LONDON — When the news flash went out Thursday evening, many feared the worst. Prince Philip, 97, had been in a car collision outside the Queen’s Sandringham estate in east England.
But, we quickly learned, the prince — the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of the queen — had walked away from the wreck.
“Amazing,” said a passerby who stopped to help.
Many nonagenarians don’t walk away from even a slip in the tub. But the prince collided with another vehicle, flipped his Land Rover and was unharmed.
There were three passengers, including nine-month-old baby in the other car, a Kia. There were cuts for the adult passenger, and the driver broke her wrist. The baby boy was not injured. The three were taken to the hospital and soon released.
In the aftermath, Britons wondered:
1. Prince Philip still drives. (Who knew?)
2. Should he still drive? (Why not?)
3. Who takes his keys away? (The Queen)
Wendy Greenstreet told Sky News she drove past the accident moments after it happened: “To think of the age of him, and to think he actually got out of that car alive. You wouldn’t have thought that anybody would have got out of that car the way they did, and for it to be him, you know, was crazy.”
Witness Roy Warne told the BBC Radio 4 on Friday that he saw the prince’s SUV “careening, tumbling across the road and ending up on the other side.”
In another interview, he said it looked as if the prince’s vehicle had “somersaulted” across the roadway.
Warne, 75, had been driving with his wife along highway A149 near Sandringham, the Queen’s estate, when he came upon the collision.
Warne told Sky News: “My main concern was the other car because there was a lot of smoke around it and I was worried the tank might go up. The windows were down, and me and another chap, we got the baby out."
"It was a horrendous accident, it’s just amazing that nobody was seriously injured,” he said.
"I then went to the other car, which was on its side, and there was a gentleman in there. . . . Otherwise known as the Duke of Edinburgh.”
Warne has said he did not realize at first that it was Queen Elizabeth II’s husband behind the wheel.
"I told him to move one of his legs to make room for the other leg, and then I put my hands under his arms and helped ease him out backwards,” he said. “And then I saw his face.”
Warne continued: “He’s a very old man, and he was obviously very shaken up.”
He said Philip was “asking if anyone was hurt.”
It was unclear if Philip was accompanied by a security officer. The palace has not commented on that.
Warne said that he had the duke’s blood on his hands after the collision and that a member of royal staff gave him a cloth to clean it off.
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said the duke “saw a doctor as a precaution and the doctor confirmed he was not injured.”
Warne told the Sun newspaper that he heard the duke say he had been “dazzled by the sun.”
As is standard procedure in England in collisions, Norfolk Police performed a breath test for alcohol of the two drivers involved. Both were negative.
Police said Friday that they were still investigating the incident and had not assigned blame.
Ingrid Seward, editor in chief of Majesty Magazine, spoke with ITV’s “Good Morning Britain” show on Friday, “The Queen will certainly be telling him off as Prince Philip has always been a very fast driver.”
Seward recalled how before Philip married Princess Elizabeth in 1947, he had bought himself a two-seater MG convertible and roared around town and country “at great speed.”
Philip has always liked to be behind the wheel. He was a naval commander — until he had to give that up to become the queen’s consort in 1952. He had a pilots license and continued flying privately until 1997, when he took his last flight at the age of 76. Driving himself by car has been his most enduring pleasure. He famously chauffeured President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama during their 2016 state visit.
The duke retired from official duties in 2017, after more than 22,000 solo engagements before the public. A Washington Post article at the time recounted how the prince was at a reception with the queen when a guest told him that he was sorry to hear that the royal was standing down.
“Well, I can’t stand up much!” the prince replied.
It was a classic Philip response.
So, who might ask Philip to hand over his car keys?
"It will be the Queen, she’ll be the only one who can really tell him,” the royal writer Seward said. “And I’m sure she’ll be very annoyed with him, obviously sympathetic, but will be saying 'Now Philip, this is enough.’”