The Duke of Edinburgh has announced his retirement from public engagements from autumn this year, Buckingham Palace has announced.
The 95-year-old Prince Philip has the full support of the Queen.
The announcement was made after all members of the Queen’s household were gathered at Buckingham Palace for a highly unusual staff meeting.
In a statement, Buckingham Palace said: “His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has decided that he will no longer carry out public engagements from the autumn of this year. In taking this decision, The duke has the full support of The Queen.”
“Prince Philip will attend previously scheduled engagements between now and August, both individually and accompanying the Queen. Thereafter, The duke will not be accepting new invitations for visits and engagements, although he may still choose to attend certain public events from time to time.”
“The Duke of Edinburgh is patron, president or a member of over 780 organisations, with which he will continue to be associated, although he will no longer play an active role by attending engagements.”
Philip, who will be 96 on June 10, was pictured at Lord’s cricket ground on Wednesday, where he opened the new £25 million Warner Stand, named after Sir Pelham Warner. He joked that he was the “world’s most experienced plaque unveiler”.
Sources have stressed Philip is likely to attend events in the future and will not completely disappear from public life. He will will retain association with his charities.
The timing of the announcement had taken many by surprise given that it is in the middle of a general election campaign, but does guarantee wall-to-wall coverage on broadcast media, which because of the local elections, are avoiding political coverage.
It is probable that Theresa May was informed when she went to see the Queen on Wednesday at the dissolution of parliament.
News of an eleventh hour staff meeting at Buckingham Palace had swept social media from the early hours, resulting in a large number of journalists gathering outside. Royal sources scotched rumors there was an imminent announcement about the health of Philip or the Queen, although the Sun’s website briefly and mistakenly published a story announcing Philip’s death.
The duke has one of the busiest diaries of all the royals. In 2016 he carried out official meetings and visits on 110 days of the year, far more than some younger members of his family.
He is still extremely active, and was seen riding a carriage with four horses through Windsor in March. He took up carriage driving after being forced to retire from playing polo many years ago.
In recent years he has suffered some health problems. In June 2013, he was admitted to the private London Clinic for a exploratory abdominal operation. He spent eleven days in hospital, including his 92nd birthday.
In August 2012 he was taken to hospital as a precaution following the recurrence of a bladder infection at Balmoral, the Queen’s highland estate.
It was a bladder infection that caused concern at the height of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, after he and the Queen stood for 80 minutes aboard the royal barge during the Thames flotilla in awful weather. He was treated at King Edward VII hospital, London, and missed the Diamond Jubilee concert.
In December 2011 doctors at Papworth hospital in Cambridgeshire inserted a coronary stent; the duke had suffered chest pains at Sandringham, the Queen’s Norfolk estate, where the family traditionally gather at Christmas.
His decision to retire from public engagements comes as he and the Queen approach their 70th wedding anniversary in November. He is the longest-serving consort in British history, supporting the nation’s longest reigning monarch. Unlike Queen Victoria’s Prince Albert, however, he has never been given the official title of Prince Consort. It has been suggested he has been offered it.
With his marriage, he effectively gave up a promising naval career, which could have seem him become First Sea Lord. His naval career was curtailed in 1951 with the failing health of his father-in-law George VI and then the accession of Princess Elizabeth.
For his 90th birthday the Queen, undoubtedly in recognition of this career sacrifice, bestowed upon hims the title of Lord High Admiral, titular head of the Royal Navy.
The Duke stepped down as president or patron of more than a dozen organisations on his 90th birthday. He has always been extremely interested in scientific and technological research, industry, the conversation of the environment and the encouragement of sport.
The prime minister said: “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.”
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said: “I would like to pay tribute to Prince Philip following his decision to retire from public service. He has dedicated his life to supporting the Queen and our country with a clear sense of public duty.
“His Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme has inspired young people for more than 60 years in over 140 nations. We thank Prince Philip for his service to the country and wish him all the best in his well-earned retirement.”