The Duke of Edinburgh 1921-2021

The Prince of Sport

Cricket was Prince Philip’s game as a dashing young naval officer. But when The Queen mentioned she would rather watch her husband battling it out in a polo match, the subtle hint was taken.

During their stay in Malta in 1949 whilst serving in the Royal Navy, and with the encouragement of his uncle, Lord Mountbatten, The Duke of Edinburgh began pursuing ‘The Sport of Kings.’

The Duke fell in love with polo and, upon returning from Malta, created the Windsor Park team, which successfully won the Gold Cup at the British Open Championship in 1957 and 1966.

Although named the Windsor Park team, it was not close to Windsor Castle, and Prince Philip sought options for a club closer to home. It was Her Majesty that proposed utilizing the defunct airfield at Windsor Great Park. Her husband wildly embraced the idea, and the Guards Polo Club came to fruition.

The Prince has lent his name to some of polo’s most prestigious trophies, including the Royal Windsor Cup, The Cowdray Park Challenge Cup, The Westbury Cup and the Junior County Cup.

As for his achievements in the sport, HRH was runner up twice in The Queen’s Cup at his own club’s tournament and reached the finals of the Hurlingham Open in Argentina in 1966,

As arthritis began to hamper his game, HRH realized it was time to hang up his mallet when he turned 50. He continued to give The Prince of Wales guidance as Charles was a keen polo player in his own right. The Duke also continued to be an active presence in The Guards Polo Club until his death the week.

The Duke of Edinburgh was not going to sit still despite giving up polo. He enjoyed carriage driving, a hobby that would become his next pursuit. HRH found a new way to compete with his horses.

In a 2017 interview, when discussing giving up polo, The Duke of Edinburgh commented: “I was looking round to see what next, I didn’t know what there was available. And I suddenly thought, well, we’ve got horses and carriages, so I thought why don’t I have a go.”

He travelled to Budapest in 1971 in his role as President of The Federation Equestre International to watch the first European Championship. In 1973, he started to practice on his own using five bays from the Royal Mews and began training as a four-in-hand driver at Sandringham.

In 1973 he competed for the first time at Lowther in Cumbria. He then went on to the European Championships at Windsor a month later, but sadly his carriage hit a hazard and his driving days were over. HRH joined the 1980 British team that would win the World Carriage Driving Championship at Windsor. The Duke would take home a bronze medal from the European Championships in Switzerland in 1981.

As President of the FEI, he played a crucial role in creating rules for the sport. In 1982 his book Competition Carriage Driving was published.

HRH ceased driving the four-in-hand teams in the late 1980s but continued to compete with teams of ponies.

It seems that the tradition will carry on as HRH’s granddaughter, Lady Louise took up the sport in 2017, where she made her debut at the Royal Windsor Horse Show leading the Champagne Laurent-Perrier Meet of the British Driving Society into the show ground.

Lady Louise, who is the daughter of The Earl and Countess of Wessex, was seen carriage driving on the grounds of Windsor Park Saturday morning. A subtle honour to her grandfather, whom without his passion and drive, carriage driving as a sport would not exist.

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