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That one time when Queen Elizabeth hazed the crown prince of Saudi Arabia

"You're damn right one is driving oneself." Queen Elizabeth in her Land Rover in 1987.
"You're damn right one is driving oneself." Queen Elizabeth in her Land Rover in 1987.
(Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is many things: corgi owner, eager participant in Olympic stunts, the UK's longest-reigning monarch. As of her birthday today, 90 years old.

And as this story from a former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia makes clear, she is also a stone-cold badass.

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles was given a private audience with the queen when he was appointed ambassador to Saudi Arabia in 2003. At the time, Abdullah was technically still the crown prince, though he'd been de facto ruler for several years. During their meeting, the queen gleefully recounted the story of Abdullah's first visit to Balmoral, her castle in Scotland. It all started innocently enough, with an offer to tour the estate:

After lunch, the Queen had asked her royal guest whether he would like a tour of the estate. Prompted by his foreign minister the urbane Prince Saud, an initially hesitant Abdullah had agreed. The royal Land Rovers were drawn up in front of the castle. As instructed, the Crown Prince climbed into the front seat of the front Land Rover, his interpreter in the seat behind.

But then, a surprising twist! The queen herself was Abdullah's driver:

To his surprise, the Queen climbed into the driving seat, turned the ignition and drove off. Women are not — yet — allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, and Abdullah was not used to being driven by a woman, let alone a queen.

And she wasn't just driving, she was DRIVING, leaving Abdullah a quivering wreck:

His nervousness only increased as the Queen, an Army driver in wartime, accelerated the Land Rover along the narrow Scottish estate roads, talking all the time. Through his interpreter, the Crown Prince implored the Queen to slow down and concentrate on the road ahead.

That's right: Queen Elizabeth basically spent an afternoon using her military-grade driving skills to haze the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

Result: Elizabeth 1, Abdullah 0.

Hat tip to Peter W. Singer.


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