Prince Philip finally hanging it up
He makes Marines charity event his last solo public appearance
LONDON — Britain’s Prince Philip, who for more than 65 years has been an unwavering presence alongside Queen Elizabeth II, made his final solo public appearance Wednesday, meeting Royal Marines who completed a 1,664-mile trek to raise money for charity.
Philip, 96, waved to cheering crowds and joked with the soldiers at Buckingham Palace.
“You all should be locked up,” he quipped, making the soldiers laugh.
Philip announced in May that he was stepping down from public duties. The royal, known for his sense of humor and gaffes, recently joked about his big retirement day, telling celebrity chef Prue Leith, “I’m discovering what it’s like to be on your last legs.”
Also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, he will still appear at Queen Elizabeth II’s side — from time to time — as the 91-year-old monarch continues on.
Philip is patron, president or a member of more than 780 organizations, with which he will continue to be associated — but he won’t play an active role by attending engagements. The queen supported his decision.
Wednesday’s event marked a landmark for the man born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark in Corfu on June 10, 1921, to Princess Alice of Battenberg and Prince Andrew of Greece. Amid the upheaval of the military coup that overthrew his uncle, King Constantine, in 1922, the family fled.
King George V, the queen’s grandfather, sent a Royal Navy cruiser to evacuate Philip’s family, and Philip was whisked to safety in a cot made from an orange box. Later, he rarely saw his parents and attended school in Germany and Britain.
Philip has had a long association with the military and once had a promising military career. He joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1939 and served during World War II, winning mention in dispatches for service aboard the battleship HMS Valiant at Cape Matapan on Greece’s Peloponnesian peninsula. He rose to the level of commander.
Two years after the war ended, Philip married the future British queen at Westminster Abbey when she was 21 and he was 26. He renounced his Greek title and King George VI made him the Duke of Edinburgh. His military career came to an abrupt end with George’s death in 1952. At the queen’s coronation in 1953, Philip swore to be his wife’s “liege man of life and limb.” He settled into a life supporting Elizabeth in her role as queen. The two have four children — Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward.
Philip has given 5,496 speeches, written 14 books and gone on 637 solo visits overseas.
He’s championed environmental and conservation matters and has interests in science, engineering and industry. An accomplished sportsman, he played polo regularly until 1971. He earned his Royal Air Force wings in 1953, his helicopter wings in 1956 and his private pilot’s license in 1959.
All that activity has led to overall good health. But Philip has been admitted to the hospital on a number of occasions over the past few years for abdominal surgery, and for treatment of bladder infections and a blocked coronary artery.
Many of his health problems are related to sports. He has arthritis in his right wrist and broke a bone in his ankle from playing polo. He developed a rheumatic condition of the tendon in the hand after taking a fall while playing polo.
He takes the stairs rather than elevators and can still fit into the uniform he wore for his wedding. He was seen wearing hearing aids for the first time at a palace reception in 2014 at the age of 93.
The palace says his health isn’t the reason for his retirement decision.
Philip has poked fun at himself and his advancing years. In a letter to The Oldie magazine in 2011, he said he appreciated being named “Consort of the Year.”
“There is nothing like it for morale to be reminded that the years are passing — ever more quickly — and that bits are beginning to drop off the ancient frame,” he wrote. “But it is nice to be remembered at all.”
Britain’s Prince Philip, in his role as captain general of the Royal Marines, talks to troops as he attends a parade on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace on Wednesday in central London.