Prince Philip, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
10 June 1921 to 9 April 2021


Prince Philip, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
10 June 1921 to 9 April 2021

Everyone at British Carriagedriving is deeply saddened at the news of the death of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh who was a valued member of the driving community and a huge supporter of the sport of driving trials.

A long standing member of British Carriagedriving (formerly The British Horse Driving Trials Association), he had been involved with the sport of driving trials from its inception and enjoyed attending events as a volunteer after retiring as a competitor.

Prince Philip was born in Corfu, Greece. In 1947 he married Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth. He was educated in Great Britain and was active in many sports, particularly cricket, hockey, rowing and sailing. He had a naval career from 1939 to 1951, where he served as Lieutenant-Commander.

Throughout his life, Prince Philip enjoyed a long equestrian career. He was an excellent polo-player and took up Four-in-hand Driving in 1973 when it became an FEI discipline. He came to competition driving from the administrative side of equestrian sports when he was President of the FEI, a role he fulfilled for 22 years from 1964-1986, and was instrumental in creating the first set of international rules for the new sport of driving trials in 1968.

As his career in polo drew to a close, he thought he would try this new sport as the Royal Mews contained the necessary horses, harness, carriages and grooms to get started. He did note that the carriages were not exactly suitable for what he had in mind! His recognition of the unique partnership between human and animal was an advantage in this new equestrian discipline, however his early endeavours were not without mishap. He tells of the time he converted a ditch at Sandringham into a training exercise for a water obstacle. Unfortunately his team jumped the ditch leaving the carriage embedded in the mud and the horses set off to explore the estate.


Prince Philip competing his Fell pony team at Lowther National Driving Trials in 2005.

Prince Philip had a place in the first event to be run at Lowther in April 1973 where he finished 4th of ten competitors. This unexpected result led to him being invited to take part as an individual at the European Championships which took place a month later at the Windsor Horse Show in May although a bent axle forced him to retire within sight of the finish. He competed once more that year, at Cirencester, and was hooked on the sport from then on. Since this was a new sport, there were not many competitors but he was surprised at how quickly the sport gained popularity. By 1975 there were fifteen 4 in hand competitors in Britain.

In his book, 30 Years On and Off The Box Seat, Prince Philip noted, “I only started driving in Competitions when I had reached the advanced age of fifty, and after twenty years of highly competitive polo, the last thing I expected to do was to get involved in World and European championships.” 1

His Royal Highness competed at six World and three European Championships and was 6th individually in the 1982 World Championships. He was a member of the British gold medal team at the World Championships in 1980 and a member of the British bronze medal teams at the 1978, 1982 and 1984 World Championships. He contested his final World Championship event with his instantly recognisable team of Fell ponies at the World Pony Championships at Catton Estate near Birmingham in July 2005.


Prince Philip meeting British Team members at the FEI Para Driving World Championships at Sandringham in 2014. Photo: ADW Media.

In addition to the competitive element, Prince Philip thoroughly enjoyed the social aspect of the sport. He quickly discovered he mustn’t stop to gossip with other competitors in the obstacles as this was too distracting and he would have to start over again. In the introduction to his book, the text notes that, “Prince Philip makes it clear that the social life during these weekend events is also an important aspect of the sport. As so many of the competitors are regular participants, he has described the season as a ‘peripatetic weekend party’ for like-minded people” 2.

In his postscript, Prince Philip noted, “I am getting old, my reactions are getting slower and my memory is unreliable, but I have not lost the sheer pleasure of driving a team through the British countryside.” 1

Horses bring together people from all walks of life, and many of us in the driving community have been privileged to know His Royal Highness and compete and steward alongside him.

His passing is a tremendous loss to all who knew him and the thoughts of all British Carriagedriving members are with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and all the members of the Royal family at this time.

FEI Pays tribute to longest serving FEI President Prince Philip

Remembering Prince Philip, an Equestrian Pioneer

References:

1 HRH The Duke of Edinburgh 30 Years On and Off The Box Seat (2004), ed. Jane Lake, J.A. Allen, page 295

2 HRH The Duke of Edinburgh 30 Years On and Off The Box Seat (2004), ed. Jane Lake, J.A. Allen, dust jacket, inside front cover

 

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