LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II’s 97-year-old husband Prince Philip emerged “shocked and shaken” but unhurt from a car crash that flipped his Land Rover on its side and stirred up a UK debate on Friday about old age and driving.
A nine-month-old baby who was in the back seat of the Kia hatchback involved was uninjured, while one of the two women inside hurt her wrist, local police said.
“We are aware of the public interest in this case, however, as with any other investigation it would be inappropriate to speculate on the causes of the collision until an investigation is carried out,” the police said in a statement.
Images published by UK media showed a dark Land Rover standing on its side by the curb, driver’s side down, its windscreen smashed, glass and metal debris scattered across a road running by a leafy park.
“I was driving home and I saw a car, a black (Land) Rover come out from a side road and it rolled,” witness Roy Warne told BBC Radio on Friday.
“There was a huge collision with another car. I went to the other car and there was a baby in the back” in a harness.
Warne said one of the two other women in the Kia “was the mother of the child and she was quite upset”.
Philip and the other driver were given breath tests, which is standard police procedure. No alcohol was detected.
The accident created banner headlines in most British papers, which cover the royals’ every move, and a robust media debate about the wisdom of driving at Philip’s age.
“MY LEGS! MY LEGS!” The Sun tabloid splashed on its front page — reportedly the phrase Prince Philip “yelled” as he was pulled from the wreckage.
It quoted him as saying: “I was blinded by the sun.”
– Love for speed –
Philip, known for his forthright manner and off-colour jokes, retired from public life in 2017 and underwent a hip replacement operation last April.
Tall, slim and built like a retired soldier, the former air force pilot spends most of his time driving, gardening and enjoying family life at royal estates, according to Buckingham Palace.
He was last seen in public with the queen at Princess Eugenie’s wedding in October.
But he missed the royal family’s annual Christmas Day church service gathering.
Known as the Duke of Edinburgh in Britain, Philip is also famous for his love for speed.
The royal family website says the duke “learned to fly all type of aircraft”, passing a Royal Air Force test in 1953.
In 2016, alongside the queen, he drove former US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle around Windsor Castle after they landed nearby in the presidential helicopter.
– ‘Age old debate’ –
The accident stirred up what The Sun described as Britain’s “age old debate” about whether and when the elderly should give up driving.
The issue is especially sensitive in the case of the royals, with the Daily Mail noting: “There’s only one person who can tell him to stop driving. But will she dare?”
The queen was reportedly at the duke’s side when he checked in for a brief hospital visit, but has issued no public comment.
Official figures cited by UK media show more than 100,000 drivers in the UK over the age of 90.
In Britain, licenses expire when a person turns 70 and are renewed through a simple self-assessment test.
“There will be some surprise that the duke still drives himself on public roads,” BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond wrote in a commentary.
“But he has always been fiercely independent, and would have resisted any suggestion that he be denied the right to drive himself.”
The Daily Mail asked whether the duke would now “sacrifice one of his last indulgences”.
The BBC’s Dymond suggested that he might.
“It might be that the duke is about to be persuaded to give up the wheel.”