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THE ROYAL TAXI CONNECTION: The close industry bond

Image credit: Judy Elliot

The taxi industry has a had a long and strong connection with the Royal Family which has prompted moving tributes both in recent weeks and last year.

Hundreds of London taxi drivers joined mourners outside Buckingham Palace to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II who died aged 96. The rows of black cabs that paid tribute along The Mall matched that of Her Majesty’s husband Prince Philip just over a year earlier.

Both occasions were an instinctive and heartfelt response from the taxi industry which was unmatched across any other professions plying their trade in the capital. Why? Because London cabbies acknowledge the Palace and other royal residences during their working days. They are often part of the cabbie’s routine and conversation about the Royals is frequent with inquisitive passengers visiting London. Many cabbies will have lost count of the times they’ve explained the significance of the Royal Standard or Union Jack flying high above Buckingham Palace.

Many cabbies feel a bond with the Royals. It could even be argued that cabbies are seen as ambassadors for the family too given their own status in the capital. Put it like this, if you were to ask a group of people who have never visited the UK to close their eyes and describe London you would get Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, red buses and telephone boxes and black cabs. Some might say all icons of London.

There are other quirky details that bring together the Royal Family and the taxi industry.

HRH Prince Philip used to drive a vehicle modelled on a taxi to travel unseen around London. Philip took delivery of the gas-powered Metrocab in 1999 and used the vehicle for engagements in the capital, seamlessly blending with London’s landscape. Prince Philip gave up his Metrocab back in 2017 and it can now be found on display in the Sandringham museum's Royal Garages.

The Taxi Charity, which is run by volunteer London licensed taxi drivers and has been supporting hundreds of veterans since 1948, was joined by the late Prince Philip in the summer of 1979. The Duke of Edinburgh agreed to be guest of honour at the charity’s annual visit to the seaside town of Worthing. The charity had been taking veterans to the seaside town every year since 1948, but this was the first time that a senior member of the Royal Family had joined the hundreds of veterans at their much-loved annual event.

Gerry Dunn MBE, London Licensed Cabbie, said: “I was the photographer for the Taxi Charity in 1979 in Worthing Town Hall. I was using a 35mm camera with a roll film and at one stage asked Prince Philip to step back a little so that I could get him in the shot. He smiled and duly obliged. Prince Philip entertained the room with his speech, and he referenced owning and driving an old Metro Taxi and commented ‘you bloody taxi drivers keep cutting me up’. After the speech he worked the room and talked to as many veterans as he was able before catching up with the charity committee and posing for a photograph.”

In 2014 the now HRH King Charles III took a ride in the back of a black cab to meet members of the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers. During a speech the then Prince of Wales described the taxi trade as an ‘institution’ to London and ‘one of the great traditions’.

The bond between Royals and black cabs remains strong and there’s little sign of that ever changing.


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