The royal car at the royal wedding

DRIVEN - Atty. Karen V. Jimeno - The Philippine Star
The royal car at the royal wedding
The Rolls-Royce Phantom IV carrying the bride Meghan Markle and her mother to St. George’s Chapel. This seven-seater limousine was made in 1950 for then Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip.

Thousands gathered in Windsor, and millions watched all over the world to witness the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle last Saturday.

Beautiful, elegant, exceptional… those were probably some of the words used by spectators to describe the bride (who is now the Duchess of Sussex). As the bridal car made its way to St. George’s Chapel, I gushed and used those words to describe the car itself. The vintage 1950 Rolls-Royce Phantom IV was quite the scene-stealer. At almost 70 years old, it is timelessly beautiful with a history as colorful and rich as the royal family that owns it. 

In 1948, Prince Philip (who was then Duke of Edinburgh) was so impressed by his test-drive of the Bentley Mark V (the second Bentley model of Rolls-Royce in a series of mergers and acquisitions between the two British brands over several decades) that he placed an order for a Rolls-Royce for him and then Princess Elizabeth.

The royal couple needed a vehicle that would fit their lifestyle. A limousine-type car that was large and luxurious enough for official functions, but powerful enough for Prince Philip to enjoy driving himself. Prince Philip personally visited the Phantom IV while it was being built.    

The result was a bespoke Phantom IV — a seven-seater limousine with blue leather seats, a 4AF2 Chassis and a powerful straight-eight engine designed to run long distances at very low speed (making it perfect for parades and ceremonial occasions). The driver’s seat was specially modified in case Prince Philip wanted to drive the Phantom IV himself.

The Phantom IV was originally green. It was repainted in royal claret and black in 1952, when Princess Elizabeth was crowned Queen.

When the Phantom IV was delivered to the royal couple in July 1950, the exterior was colored Valentine green with a red beltline striping. Mounted on the hood was Rolls-Royce’s signature silver figure of the “Spirit of Ecstasy.” 

Upon the coronation of Elizabeth as Queen in 1952, the Phantom IV assumed the status of the “official state car” which required it to be repainted in royal claret and black (the sovereign’s colors). At some point, the interior seats were changed to dark blue cloth and grey cloth for the rear. 

It was the Phantom IV that drove Queen Elizabeth to her first royal engagement in 1952 for the traditional distribution of Maundy Money in Westminster Abbey. Since then, the Phantom IV has carried the royal family in several state occasions and personal milestones. It has been used by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, and also served as the bridal car for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011. 

There were only 18 units of the Rolls-Royce Phantom IV ever made, each owned by a prestigious personality such as royalty or a head of state (known owners include Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester; Generalissimo Francisco Franco of Spain; Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran; Prince Talal of Saudi Arabia; Abdullah III Al-Salim Al-Sabah, Hakim of Kuwait; and ‘Abd al-llah, Prince of Iraq). The last Phantom IV unit was produced sometime in 1956, making this Rolls-Royce model more prestigious and exotic.

The bride Meghan Markle descends from the Rolls-Royce Phantom IV.

As Meghan Markle effortlessly descended the Phantom IV in her long gown and sprawling veil, the world also witnessed this Rolls-Royce limousine’s impeccable performance at ceremonial occasions. 

The Phantom IV appears to be the British Royal Family’s vehicle of choice for their important events in the past 68 years. Considering its staying power, it might not be far-fetched to see the Phantom IV at four-year-old Prince George’s wedding decades from now.


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