The Duke of Edinburgh carries out his final public engagement today ahead of his retirement. Prince Philip will attend a parade at Buckingham Palace to mark the end of a challenge for the Royal Marines which celebrates their strength and endurance. It will be the end of an era.
Prince Philip announced his retirement in May, saying he would be stepping down from public engagements with a bit of a caveat. He may well attend some events of his choosing alongside the Queen in the future. But today is the last act of this part of his royal career, one which has seen him at the forefront of the House of Windsor for 70 years.
Philip's current royal career began the moment that he said 'I do' to the then Princess Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey on November 20th 1947. A few years of relatively private life as he pursued his naval career soon gave way to an increasing round of public engagements as Elizabeth took on more duties for her father, George VI. His untimely death, on February 6th 1952, made her Queen and Philip her consort. A full royal life began and hasn't stopped since. Until today.
During his time as the longest serving consort in British history, Prince Philip has carried out over 22,000 solo engagements and given almost 6,000 speeches. He calls himself 'the world's most experienced plaque unveiler', one of the famous quips that have dotted his appearances. But that throwaway remark points to an unrivalled royal career. As he bows out, he is respected for his duty, service and unswerving loyalty to the Queen. On the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary, Elizabeth II said ''this, and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.'' Those words are as true today as they have ever been.
Philip bows out by taking the parade of the Royal Marines at Buckingham Palace which marks the end of the 1664 Challenge - an annual event which sees service personnel undertake gruelling events to raise awareness of and funds for the Royal Marines charity. When this year's began, on April 25th, no one had any idea that Philip would be retiring let alone that the end of the challenge would be his final public engagement. But it is perhaps as appropriate an event as they come. He is a military man who saw active service in World War Two and he was made Captain General of the Royal Marines on June 2nd 1953, Coronation Day. He will meet fellow service personnel at Buckingham Palace to celebrate strength and endurance. A military farewell for a man who has endured and provided much of the strength that has turned the modern House of Windsor into such a success? That's a fitting finale for Prince Philip who leaves the royal stages with applause echoing in his ears.