Sunday, June 03, 2012

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN...OF MOTORCYCLING

One of photographer Cecil Beaton's remarkable portraits of the young Queen Elizabeth, on the day of her coronation in 1953
Its said that in private, she prefers dazzling cascades of jewels adorning her person rather than the hatted Easter-egg ensembles she wears on parade, and who can blame her, with access to all the diamonds in the Tower of London...she's just using them 'as the maker intended', eh?  On her Diamond Jubilee, let us celebrate Elizabeth II, Queen of England, for the most unexpected of reasons; she is truly One of Us. No, you and I aren't inheritors of vast acreages and a guaranteed income from the British gov't, but we do have something in common.
Princess Elizabeth, future Queen of England, riding a BSA C10 (?)
Her recently-married grandson Prince William has been a motorcyclist for years, sneaking out of Buckingham palace on a new Ducati Monster behind a darkened face shield for a blast around the streets of London (and, we hope, further flung castle regions - London traffic sucks).  Motorcycling is typically an inherited disease, and in the case of the Royal Family, it would seem the compulsion skipped a generation, because his father Charles, not known as a risk-taker, was certainly no biker.
Princess Elizabeth in another Cecil Beaton portrait, aged 19...a fetching young lady
But his grandmother was. Yep, the Queen could hop on William's Ducati and have a blast, if she chose, as she has experience as a rider of motorcycles.  Granted, she may not have actually ridden since the dark days of the Blitz, but then-Princess Elizabeth 'did her part' during WW2, joining the military training scheme ATS (Auxiliary Training Service) at age 19, learning (or at lest being photographed learning) to change truck tires, finger spark plugs, and - one thing which can't be faked for the photographers - riding a military-spec BSA C10 250cc through a training course of whitewashed petrol tins.
Princess Elizabeth getting her hands dirty...
Giving Beat icon Juliette Gréco a run for her money in 'workwear chic', Elizabeth looks almost Bohemian in her black mechanic's jumpsuit, rubber Wellingtons, and jaunty beret.  Her calm demeanor in the photo says it all; the Queen is cool.
The future Queen of England changing a truck tire..
The 'QEII motophoto' was supplied by journalist/biker Prosper Keating, who, after hearing of Elizabeth's motorcycling skills, managed to dig up the goods.  He supplied the negative to the Queen, who wrote back in her own hand, grateful that she could show her grandchildren that she was 'once cool'.  Thanks Prosper!
Prince William on his Ducati 1198, one of many motorcycles he owns.  His security team is vexed trying to keep up with him! Photo from the Telegraph of London
Prince Charles in his duty as Royal ambassador to everything...tweaking the horn of a ca.1926 Norton M.18.  Charles' father, the Duke of Edinburgh, was also a rider, and a frequent visitor to the Isle of Man...
Bad boy Prince Harry, the proper candidate for Bikerdom in the Royal Family, has a bit of fun on an abandoned bike in the desert during one of his military tours
Let's not forget further branches of the Royal Family have long been supporters of Motorcycling...here HRH the Duke of York inspects one of the Two racers he entered at the Brooklands Royal Meeting on May 20, 1922.  Rider S.E.Wood sits aside a Trump with an 8-valve Anzani 994cc engine...just about the hottest kit imaginable in '22.  The Duke was himself a rider, but did not race.  The other machine that day was an OHV Douglas.
The uncropped photo from 'The Motor Cycle' in 1941; the article doesn't mention Princess Elizabeth, but sharp-eyed readers knew the story!
Some additional info on the 'Motorcycling Windsors' from reader Allan Johnson:

"Two more pictures of Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI) and his motorcycling career. The first is taken at the Brooklands meeting where he sponsored his chauffeur, S.E.Wood on the 994cc Trump-Anzani.  
Albert, the Duke of York (and future King George VI) sponsors his chauffeur, Mr.Wood, on the 994cc Trump-Anzani 8-valve
The second was taken while he was a student at Cambridge U. after WWI. Albert did learn motorcycling on a WWI  Royal Navy Triumph around 1916 at the time he served in a battleship gunnery officer during the Battle of Jutland. After he left Cambridge and went to London, he had a sidecar outfit, probably a Douglas, as he had taken up golf and travelled out to the links with the golf clubs in the sidecar. His father, King George V, was unhappy with Albert using a motorcycle, considering that "gentlemen" should be chauffeured in a car. 
Albert, Duke of York, riding a Douglas
 Albert then turned to racing sponsorship during the early days of the Brooklands track. At the same meeting where he sponsored Wood on the Temple-Anzani; he also had a Douglas entered but I have no info on whether it was raced, or who by. After Albert's marriage to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons his personal driving was in Lanchester cars. Of course his daughter, Queen Elizabeth, still drives herself when on her estates and a former Canadian Governor-General has stories of her and her family on a visit to Balmoral, of being chauffeured to a family BBQ in a new Range Rover driven rather rapidly by the Queen herself. Both pictures appeared in 'Motorcycling', the British Weekly edited by Graham Walker, in Feb, 1952 at the time of King George's death"

18 comments:

GuitarSlinger said...

