At 96, Prince Philip fi­nally re­tires

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Prince Philip, the 96-year-old hus­band of Queen El­iz­a­beth II, con­ducted his fi­nal solo pub­lic en­gage­ment yes­ter­day, over­see­ing a mil­i­tary pa­rade in the pour­ing rain that capped a life­time of ser­vice. The Duke of Ed­in­burgh, wear­ing a rain­coat and bowler hat, met mem­bers of the Royal Marines and veter­ans-many younger than him-be­fore tak­ing the salute in the fore­court of Buck­ing­ham Palace. Hun­dreds of well-wish­ers clutch­ing um­brel­las gath­ered out­side the gates to cheer on the prince, who is famed for his salty and of­ten po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect sense of hu­mor.

The cer­e­mony was the last of 22,219 solo pub­lic en­gage­ments con­ducted by the for­mer naval of­fi­cer since his wife as­cended to the throne in 1952. It marked the end of a char­ity chal­lenge in which the marines ran 1,664 miles over 100 days to mark the found­ing of the com­mando force in 1664. Philip, who served with dis­tinc­tion dur­ing World War II, was made cap­tain gen­eral of the corps in 1953, tak­ing over from the queen’s fa­ther king Ge­orge VI. It is one of more than 780 or­ga­ni­za­tions of which he has been pa­tron, pres­i­dent or a mem­ber.

He has also car­ried out 637 vis­its abroad on his own and given al­most 5,500 speeches. “He will be missed on the pub­lic stage,” said Wil­liam Cook, 89, whose grand­son was one of the Royal Marines be­ing honored by the prince. “But he’s got a lot of young peo­ple com­ing up, I think he’s set a won­der­ful ex­am­ple but they can’t bet­ter it,” he added along­side wife Ella, who had set up camp with pic­nic chairs out­side the palace gates.

The duke and the queen have been grad­u­ally re­duc­ing their du­ties in re­cent years, hand­ing over to the younger roy­als, in­clud­ing heirto-the-throne Prince Charles and his son Prince Wil­liam. Philip “may choose to at­tend en­gage­ments along­side the queen from time to time”, a spokes­woman said, while stress­ing that the 91-year-old monarch was not retiring. “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.

‘Ex­pe­ri­enced plaque-un­veiler’

The queen once de­scribed her hus­band as “my strength and stay”-although the duke him­self is self-dep­re­cat­ing, jok­ing ear­lier this year that he was the “world’s most ex­pe­ri­enced plaque-un­veiler”. Ob­servers pay trib­ute to his en­ergy, in­tel­li­gence and com­mit­ment to his causes, from sci­en­tific and tech­no­log­i­cal re­search, the con­ser­va­tion move­ment, and young peo­ple. One of his bi­og­ra­phers, Gyles Bran­dreth, told BBC ra­dio that “he’s been the busiest royal. Every year, he and (his daugh­ter) Princess Anne vie to which of them does more”.

While Prince Philip’s life had not turned out as ex­pected, Bran­dreth said the duke once told him: “I tried to make the best of it... I had to try to sup­port the queen as best I could, with­out get­ting in the way.”The prince has made head­lines for po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect jokes, but he uses it to break the ice, and many view it as a wel­come con­trast to the queen’s more for­mal re­serve. Gruff in pub­lic-he hates me­dia in­ter­views-he is also widely cred­ited for keep­ing his fam­ily to­gether dur­ing the tur­moil of his chil­dren’s di­vorces and the death of Diana, princess of Wales. —AFP

LON­DON: Bri­tain’s Prince Philip, Duke of Ed­in­burgh, in his role as Cap­tain Gen­eral, Royal Marines, at­tends a Pa­rade to mark the fi­nale of the 1664 Global Chal­lenge on the Buck­ing­ham Palace Fore­court in cen­tral Lon­don. —AFP

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