British aristocrat organising King Charles's coronation banned from driving

Edward Fitzalan-Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, was stopped by police after driving though a red light in south-west London

Edward Fitzalan-Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, has been banned from driving for six months after pleading guilty to using his mobile phone while driving. PA
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A British aristocrat who organised the queen’s funeral has been banned from driving for six months despite claiming he needs his licence to arrange King Charles III's coronation.

The 18th Duke of Norfolk, 65, pleaded guilty at Lavender Hill Magistrates’ Court on Monday to using his mobile phone behind the wheel.

Edward Fitzalan-Howard, who is responsible for organising the State Opening of Parliament, was stopped by police on April 7 after driving his BMW through a red light in Battersea, south-west London, said prosecutor Jonathan Bryan.

Mr Bryan told magistrates the duke had told officers he had “not been aware of going through the red light but accepted this was because he was using his mobile phone” to communicate with his wife.

The court heard the duke had already totted up nine penalty points on his driving licence from two previous speeding offences in 2019, meaning a further six points would lead to a ban.

The highest-ranking duke in England argued he would suffer “exceptional hardship” if he was disqualified, highlighting his official duties along with his conservation work to prevent “nature’s complete collapse” and “the end of mankind”.

But a bench of magistrates chaired by Judith Way endorsed his licence with six points and banned him from driving for six months.

“We accept that this a unique case because of the defendant’s role in society and in particular in relation to the king’s coronation,” said Ms Way.

“The hardship needs to be exceptional and although we find inconvenience may be caused, we don’t find it exceptional hardship.

“We consider alternative means of hardship are available.”

King Charles III's coronation is likely to take place next year. AP

The duke, who is the most senior lay member of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain and a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords, was also fined £800 ($867) and ordered to pay another £400 in other costs.

Ms Way said that he had the means to employ drivers, although they would need security clearance, adding: “We do not accept employees on your estate are in danger of losing their jobs.”

He gave evidence for more than 30 minutes in secret after magistrates ruled the media and public should be excluded from court for reasons of “national security”.

The University of Oxford-educated father of five, who is a descendant of Elizabeth I and reported to be worth more than £100 million, said he drives an “old BMW” because he likes “being simple” and tries to be “un-pompous”.

The duke, who inherited the position upon the death of his father in 2002, said: “Obviously, I have got the financial means to hire a driver.”

But he said, although he could be driven from 9am to 5pm or at 4am “to get out to see the curlew or lapwing”, “it is almost impossible to have enough drivers to carry out this task of getting me to the right place.”

Asked about his ceremonial duties, the duke said: “These last two weeks have been really full on, with not only the rehearsals in Windsor and London in the early hours, but that of course has been exceptional.

“I get into the office at 7 to 7.30am … It is very, very important I lead the team, react to the problems, take the right decisions and motivate.”

Two thousand people including world leaders and foreign royals gathered inside Westminster Abbey in London last Monday for the final farewell to the nation’s longest reigning monarch, in an event watched around the globe.

The duke, who previously described organising the funeral as “both humbling and daunting”, is now in charge of arranging the King’s coronation.

Updated: September 26, 2022, 5:27 PM