The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Consort to Her Majesty the Queen, is to step back from his public roles over the course of this year.
The Duke is to complete presently scheduled engagements, which will take him through the summer to August, but will now accept no new invitations for involvement, Buckingham Palace, the London residence of the Royal Family, said in an announcement released Thursday morning. Prince Philip is just a month away from his 96th birthday.
A veteran of the Second World War, in which he saw active service with the Royal Navy in the Pacific and Mediterranean, the Prince married the then Princess Elizabeth in 1947, who became Queen upon the death of her father in 1952.
Entering an uncertain position as Prince Consort, the Duke created a role for himself, becoming the patron of many charities and establishing the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme for young people. At the time of this announcement, the Duke is the patron of some 780 organisations and charities.
A number of public and political figures have wished the Duke well on his change of situation after a life of public service. The Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement: “On behalf of the whole country, I want to offer our deepest gratitude and good wishes to His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh following today’s announcement that he will stand down from public duties in the autumn.
“From his steadfast support for Her Majesty the Queen to his inspirational Duke of Edinburgh Awards and his patronage of hundreds of charities and good causes, his contribution to our United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the wider world will be of huge benefit to us all for years to come”.
Many of the charities and organisations that the Duke was a patron or president of have also expressed good wishes. One such is the Eccentric Club of London, who said Thursday afternoon of their patron: “The Eccentric Club, its Committee, and Members, would like to offer His Royal Highness, the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, his most heartfelt gratitude and best wishes.
“The Club, of what HRH The Prince Philip is patron, is pleased to hear it. The time is right now. We look forward to the continuation of this friendship as well as wishing HRH The Prince Philip a most eccentric and delightful ‘retirement’. Nil Nisi Bonum”.
The announcement follows a night of frenzied speculation in the media, including that the Duke had died during the night, after Buckingham Palace called an “emergency meeting” Thursday morning.
The Palace emphasised the meeting was not over the health of senior Royals, and watchers of the family noted that both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh enjoyed full days of official engagements on Wednesday, with the Duke making an appearance at Lord’s Cricket Ground (pictured above).
The special meeting came the day after the Queen received the Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation at Buckingham Palace, part of the process as the government moves towards the dissolution of Parliament ahead of the general election in June.