We still don’t know precisely what it will look like, but of one thing we can be quite certain: He will have hugely enjoyed making it.
Having spent most of his life breaking the royal mould, the Duke of Edinburgh will do so again one last time this Saturday when he goes to meet his Maker on the back of a Land Rover.
What’s more, this will be a Land Rover specially converted for funereal use, according to the duke’s very own instructions.
It will be a glorious parting gesture from a man who spent so much of his life encouraging innovation and good design.
Indeed, the Prince Philip Designers Prize (whose past winners include James Dyson and Norman Foster) is the oldest trophy of its sort in the UK.
Having spent most of his life breaking the royal mould, the Duke of Edinburgh will do so again one last time this Saturday when he goes to meet his Maker on the back of a Land Rover
The global equivalent of the Nobel Prize for engineers, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, was founded at the duke’s behest and is awarded at the headquarters of the Royal Academy of Engineering (official address: Prince Philip House, London).
In other words, if anyone was going to devise something technical, original and quintessentially British for their last hurrah, it was the duke.
Everyone had safely assumed that this gallant royal consort and war veteran would be carried to the chapel doors on a gun carriage, in the time-honoured tradition of monarchs and very great men and women (including the previous consort, the Queen Mother, and, more recently, Lady Thatcher).
‘No, thanks,’ said the duke, and started sketching something else.
This is by no means his first Land Rover conversion, either. At the back of the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, beyond the stables for the horses and the garages for the State Bentley and the official Rolls-Royces, you will find a curious-looking beast that looks like a cross between a 4×4 and a bus.
Known as ‘The Jumbo’, it is a long-wheelbase Land Rover which the duke converted to a 16-seat minibus for shooting parties on the royal estates.
Everyone had safely assumed that this gallant royal consort and war veteran would be carried to the chapel doors on a gun carriage, in the time-honoured tradition of monarchs and very great men and women (including the previous consort, the Queen Mother, and, more recently, Lady Thatcher). ‘No, thanks,’ said the duke, and started sketching something else
Rather than use a fleet of vehicles to move around people, guns and dogs, he decided it would be much more efficient to pile the whole lot into this thing.
Up in a Sandringham barn sits another contraption which the duke designed in tandem with the estate’s chief engineer, Danny Harvey. It is a small trailer which unfolds into a mobile barbecue-cum-kitchen unit for picnics (complete with hot drawers, rubbish compartments, drinks cabinet and even a spice rack).
It proved such a success that another (non-royal) duke, having spent the day shooting at Sandringham, has commissioned one of his own.
An early barbecue enthusiast – having first come across one on his travels in the Fifties – the duke would develop a lifelong obsession with finding new techniques and recipes for cooking in the open.
His huge library at Buckingham Palace contained hundreds of cookbooks (among thousands of works on everything from philosophy and birds to mountaineering and biography).
That same constant quest for new, more efficient, more environmentally friendly ways of doing things can be seen all across the royal domain. Back in the Royal Mews, for example, you would, until recently, have seen the London cab he bought for engagements in the capital.
Why sit there in a clunky, gas-guzzling limousine, he would argue, when you could be in a more nimble black cab?
It was during the late Sixties that the duke took to driving around London in an electric car he had spotted during a visit to Lucas Engineering. When the company eventually ran out of spare parts for the vehicle, the duke bought himself a taxi.
The only clues that it was not your normal Metrocab taxi was the installation of a front passenger seat (for a police officer) and the colour scheme. From the earliest days of their marriage, as Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, the couple chose dark green for their staff liveries and vehicles.
The particular shade became known as ‘Edinburgh Green’ and the duke would use it on all his vehicles. In later years, the duke even had his cab converted to liquid petroleum gas. In 2017, he donated it to the Sandringham Museum.
It was at Sandringham that the duke was given to trying out new technology. At Wood Farm, the smaller estate residence which he much preferred to the main house, he installed some of Britain’s very first solar panels way back in the Sixties. Those who think that the Prince of Wales was the original royal eco-warrior are off the mark.
It was immediately after becoming Sovereign that the Queen delegated the running of the private royal estates – Sandringham and Balmoral – to her husband. Back then, they were being run on Edwardian, if not Victorian, lines.
Today, however, Sandringham has the very latest in berry-picking technology in the form of a huge combine harvester for blackcurrants. For, on the duke’s watch, Sandringham would become one of the approved suppliers chosen to produce blackcurrants for Ribena.
Elsewhere on the estate, the duke set up a commercial apple juice operation (which would, over time, supply Waitrose) and even an experimental truffle ‘farm’.
He always lived in hope of tasting his first black truffle from spores originally imported from New Zealand – and three years ago he was finally rewarded with the first crop of ‘black gold’.
As well as putting the duke in charge of the private estates, the Queen also appointed him to the ancient post of Ranger of Windsor Great Park. Some of the previous occupants – including princesses, dukes and duchesses – had regarded this as an undemanding sinecure for a loyal courtier. Not so the duke.
On being appointed Ranger, he soon started to range all over the place. He installed one of Britain’s most famous polo clubs at Smith’s Lawn, on the site of an old airfield, and went on to open a hugely popular farm shop which now acts as an outlet for farms across the entire district.
Over seven decades, the layout and strategy for this ancient estate was transformed by him – from the restoration of the deer herd to an ice cream plant.
His final addition to the Windsor estate’s extensive repertoire made history at a Buckingham Palace banquet for Commonwealth leaders on the night of April 19, 2018.
As they all rose to toast the Queen and the Commonwealth, the 54 world leaders were not drinking one of the traditional champagnes from the royal cellars.
For the first time at a state occasion, the Queen was serving home-made fizz – Windsor Great Park Sparkling Wine – not that anyone could spot the difference.
The duke, sadly, was not present, having retired from public duties the year before, but he will have been very tickled that what some people had mocked as a barmy plan only a few years earlier had just received the ultimate accolade.
It had been his idea to explore the potential of installing vines on a particularly grape-friendly tract of Windsor Great Park soil. So he asked locally born wine maestro Tony Laithwaite to help him with the project.
Now, its annual output competes with the best in the market and it sells out as soon as it reaches the shops. The Queen was serving it all over again at her 2019 state banquet for Donald Trump.
Let’s hope that when Saturday’s solemn proceedings are over, the new Land Rover is back in the garage and the family are back up at the castle where they can uncork a few bottles of his Windsor sparkling wine to toast the most prodigious innovator in royal history since his own great, great grandfather – Prince Albert.