That Time Queen Elizabeth Terrified The Saudi King With Her Driving

Photo: Rex USA.
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah died at age 90 yesterday, and, as the world reacts, stories about his life and legacy are surfacing. This is perhaps the best one: Once, in 1998, Queen Elizabeth took him driving and scared the hell out of him. This happened when the king (then the crown prince) was visiting Balmoral Castle, a large Scottish estate.

It goes like this, according to Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia: "The royal Land Rovers were drawn up in front of the castle. As instructed, the crown prince climbed into the front seat of the Land Rover, with his interpreter in the seat behind. To his surprise, the queen climbed into the driving seat, turned the ignition, and drove off." 

The story is particularly sweet for two reasons: First, women were not (and STILL are not) allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Second, the queen used to be an army driver during wartime, and is apparently a bit of a speed demon. 

It continues: "Abdullah was not used to being driven by a woman, let alone a queen. His nervousness only increased as the queen...accelerated the Land Rover along the narrow Scottish estate roads, talking all the time." Through his interpreter, he begged her to slow down. 

Even though custom discourages discussing what royals say in private, King Abdullah had confirmed the anecdote, and, as Cowper-Coles said, it was "too funny not to repeat."

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