Royals Who Were Involved In Devastating Car Accidents

One of the perks of being a royal is easy access to the most luxurious hot wheels. Members of the nobility across the world are known for their automotive indulgences, displayed resplendently through the expansive fleet lining their royal garages. And while their status doesn't particularly impel them to acquire driving skills, many royals alternate between being driven around by chauffeurs and getting behind the wheel themselves. Queen Elizabeth II, for instance, possessed legendary steering expertise, and seeing her cruise around by herself well into her 90s wasn't an uncommon sight. She was exempt from a driving license, too! 

But the operation of machines rarely comes without a margin of error — especially on the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, road accidents contribute to 1.35 million annual deaths worldwide. Royals, though allowed certain liberties on the road including higher speed limits, aren't above the dangers that collisions and crashes pose. On multiple occasions, young and old members of the monarchy in Europe have found themselves in the midst of unfortunate motor incidents that they either escaped without consequence or tragically succumbed to. Take a look at these royals who were involved in devastating car accidents. 

Grace Kelly

Princess Grace — or more famously Grace Kelly, as her Hollywood legacy demands — was part of two worlds where untimely deaths mired in mystery abound: royalty and cinema. At the age of 52, she was in a car accident that both echoed history and foretold similar impending tragedies. Nearly three decades after switching her role from an Oscar-winning Hitchcock regular to the Princess of Monaco, Grace died after losing control of the wheel under circumstances that are still deemed curious by many. She was driving back from the royal estate of Roc Agel near Monaco in 1982 when her car took a plunge of 120 feet down the hillside. She died a day later while her daughter Stephanie, who was with her during the crash, survived with injuries.

The accounts of what transpired on that fateful morning of September 13 vary. As per the biography "Rainier and Grace: An Intimate Portrait," there was a sharp turn on the cliff that Grace missed, causing the car to take a dive (via Town & Country). While a mild hemorrhage Grace suffered while driving is widely considered among the top reasons behind the crash, there are also suggestions of the brakes being faulty. "Mommy kept saying, I can't stop. The brakes don't work," Stephanie reportedly told a relative. There was also some speculation over who actually had been driving, with some claims pointing to the teenage Stephanie (she denied this). A second hemorrhage in the hospital led to Grace's death.

Prince William and Princess Catherine

In June 2019, Prince William and Princess Catherine found themselves in an unprecedentedly tricky situation after their convoy had an accident with an elderly woman, sending her to the hospital with serious injuries. The collision happened a little after noon when the royal couple was making their way to Windsor for a chapel service, escorted by police vehicles. One of the motorbikes in the procession reportedly hit the aged woman, identified as Irene Mayor, who was walking in Richmond. An official statement from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which presided over the case, relayed that Mayor was transferred to the hospital "in a serious but stable condition," per The Guardian

While investigations into the incident prevailed, William and Catherine parallelly issued their regrets over the matter. A statement from Kensington mentioned that the royals "have sent their very best wishes to Irene and her family and will stay in touch throughout every stage of her recovery," CNN quoted. It was reported that the unfortunate events of the day played out during traffic clearance for the senior royals' vehicle to pass through. Protocol dictated for the royal convoy to continue along its path despite the accident, which was apparently shielded from view for the couple. 

Princess Diana

Princess Diana's death is among the most significant tragedies that hound the British monarchy. The people's princess was after all, in the words of historian Ed Owens, "probably the best known woman in the English-speaking world, aside from perhaps Queen Elizabeth II herself" (via the Associated Press). Her death in a car crash decades ago remains a subject of active discussion among her fans, the media, and the royal family. After many years separated and one year divorced from King Charles III, Diana was already an established cultural icon when she was caught in a car chase with paparazzi on the streets of Paris in 1997. This final chapter only added to her legend. 

On August 30, Diana landed in Paris after a yacht holiday with her then-partner, Dodi Fayed. The same night — accompanied by her boyfriend, a bodyguard, and a driver — Diana left the Ritz Paris in a Mercedes, which was pursued hotly by some reportedly rabid press members. Minutes into the drive, the Mercedes carrying Diana crashed in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel, leading to the deaths of all inside the vehicle, save for the bodyguard. The beloved royal sustained intense injuries and died in hospital hours after the accident. She was 36. According to the BBC, investigations revealed the driver's blood-alcohol levels to be above the legal limit and that he was markedly speeding at over 100 mph. 

Camilla, Queen Consort

Back in 1997, when Camilla, Queen Consort was only an honorary member of the British royal family by virtue of her notorious affair with Prince Charles, she was involved in a car accident that left her with injuries that had the potential to be more severe than they were. Camilla was driving up to Highgrove House, the royal residence that she would later come to share with her paramour King Charles III when her Ford rammed into a Volvo. The latter, being commandeered by a woman identified as one Carolyn Melville-Smith, appeared to take the major impact of the collision, with the Independent reporting that the vehicle landed on its side. Camilla ended up with an afflicted wrist, while the other survivor suffered some trauma on the chest.

