buckingham Palace refused to comment last night about Philip’s decision to drive again and his failure to wear a seatbelt.
I’m a fan, but this is crazy: Royal biographer INGRID SEWARD urges Prince Philip to give up the public road and forfeit a little freedom
The Duke of Edinburgh is renowned as a free spirit – a man willing to challenge stuffy values and strike out for independence. He flew helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft until he could no longer put in the hours, and sailed until advancing years meant that he could no longer compete.
Yet Prince Philip’s appearance at the wheel of a Land Rover Freelander – without a seat belt – after a miraculous escape from his wrecked car surprised even his most ardent supporters.
It was just 48 hours, after all, since he was involved in that horror smash near Sandringham.
The Prince’s driving comes less than 48 hours after he was left bloodied and shaken after his car ‘somersaulted across the road’ after colliding with a Kia on the A149 in Babingley, Norfolk
His car rolled over. The 28-year-old woman driving the other car, and a baby, could have been killed. A passenger is now nursing a broken wrist.
There seems little doubt that Prince Philip’s driving was at fault. He seemed ready to take the blame for the accident, apparently admitting at the scene that he had been a ‘fool’ to turn onto a main road with the sun in his eyes.
Now, he has been out driving again – on his own, on public roads, and without a belt, an offence for which he received a ticking off from the police.
Prince Philip’s appearance at the wheel of a Land Rover Freelander – without a seat belt – after a miraculous escape from his wrecked car surprised even his most ardent supporters, writes Ingrid Seward (pictured)
Many will consider him lucky to have been treated so leniently.
So, although he is a considerate man who would have been deeply concerned by Thursday’s crash, his decision to get back on the road risks appearing reckless – and a little callous.
Where were the security staff who are supposed to be with him at all times? Where were the wise palace heads telling him how this would look to the public?
And why, most importantly of all, is he insistent on continuing to drive on public roads when his reactions are obviously not as sharp as they once were – and can hardly have been helped by the shock of the past few days?
The truth is, it’s in his nature.
The Duke would have been determined to walk away from the accident once he had been freed from the debris. And I’m in no doubt he would have been equally determined to get straight back behind the wheel. He is not afraid of life and – given the way he is behaving – seems not to be afraid of death.
He is unique, extraordinary, stubborn, determined, impatient and bad tempered, and there will never be anyone like him again.
The Queen certainly doesn’t want to lose him.
Motoring experts said it was likely police would ask Philip (pictured at the wheel near Balmoral last year) to voluntarily surrender his driver’s licence because of his age
When he was taken ill during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and collapsed during lunch at Windsor Castle later, she gave him very strict but humorous instructions: that he was not to die on her – not that weekend, any way!
She might well be reprimanding him in the same way now.
We don’t want to lose him either – and we don’t want to see innocent fellow motorists injured, or worse, at his hands.
So please, Your Royal Highness, give up the public road at least. Forfeit just a little of your freedom.
And then, in your own words: ‘Just Get On With It.’
lIngrid Seward is Editor-in-Chief of Majesty magazine. Her latest book is My Husband & I: The Inside Story of 70 years Of The Royal Marriage, published by Simon & Schuster.