Errrrr..... not much of a ' Royal Family ' fan myself .. preferring the Sex Pistols version of " God Save the Queen " over the original . As to the photo's of ' herself on a M/C........ I mean really .... there was such a thing even back then as ' staging ' photographs to make a Royal look more ...... relevant .

Randy said...

Beautiful photos. I never thought of the Queen as a motorcyclist. I love it.

David in Fort Lauderdale said...

Of course the pictures were staged. Much was, in those days. You only got two shots with a Speed Graphic. You weren't going to waste one on a "candid." But does that really matter? What Englishman, indeed, what man, could fail to rise to an occasion when "THAT girl" had pledged to give everything? Unlike plenty of politicians you could name, she seems to have done just as she promised. But it's none of my business. I'm an American. Excellent item! Loved the pix.

GuitarSlinger said...

What man could fail to 'rise ' to the occasion you ask ?

Me for one . Us (US) Having fought a four year bloody battle along with a two year rematch to rid ourselves of any and all vestiges of the British Monarchy .

As far as the SpeedGraphic , got one , use one , the word ' speed ' being the key IF you know what you're doing ... have the preloaded cassettes on hand etc ...so no excuses accepted . This was no doubt staged in order to make herself appear as if she was doing something she was not . A tactic about as common as the rain in Blighty when it comes to trying to portray the monarchy as ' relevant ' when in fact that hasn't been the case for centuries . They ( UK Monarchy ) are in fact ........ a Liability the UK can ill afford theses days .

conartist said...

The photograph is not staged. This image is a crop. The complete image shows ATS girls weaving through the cones as part of the motorcycle training.
It was originally published in The Motor Cycle, with no mention of Her Maj.

Chris Illman said...

Not forgetting the Duke of Edinburgh Paul. A regular visitor to the I.o.M. TT in years gone by and still principle Patron of the ACU (Auto-Cycle Union - Regulator of UK Motorcycle Sport). Also, those familiar with the Douglas Marque will be aware previous Royals who loved their 'Duggies'.

Chris

The Vintagent said...

Thanks Chris; I've added a pic of HRH Duke of York at Brooklands in 1922!

OcchioLungo said...

Edward rode a bike back in the 19teens. I've got a photo someplace, I'll have to dig deep to find it.

Canajun said...

Monarchist or not, the old pictures are cool. Thanks for sharing.

Hairy Larry said...

Looks like her Majesty is enjoying herself and seems to have a decent touch of the clutch hand and throttle...

Anonymous said...

Gunslinger just as much a wet blanket here as on all the rest of his worthless posts around the internet world. Get a life, my friend.

The Velobanjogent said...

My friend John Galvin, the Australian Craven pannier distributor an age ago and a personal friend of Ken Craven related the story, told to him by Ken,of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh riding to Craven's place in Eden Grove N7, London to have panniers fitted to his then motorcycle...

The Velobanjogent said...

Paul,
Looking at the pic of you to the right, labelled "Private White VC"...
As a Velocette rider I'd say you look more like....
Lt.Colonel Reggie Thrust Race-Bearing (Ret.)

prosperk said...

The Craven panniers story about HRH TDoE is most likely true. He was into motorcycles. The late Ted Davis told me the Duke wanted a Vincent H.R.D. but indicated that she-who-must-be-obeyed wouldn't have it now that he was a father.

Say what you like about the Royal Family but Her Majesty and her consort have always done their duty to the country and still are, at an age when most people have forgotten the way out of their rose gardens, back to the house.

learn how to ride a motorcycle said...

I didn't know the Queen Elizabeth has a penchant for motorcycle riding. Thank you for this article because I learned a lot of important facts here.

Alexander Schmidt said...

Paul, got this sent the other day, and would appreciate if you could stick to the facts, that the woman riding the Royal Enfield WD-C (not a BSA C-10) is NOT the future Queen at the time! I have the original April 18th 1942 dated "MotorCycle" article, and at that date she was just 15 years old. (Born on April the 21st 1926) and not of the right age to ride motorcycles or enter the service, she did do that in 1945, when she had turned 18, and you show some pictures of that in ATS uniform.

This persistant untruth has been going on long enough now I think.

Hope this helps,

Alex Schmidt

The Vintagent said...

Hi Alex,
Is it impossible Princess Elizabeth learned to ride a motorcycle at age 15? That's when I (legally) learned to ride, and she did come from a motorcycling family, as I note in the article. Also, the motorcycle is definitely not a Royal Enfield - there's no sump at the front of the motor, but single-downtube frame leading to a solid lug which looks to extend under the crankcase. Also, the primary case has a bump over the engine sprocket - RE's have flat primary cases. I'm not 100% certain what the bike IS though - as that primary bump seems small for a BSA C10. I'll leave a question mark on the photo regarding the bike, and await further feedback.
all the best, Paul

Alexander Schmidt said...

Paul, re. the bike, it is a Royal Enfield, but a model D, (sorry not model C, google it, and you will see I'm right) we had this discussion years ago, when the picture popped up again, and it was all settled years ago, but it keeps coming back to haunt me! And no I think it highly unlikely that a girl of 15/16, and being the future queen would be let to ride motorcycles, and then the woman in the picture is much older then 15/16, best regards, Alex