Smith claimed that the future queen "came through the air like a missile," the Associated Press quoted. Resources, including a bodyguard, sent by her high-profile partner promptly came to Camilla's rescue. She had already dialed the ambulance by then but reportedly failed to check in on the driver of the Volvo, a decision Camilla said was taken considering security purposes. Though Smith was chagrined over Camilla's reaction to the incident, she did not press charges and in a show of surprising sympathy, acknowledged the difficult relationship Camilla shared with the British public. The spotlight on Camilla was especially high-glare at the time on account of Charles and Princess Diana's divorce only a year prior in 1996.

Astrid of Sweden

It took only a flash of a second for Astrid of Sweden's Swiss holiday to end in tragedy. The Belgian Queen, who was the wife of the 20th-century monarch King Leopold III, held the sovereign title for only a year before a car crash killed her in 1935. The royal couple was cruising along the picturesque locales of Lucerne in their luxurious Packard, in hopes of a pleasant holiday hike. According to Time magazine, the Belgian king had displaced their chauffeur and was behind the wheel himself, with Astrid in the passenger seat. The road they were on was slippery, on account of the many days of rain that preceded their outing on August 29. 

Leopold reportedly peeled his eyes away from the road for a brief moment to look at a map Astrid was holding. The monarch lost control of the vehicle, which covered a little distance lopsided, before crashing into a tree. An eye-witness' retelling of the incident, as reported by The Courier-Mail, alleged that the queen was hurled out of the car's window upon impact. Leopold held on to the wheel until the Packard hit another tree some way away. Belgium's monarch was able to escape the totaled vehicle but his 30-year-old wife sustained serious head injuries and could not survive the devastating crash. The Astrid Chapel was later erected at the site of the fatal accident in Küssnacht. 

Prince Philip

Prince Philip was a skilled driver both behind the wheel and on the reins. The latter was a longtime passion of the late Duke of Edinburgh and he was known for his dexterity in carriage driving, a sport he indulged in even at competitive levels. His commandeering interests extended to cars, the steering of which requires mechanics and attention different from steering natural beasts. The prince, who drove himself around well into his 90s, knew that even the most adept drivers are susceptible to errors. In an accident he later admitted arose from his own failure to adjudge the oncoming vehicle, Philip crashed into a car carrying three passengers (including a baby) back in 2019. 

The elderly prince's Land Rover overturned in the vicinity of the royal family's Sandringham estate after coming into violent contact with a Kia. The collision left the 97-year-old royal rather shaken but unhurt, the BBC reported, while the Kia occupants sustained injuries. The car's passenger Emma Fairweather, who was left with a cast on her arm, received a personal note from Philip expressing regret over her broken limb. "I wish you a speedy recovery from a very distressing experience," he wrote, per the Mirror. As grave as the accident was, it didn't deter Philip from getting behind the wheel again just two days later — that too, without a seatbelt. He eventually surrendered his license. 

King Charles III

With a luxurious private fleet worth millions, King Charles III can surely be pegged as an ardent motorhead. The royal's car collection manifests a wealthy display of Britain's homegrown automotive pride, featuring Rolls-Royces and Aston Martins generously. It seems that on the day His Majesty got behind the wheel of a German-origin Audi, luck didn't work in his favor and he ended up in an unfortunate collision with a deer. At the time in 2016, the then-prince was in Balmoral, the royals' beloved holiday retreat in the country scapes of Scotland where nature comes out in all its glory. 

According to the Mirror, a stray deer was caught in an accident with the royal's automobile, leaving the four-wheeler wrecked. "Charles is a careful driver but sometimes they dash out on the road and there's little you can do," a source told the publication. In fact, deer collisions are extremely common in Scotland, with the government body NatureScot highlighting accident figures that go up to 9,000 annually. Over the years, an increase in the population of wild deer, as well as motor mishaps involving them, has been noted. While the status of the deer Charles' car hit wasn't known, with Clarence House declining to comment on the matter, it was reported that the incident left Charles rattled.

Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh

In the years since her new millennium PR scandal that rocked the royal family, Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh managed to keep a low profile and generally clean record. In fact, it has been widely suggested that by virtue of her closeness to Queen Elizabeth II, she amassed great social cachet within the monarchy — not least because of her marriage to the late queen's son, Prince Edward. An unfortunate turn of events brought Sophie's gleaming image under question in May 2023 when a road accident involving her convoy led to the death of a civilian. The deceased, identified as Helen Holland, was 81 and had been visiting London from Essex.

A two-wheeler part of Sophie's motorcade was held responsible for the tragedy and a report by Sky News informed that the police constable riding the motorcycle was facing an independent investigation with a probability of facing criminal charges. According to Holland's family, the collision that happened in West London left the elderly woman with "multiple broken bones and massive internal injuries," the BBC quoted. She was reportedly in hospital for two weeks after the accident. Her death prompted a statement from Buckingham Palace expressing Sophie's sadness over the incident. While there has been no further public address by Sophie on the matter, she is believed to be in touch with the grieving family privately.

