Prince Philip waves goodbye to a career of service, dedication… and gaffes – The Sydney Morning Herald

London: The Duke of Edinburgh’s final job is a testament to sheer endurance. Literally.

One of Prince Philip’s many titles is Captain General of the Royal Marines. On Wednesday afternoon, at Buckingham Palace, the 96-year-old isdue to attend a parade marking the finale of the Marines’ 1664 Challenge, a series of strength and endurance challenges raising money for charity.

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Prince Philip, known for his constant support of the Queen of England as well as his occasional gaffes, will retire from royal duties later this year.

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Prince Philip, known for his constant support of the Queen of England as well as his occasional gaffes, will retire from royal duties later this year.

This is to be his 22,219th official solo engagement since 1952, the year his wife became Queen.

It is to be his last. As announced in May (after a brief media panic when rumours spread he had died overnight), he has decided he will no longer carry out public engagements.

The symbolism of his last appointment is likely no coincidence. Captain General is one of his oldest duties, passed to him in June 1953 from his father-in-law, King George VI. It is reportedly now going to Prince Harry.

It will be marked in a very British way. After the Duke meets veteran and cadet Marines, the parade ends with a march, a Royal Salute and “three cheers for the Captain General”.

The Palace stresses Prince Philip is not going to disappear altogether. He will still accompany the Queen on occasion, and may choose to attend “certain public events from time to time”. He will also keep up some official duties including correspondence.

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But, essentially, this marks the retirement of Britain’s longest-serving consort.

The royal household has calculated he took part in 637 solo overseas visits, gave 5496 speeches and wrote 14 books. He is patron of 785 organisations.

He has made more public appearances this year than either the Queen or the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge: 51 since January. In 2016 he was the fifth busiest royal.

The Duke will soon head up to Balmoral with the Queen for their annual summer holiday.

After that, he is expected to spend most of his time at Windsor. Locals and visitors may catch sight of him whizzing about Windsor Great Park on antique royal carriages his hobby, which he took up after giving up polo age 50.

Other hobbies include oil painting, reading and photography.

He’s not the type of man to put his feet up, Dickie Arbiter, the Queen’s press secretary until 2000, told The Sun.

“He’ll still be involved in something even if just from his office, from phone calls and talking to his patronages, talking to his charities, maybe even visiting them on a private visit.

“He’s not giving up life, he’s just stepping back from full-time public engagement and taking it a bit easier.”

Historian Christopher Lee told the BBC the prince was the first man in Buckingham Palace to put computers in his office.

“He will want to know about the big issues. He will know every single touch, nuance on Brexit, for example. He is briefed on everybody he is likely to meet, even people he will never meet and he takes it in.

“I think he’s never stopped being an admiral. Admirals are like that, they have to be, and admirals never retire.”

The Duke has had several health scares in recent years: he spent two nights in hospital in June with an infection, missing the State Opening of Parliament and the last two days of Royal Ascot.

In 2008 he spent three days in hospital with a serious chest infection, in late 2011 he suffered chest pains and had heart surgery.

In 2012 during the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations he suffered a bladder infection that put him in hospital for almost a week. The problem recurred later in the year.

Then in 2013 he was admitted to hospital for 11 days for exploratory surgery on his abdomen.

Royal watchers say one reason for his retirement was he feared growing frail in public, and told close friends “I’m past my sell-by date”.

But he is generally in good health for his age.

He was born on June 10, 1921 in the Greek island of Corfu, the fifth child of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, and Princess Alice of Battenburg.

His childhood was unsettled, as Greece went through political upheaval. Age 18 he began a naval career, serving in World War II, and ended active service in 1951, just before the Queen’s coronation.

Prince Philip and the Queen, distant cousins, were first friends then fell in love. They married in November 1947.

In 2015 he became the last person to be awarded an Australian knighthood, in the controversial and short-lived resurrection of the imperial-style honour by then prime minister Tony Abbott.

He has many other orders and titles including lord high admiral of the Royal Navy, an appointment given to him by the Queen as a 90thbirthday present.

Over the years he has also been well-known for his gaffes politically incorrect jokes that risked offence.

In 1966 he commented that “British women can’t cook”; in 1986 he warned British students in China they might become “slitty-eyed”; and in 2002 he asked an indigenous Australian if they “still throw spears at each other”. In 2013 he told Malala Yousafzai that children “go to school because their parents don’t want them in the house”.

He once saidof Princess Anne, “if it doesn’t fart or eat hay, she’s not interested”.

But he is loved by the public for his unswerving support for the Queen.

At their golden wedding anniversary in 1997 she described him as “someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments, but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I and his whole family, in this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know”.

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Prince Philip waves goodbye to a career of service, dedication… and gaffes – The Sydney Morning Herald

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