The Duke of Edinburgh will retire from public engagements in the summer at the age of 96, a decision that Buckingham Palace said had the full support of the Queen. Shortly after the news was announced, Prince Philip was on duty, and on customary form , joining the Queen at St James’s Palace for a service and lunch for the Order of Merit.
Tributes to the longest-serving royal consort in British history, who will turn 96 on 10 June, followed the announcement, first made to royal staff in the ballroom of Buckingham Palace on Thursday. The prime minister, Theresa May, said Philip had been a “steadfast support” to the Queen, while the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, an avowed republican, praised his “clear sense of public duty”.
The Duke of Edinburgh awards, which he set up in 1956 and are now the world’s leading youth achievement awards across 141 countries, were highlighted as one of his most striking achievements. An aide stressed it was not a medical decision. “The duke decided this is the right time. He’s nearly 96 and most people will have retired 30 years earlier.”
In a statement, Buckingham Palace said: “In taking this decision, the duke has the full support of the Queen. Prince Philip will attend previously scheduled engagements between now and August, both individually and accompanying the Queen.
“Thereafter, the duke will not be accepting new invitations for visits and engagements, although he may still choose to attend certain public events from time to time.”
It added: “Her Majesty will continue to carry out a full programme of official engagement with the support of members of the royal family.” The announcement was made as the autumn diaries of the royals are being drawn up to give a clear signal of Prince Philip’s intention to the hundreds of organisations he is associated with. Philip, who famously describes himself as “the world’s most experienced plaque unveiler” has undertaken 22,191 solo engagements and given 5,493 speeches in almost seven decades as the Queen’s “strength and stay”. He has never taken the official title of Prince Consort, despite it being offered. He has one of the royal family’s busiest diaries, last year carrying out official meetings and visits on 110 days.