Duke Friedrich of Württemberg

In 2018, when Britain was preparing for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, tragedy struck the royal family in Germany. Early evening on May 9, Duke Friedrich of Württemberg was involved in a fatal crash near the southern German city of Friedrichshafen. He was behind the wheel of his swanky vintage Porsche 356 which was as old as the duke himself, according to Welt. He was 56. The family, belonging to the formerly royal House of Württemberg that holds connections to the British royals (notably through Queen Mary), issued a statement expressing their shock over the incident. 

"Through his extensive commitment, he has been very involved in many social and cultural institutions in the state of Baden-Württemberg," the German royals commemorated, per The Sun. The father-of-three had reportedly tried to overtake a tractor on the fateful day of the collision and couldn't survive the impact. His funeral saw a multitude of royal members from Europe and was also accessible to German locals via a screen installed in the Altshausen locality. Friedrich was the oldest of Duke Carl of Württemberg's children and upon his father's death in 2022, it was Friedrich's son Wilhelm who took over as head of the House of Württemberg.

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent

Having been pictured nearly all her life behind the wheel, Queen Elizabeth II was known to possess quite the skill for driving. Her cousins, not so much. Prince Edward, Duke of Kent — who is the son of King George VI's brother, which makes him a first cousin of the late monarch — landed in hot water when his name came up in a headline-making road accident in 2019. The royal, well into his 80s, was driving his Jaguar in East Sussex when he reportedly made a surprise turn that prompted an oncoming Mini to hit the brakes hard. The move caused the car to hit the curb and cause some damage to its body; Edward's car left the site without taking stock of the situation. 

The Mini was driven by Olivia Fellows, then a 21-year-old university student, the Daily Mail reported. "He shot across the road. But it was so close that if I hadn't emergency braked I would have gone straight into the middle of his car," she told the publication. It was only after police arrived on the scene that it became clear to Fellows that the Jaguar that cut through was of royal origin. A representative of Buckingham Palace briefly acknowledged the incident, claiming that all necessary information pertaining to the alleged mishap had been relayed to the authorities. 

Princess Beatrice

Princess Beatrice had a little bit of a misadventure back in 2010 when she took her luxury car out for a spin in London. The royal, 22 at the time, was accompanied by her bodyguard in the passenger seat as she got behind the wheel of her BMW. She was not far from her familial estate of Buckingham Palace when her vehicle was caught in an accident with two others at Hyde Park Corner. The vicinity, whose name evokes deep royal connection — fans of "The Crown" may recall it being used as code to relay news of King George VI's death — is a major junction in central London and has quite the reputation for its busy rush hour traffic and proneness to accidents. 

The trilateral accident involved a bus, a coach, and Beatrice's car, according to the Daily Mail. Though no one sustained physical injuries, the incident left Beatrice visibly shaken as she reportedly broke down. "Beatrice was sandwiched and her cherished car was pretty badly damaged on both sides," a source told the publication. Police arrived on the scene, as did another vehicle for the young royal, then a student at Goldsmiths College. The spotlight was on Beatrice's motor adventures once again in 2013, when, along with her sister Princess Eugenie, she was accused of jumping a red light in Germany. A royal spokesperson later claimed that the sisters were acting on the advice of local police.

King Carl XVI Gustaf

King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden escaped unhurt from a potentially damaging road accident in 2018. The senior royal, who holds the crown of the longest-reigning Swedish monarch, was reportedly being driven to the airport in Stockholm when his Mercedes collided with another vehicle. According to the BBC, the royal's luxury carrier suffered the impact of the accident toward the front end, and an inflated airbag was visible in pictures from the incident. "There was a lot of damage to the car, but the King was unhurt. He is fine and he is not in shock," his representative told the Swedish publication The Local

It was clear Gustaf's spirit wasn't affected by the accident when he switched to a different vehicle after the collision and continued his onward journey to the airport undeterred. He was reportedly traveling to northern Sweden in pursuit of official engagements. There was minimal clarity on the details of other parties involved in the accident, though it was claimed there were no injuries. This was hardly the first time the Swedish royal had a streetside slip-up. Back in 2000, he had to make a public apology for speeding on the roads of Denmark, while a more permanent reminder of his driving episode gone wrong stands at the King's Carousel area in Norrköping where he had an accident in 2005.

Prince Harry

Years before he would find himself in a high-speed chase in the United States, Prince Harry was involved in a ghastly accident on his home turf that left people physically injured. Harry, who was a year out of his military stint in Afghanistan, was on his way to an event part of the debut run of the Invictus Games founded by him in 2014. Not far from Regent's Park, a bike-bound member of Harry's motorcade collided with a four-wheeler. The impact of the accident was hardly negligible, causing injuries to both the security detail and the occupant of the Prius that was affected. According to ABC News, the Prius driver had to be pried out of the car through the roof. 

Security protocol prevented Harry or his vehicle from engaging too long with the circumstances of the crash, though it seemed the young royal wasn't oblivious to the disturbances playing out on the street. An eyewitness told the Daily Mail that the prince "looked really distressed and was constantly looking back over his shoulder to see what was happening." The prince, who continued onward to his destination, would come to face greater agony nearly a decade later when a vehicle carrying him, Meghan Markle, and her mother would be chased by paparazzi in a "relentless pursuit" across New York City that made global headlines in 2023.