“I can’t stand up much” Prince Philip quips as he retires from royal duties

“I can’t stand up much” Prince Philip quips as he retires from royal duties

LONDON, May 4 (Reuters) – Prince Philip, the 95-year-old husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, joked on Thursday about no longer being able to “stand up much” as Buckingham Palace announced he would retire later this year from active public life.

 

Philip, who is also known as the Duke of Edinburgh and has sometimes drawn attention with headline-grabbing gaffes, has been by the queen’s side throughout her 65 years on the throne and she has described him as “my strength and stay”.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth sits with Prince Philip during a visit to Whipsnade Zoo where she opened the new Centre for Elephant Care, in Dunstable, Britain April 11, 2017.   REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth sits with Prince Philip during a visit to Whipsnade Zoo where she opened the new Centre for Elephant Care, in Dunstable, Britain April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Britain's Queen Elizabeth watches as Prince Philip feeds an elephant during a visit to Whipsnade Zoo where the Queen opened the new Centre for Elephant Care, in Dunstable, Britain. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth watches as Prince Philip feeds an elephant during a visit to Whipsnade Zoo where the Queen opened the new Centre for Elephant Care, in Dunstable, Britain. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
19 July 1960: King Bhumibol Adulyadej and wife Queen Sirikit Kitiyakara pose with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace in LondonGamma-Keystone via Getty Images
19 July 1960: King Bhumibol Adulyadej and wife Queen Sirikit Kitiyakara pose with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace in LondonGamma-Keystone via Getty Images
Members of the royal family, including Prince Charles, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge holding Princess Charlotte, Prince George, Prince William, Queen Elizabeth, and Prince Philip watch a flypast as they stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony on Horseguards Parade in central London, Britain June 11, 2016. Trooping the Colour is a ceremony to honour Queen Elizabeth's official birthday. The Queen celebrates her 90th birthday this year. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Members of the royal family, including Prince Charles, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge holding Princess Charlotte, Prince George, Prince William, Queen Elizabeth, and Prince Philip watch a flypast as they stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony on Horseguards Parade in central London, Britain June 11, 2016. Trooping the Colour is a ceremony to honour Queen Elizabeth’s official birthday. The Queen celebrates her 90th birthday this year. REUTERS/Toby Melville
A pigeon flies ahead of Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, and Princes William Harry and Kate Duchess of Cambridge behind as they wave to guests attending the Patron's Lunch on the Mall, an event to mark her 90th birthday, in London, June 12, 2016.    REUTERS/Toby Melville
A pigeon flies ahead of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, and Princes William Harry and Kate Duchess of Cambridge behind as they wave to guests attending the Patron’s Lunch on the Mall, an event to mark her 90th birthday, in London, June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville
This official photograph released by Buckingham Palace to mark her 90th birthday shows Britain's Queen Elizabeth with her husband, Prince Philip, and was taken at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, Britain just after Easter 2016. Annie Leibovitz/Handout via Reuters
This official photograph released by Buckingham Palace to mark her 90th birthday shows Britain’s Queen Elizabeth with her husband, Prince Philip, and was taken at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, Britain just after Easter 2016. Annie Leibovitz/Handout via Reuters
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge celebrate with Queen Elizabeth II during the final night of the Queen's 90th Birthday Celebrations in Windsor, England, May 15, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Jackson/Pool
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge celebrate with Queen Elizabeth II during the final night of the Queen’s 90th Birthday Celebrations in Windsor, England, May 15, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Jackson/Pool
President of China Xi Jinping (R) and his wife Peng Liyuan (2nd L) accompany Britain's Queen Elizabeth (2nd R) and her husband Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh (L) as they arrive for a state banquet at Buckingham Palace in London, Britain, October 20, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville
President of China Xi Jinping (R) and his wife Peng Liyuan (2nd L) accompany Britain’s Queen Elizabeth (2nd R) and her husband Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh (L) as they arrive for a state banquet at Buckingham Palace in London, Britain, October 20, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville

“Prince Philip will attend previously scheduled engagements between now and August, both individually and accompanying The Queen,” the palace said in a statement.

 

“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 queen, the world’s longest-reigning living monarch who celebrated her 91st birthday in April, will continue to carry out a full programme of official engagements, the statement added. Polls show Elizabeth, who ascended to the throne in 1952, remains hugely popular among Britons.

 

At an engagement at St James’s Palace in central London with his wife on Thursday, a guest told Philip he was sorry to hear he was standing down.

 

“I can’t stand up much,” quipped the prince, whose off-the-cuff remarks have sometimes landed him in hot water.

 

The announcement of Philip’s retirement was made following a meeting of all senior royal staff at Buckingham Palace, news of which prompted media speculation about the health of the royals.

 

However a well-placed source said there was no cause for concern about the health of the queen or Philip, who turns 96 next month. The couple, who married at Westminster Abbey in 1947, are due to celebrate their platinum, or 70th, wedding anniversary in November.

 

They have both been cutting their workload in recent years, passing on many responsibilities to son and heir Prince Charles, and grandsons, Princes William and Harry.

 

Philip conducted 184 official appearances in the year to March 2016 and has racked up a total 22,191 solo engagements since 1952, official figures show.

 

Prime Minister Theresa May offered the country’s “deepest gratitude and good wishes” to Philip on his retirement.

 

GAFFES

 

Outspoken, irascible and intensely private, Philip, a Greek-born former naval officer, developed a reputation for brusque comments and occasional gaffes at some of the thousands of ceremonial events he has attended.

 

A stray remark about “slitty eyes” during a visit to China in the 1980s became symbolic of his gruff and often unguarded manner. Even into his 90s, his off-the-cuff remarks could still get him into trouble, such as when he exasperatedly swore at a photographer at an event in 2015.

 

However, the queen and other royals say he has been a crucial figure during her long reign.

 

“He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years,” Elizabeth said in a very rare personal tribute to Philip during a speech to mark their 50th wedding anniversary in 1997.

 

Despite being at the forefront of the royal family for almost 70 years and also patron, president or a member of more than 780 organisations, he has no clear-cut constitutional role and has admitted struggling to carve out a role for himself as the queen’s consort.

 

“There was no precedent. If I asked somebody ‘what do you expect me to do?’ they all looked blank – they had no idea, nobody had much idea,” he told the BBC in an interview to mark his 90th birthday.

 

Both the queen and Philip have suffered some health issues in recent years. The queen missed a traditional Christmas church service last year for the first time in decades due to a heavy cold and was hospitalised in March 2013 with symptoms of gastroenteritis.

 

Philip underwent “an exploratory operation following abdominal investigations” in 2013.

 

He was also hospitalised for a bladder infection during the queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations the year before, and spent Christmas 2011 in hospital where he underwent an operation to clear a blocked heart artery after suffering chest pains.

 

Such setbacks did not deter Philip from his royal duties. He even drove former U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife around the grounds of the royals’ Windsor Castle residence during a visit last year.

 

“I have to say I have never been driven by a Duke of Edinburgh before, but I can report it was very smooth riding,” Obama said.