THE DUKE RETIRES
‘After 65 years of selfless service and more than 22,200 official engagements, Prince Philip is deserving of the nation’s gratitude’
WITH a typical joke and a determination to see things through, the Duke of Edinburgh yesterday carried out his last official engagement before retiring at the age of 96.
After more than 22,200 such engagements during his long career of public service, the Duke stepped onto the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, this time in his role as Captain General of the Royal Marines.
It is understood Prince Harry, his grandson, is being lined up to take over as the regiment’s Captain General, with senior military figures keen for it to go to a member of the royal family who, like Philip, has seen combat.
The event was symbolic in more ways than one. Sixty-four years ago – in one of his first public roles upon the Coronation of the Queen in June 1953 – Prince Philip was appointed Captain General of the Royal Marines in succession to the late King George VI.
Yesterday saw his last outing in that role when he attended a parade to mark the finale of the regiment’s 1664 Global Challenge, which has seen men from the Royal Marines running 16.64 miles around Britain each day over 100 days and completing a number of similar feats of endurance.
And, true to form, the Duke had a characteristic assessment of the grit and determination that kind of physical challenge takes. “You should all be locked up,” he told them.
It is the kind of bluff, no-nonsense remark that will be familiar to anyone who has met the Duke during the thousands of visits, plaque unveilings, tours of hospitals and regimental inspections he has carried out over the years. It was no doubt this sort of attitude that yesterday led the Prince to eschew an umbrella and dispense with any suggestion of a rainproof shelter, while taking the parade.
He spent a considerable amount of time beneath the rain talking to members of the regiment, including those who had undertaken the challenge.
Among them was Cpl Will Gingell, one of two Royal Marines to run the entire distance of 1,664 miles, along with Sgt Matt Burley, who swam 1,664 lengths underwater over 10 days and Lt Col Aldeiy Alderson, who ran 100km in 12 hours wearing his uniform and polished boots.
Cpl Gingell, 33, from Hackney, said: “He was pretty upbeat considering the weather and considering he’s 96. He asked if we had rain running down our backs at the end. We said to him we’ve run in worse weather.”
Every man and woman present was aware of the parade’s significance, and a lusty cry rang out when RSM Phil Gilby barked the call for “three cheers for the Captain General”. In return Prince Philip lifted his bowler hat and gave a little wave, in recognition of the men under his command.
Then – as the Plymouth Band of the Royal Marines played For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow – he turned on his heels, waved and strode across the forecourt for the last time in his official capacity, his duty to Queen and country done.