The Daily Telegraph
Bespoke Rolls-royce that unites a mother and son
THE KING was driven across London yesterday in a Rolls-royce that was built for his mother, then Princess Elizabeth, 72 years ago.
The Rolls-royce Phantom IV, one of only 18 made, had been owned by Queen Elizabeth II since 1950 and went on to appear at many state occasions.
Yesterday, the King was taken from Westminster Hall to RAF Northolt, where he boarded a flight to Edinburgh for a family vigil at St Giles’ Cathedral.
The royal car could be seen bearing one of the late Queen’s own mascots on the bonnet in place of the Spirit of Ecstasy, the silver figurine traditionally used on Rolls-royce vehicles.
The bespoke silver sculpture depicts St George on a horse poised over a slain dragon and was designed by Edward Seago, the late English artist, in 1952, the same year Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne. The mascot can be transferred from car to car, allowing it to be changed back to the Spirit of Ecstasy when the Rolls-royce is not being used by the monarch.
According to the manufacturer, the Royal family had been looking for a car for Princess Elizabeth in 1949, when her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, drove a Bentley with a Rolls-royce engine and was impressed.
“For Rolls-royce, a decades-long wish was about to be fulfilled; at last, it would be asked to build the ‘best car in the world’ for the Royal family of its home country,” said a history of the car on the website of Rolls-royce’s parent company, BMW Group. Once it had been lavished with “every conceivable luxury”, the first model of the Phantom IV was then delivered to the princess in 1950.
“In the automotive world, the Phantom IV was the best of the best,” the manufacturer said. “The British Royal family were the first to tread this exalted path, and just a few, very special dignitaries around the world have managed to follow in their tyre tracks.”
It became an official state car upon Princess Elizabeth’s accession to the throne, when it was repainted in the sovereign’s colour scheme of royal claret and black.
On April 10 1952, it was used to drive Queen Elizabeth to her first royal engagement as monarch: a Maundy service at Westminster Abbey in London.
Two years later, in June 1955, the Rolls-royce took the monarch to the state opening of Parliament after the traditional grand procession was cancelled owing to a national rail strike.
In the decades since, it has been used for several major state occasions, albeit without the distinctive mascot on the bonnet. Most recently, the Rolls-royce carried the Duchess of Sussex on the day of her marriage in 2018 to the Duke of Sussex at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
Yesterday, upon arriving in Edinburgh, the King was picked up by another of the Royal family’s collection of Rolls-royces, this time a Phantom VI. In line with tradition, the figurine on the Rolls-royce in Edinburgh was replaced with the Scottish Lion Rampant, which was used on the late Queen’s official vehicles whenever she travelled in Scotland.