Time to bow out

At 96, Prince Philip of­fi­cially steps out of lime­light and into re­tire­ment

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

LON­DON — Af­ter a life­time of pub­lic ser­vice by the side of his wife Queen El­iz­a­beth II, Prince Philip will fi­nally re­tire on Wed­nes­day at the age of 96.

The Duke of Ed­in­burgh will at­tend a pa­rade of Royal Marines at Buck­ing­ham Palace, the last of 22,219 solo pub­lic en­gage­ments since she as­cended to the throne in 1952.

He has at­tended count­less more events with the queen, now 91, but both have slowed their pace in re­cent years, hand­ing over re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to the younger roy­als.

“Prince Philip is en­ti­tled to slow down a bit,” The Daily Tele­graph news­pa­per wrote in an editorial, adding: “This is a man who has al­ways put his coun­try first.”

The for­mer World War II naval of­fi­cer has car­ried out 637 over­seas vis­its on his own in the past 65 years, given al­most 5,500 speeches, and was pa­tron, pres­i­dent or a mem­ber of more than 780 or­ga­ni­za­tions.

His fi­nal en­gage­ment on Wed­nes­day will honor his mil­i­tary back­ground, as he at­tends the end of a char­ity chal­lenge in which Royal Marines ran 2,678 kilo­me­ters (1,664 miles) over 100 days to mark the found­ing of the com­mando force in 1664.

Philip has been cap­tain gen­eral of the corps since 1953, tak­ing over from the queen’s fa­ther king Ge­orge VI, who had died the year be­fore.

The queen has de­scribed Philip, her hus­band of al­most 70 years who is now the longest­serv­ing con­sort in Bri­tish his­tory, as “my strength and stay”.

But af­ter an­nounc­ing his plans to re­tire in May, he joked he was the “world’s most ex­pe­ri­enced plaque-un­veiler” and has been pok­ing fun at him­self ahead of his big re­tire­ment day.

“I’m dis­cov­er­ing what it’s like to be on your last legs,” he told celebrity chef Prue Leith at a re­cent palace event.

The prince’s of­ten po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect sense of hu­mor has got him into trou­ble in the past, although for many of the queen’s sub­jects, it has also pro­vided some wel­come warmth into the institution of the monar­chy.

“Hu­mor is im­por­tant. The Duke’s has bright­ened th­ese decades,” The Tele­graph said.

Philip is still in good health for a man of his age, although he was hos­pi­tal­ized for two nights in June for the treat­ment of an undis­closed in­fec­tion.

A spokes­woman said his in­di­vid­ual pro­gram of pub­lic en­gage­ments had come to an end, but “he may choose to at­tend en­gage­ments along­side the queen from time to time”.

When he an­nounced his re­tire­ment, Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May of­fered him Bri­tain’s “deep­est grat­i­tude and good wishes”.

Both the se­nior roy­als have taken a step back in re­cent years, leav­ing their el­dest son and heir Prince Charles and grand­son Prince Wil­liam to take their places.

Wil­liam, the Duke of Cam­bridge, ended his brief ca­reer as an air am­bu­lance pi­lot last week and will now turn his full at­ten­tion to royal du­ties, along­side his wife Kate.

But while the queen sup­ports her hus­band’s de­ci­sion to re­tire, ex­perts say her own sa­cred vow at her 1953 corona­tion to serve for life was un­break­able.

“Her Majesty will con­tinue to carry out a full pro­gram of of­fi­cial en­gage­ments with the sup­port of mem­bers of the royal fam­ily,” the palace said ear­lier this year.

Prince Philip is en­ti­tled to slow down a bit. This is a man who has al­ways put his coun­try first.”

Daily Tele­graph editorial

ANWAR HUSSEIN / PA PHO­TOS

Queen El­iz­a­beth II and Prince Philip on the Great Wall of China in 1986.

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