It would seem that once a person hits just the right mix of nationalism, royalty, wealth and age, they do extremely weird stuff like fiddle with the customized Land Rover Defender hearse that will one day carry their vessel to its final resting place, which is what Prince Philip apparently did.
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and husband to the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth territories, Queen Elizabeth II, died at the age of 99 on April 9. But not before exercising his taste for ceremonial flair one last time.
Prince Philip was known for royal ceremony as he’s taken credit for planning his wife’s coronation as Queen of England and pushing for it be televised, bringing in a documentary crew to show life behind the palace walls to the public for the first time, and for encouraging his son, Prince Charles, to infamously marry the late Lady Diana Spencer, among other “feats.”
It seems the late Prince had one last pet project up his sleeve for his family and the public, and that’s a Land Rover Defender hearse he personally customized for his public funeral procession on Saturday, April 17.
Filing this one under “weird cars” does very little to properly categorize how strange I find this story. Mostly for the way it’s being shared. Typically, when customized one-offs or other notable specialized vehicles are developed, they are hyped up and revealed with a press release, specs and details.
What’s weird about this version of the story is we’re talking about a man designing a vehicle for his own death ceremony, but still treating it very commercially. A man has died and we get a press release detailing the car that will shepherd his earthbound remains to their grave. It’s all so casually cynical, but from what we know about Prince Philip, maybe that’s just who he was.
The Duke reportedly commissioned the custom Defender back in 2003, taking a personal part in the modifications by working directly with automaker Land Rover which produced the hearse at the company’s factory in Solihull, England. In the 16 years of work on the hearse project, it’s been through both Ford’s and Tata Motors’ ownership of Jaguar Land Rover over the years.
The base Defender for the hearse is a TD5 130 model, a chassis cab frame trim of the Defender lineup modified to have just a single cab. The Duke is credited for designing the rear open-top coffin display area, and personally designed the custom rubber and metal stoppers installed to prevent his coffin from moving during his journey through London.
He also had Land Rover switch the vehicle’s original “Belize Green” paintwork to a common military shade used on government Land Rovers called “Dark Bronze Green.” Other mods include paint-matched wheel hubs and a black grille. Final modifications were reportedly made to the truck in 2019, and it will drive through the streets with no registration plates.
Prince Philip served in the Royal Navy during World War Two, which is probably where his attachment for the military shade of green comes from. The royal family has made use of custom Land Rovers in the past, as the Duke has awarded the automaker a Royal Warrant, granting them a right to display the Royal Arms on vehicles for the family, for over 40 years.
Saturday’s procession was planned for and approved by the Duke himself, supposedly including most of the modifications that had to be made due to the current pandemic crisis. The Duke’s coffin will be carried out of the State Entrance of Windsor Castle into the castle’s Quadrangle, where it will receive a Royal Salute and be loaded into the hearse.
The Defender hearse will be led first by the band of Grenadier Guards and a group of military leadership, with a small group of Royal family members following behind the vehicle with the mourning Queen at the rear in her state Bentley, according to Buckingham Palace.
The Land Rover Defender will be used to carry Prince Philip’s coffin through London to St. George’s Chapel at Windsor, at 15:00 BST, 10 a.m. EST on Saturday.