On the face of it, the fact that Prince Philip has announced his retirement from royal duties from this autumn should not have come as much of a shock – after all, he celebrates his 96th birthday next month.
It did, though, still come as something of a surprise. I saw him only a few weeks ago when he arrived in Leicester at the Queen’s side for the Royal Maundy service at Leicester Cathedral. Here he appeared as sprightly as usual.
There has been much speculation but it appears there is no cause for alarm. He will carry out his previously scheduled engagements until August and has also been seen our carriage driving in the last few weeks.
Although the Queen does carry out solo engagements, we are used to seeing Prince Philip by her side when she appears in public. Indeed, occasions such as the diamond jubilee thanksgiving service when Prince Philip was in hospital recovering from a bladder infection are more the exception than the norm.
As he steps back from his working life, Prince Philip leaves behind a lasting legacy. There are no duties laid out for a royal consort and as the longest-serving consort in our history, he has carved out a role of his own.
Of particular note are his work in founding the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, giving young people from all backgrounds the opportunity to learn teamwork and survival skills, and also his work for the Playing Fields Association ensuring children and families have safe places to play.
The announcement from Buckingham Palace pointedly stated that the Queen will continue to carry out a full list of engagements. Indeed, the day after the announcement was made the Queen carried out an investiture at Buckingham Palace – unusual since she carried out fewer investitures these days and because on Fridays she is usually in residence at Windsor Castle.
The Duke of Cambridge was also by Her Majesty’s side as she welcomed the Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese for lunch at the palace.
We can expect to see more of other members of the royal family accompanying the Queen to events such as this from the autumn – particularly the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge as the next two heirs to the throne.
Buckingham Palace also said that Prince Philip may choose to attend some public functions from time to time. I would say we would expect him to attend events such as Trooping the Colour, which celebrates the Queen’s official birthday and also church at Sandringham on Christmas morning. He is also expected to stay in touch with the organisations of which he is president or patron.
This November sees the couple celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary – the first time in our history. I would expect them to attend a service at Westminster Abbey, where they were married.
There’s no doubt that without Prince Philip on active duty, the royal scene will be without one of its most colourful figures. I hope that he will be able to enjoy a happy retirement.