LONDON – The United Kingdom’s Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, is to step down from public engagements in the autumn of 2017, Buckingham Palace announced on Thursday.
However, Prince Philip, 95, will remain a patron or president of over 780 organizations but will not accept further invitations for public engagements starting from the end of August, a palace statement said.
“His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has decided 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,” the statement added.
Elizabeth II, 91, is to continue her full program of scheduled official engagements, the statement said, adding that the duke may make the occasional appearance at public events if he chooses to do so.
The UK’s Conservative Party Prime Minister Theresa May said she wished the duke well on behalf of the country, adding that “his contribution to our United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the wider world will be of huge benefit to us all for years to come.”
Jeremy Corbin, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, released a statement in which he said: “We thank Prince Philip for his service to the country and wish him all the best in his well-earned retirement.”
The official royal statement was preceded by an extraordinary meeting at Buckingham Palace, which caused a stir of speculation on social media and in the UK press.
Elizabeth II, who celebrated her 65th year on the throne in 2017, had just returned to her official London residence, Buckingham Palace, after spending Easter in Windsor Palace.
Both the queen and the duke, who turns 96 in June and is the longest reigning prince consort in UK history, suffered heavy colds over the Christmas period and were unable to attend customary festive events.
The duke married the queen at a ceremony in Westminster Abbey in 1947 as Britain emerged from the after-effects of World War II.
Born in Greece with Greek and Danish royal lineage, the duke was educated across Europe before joining the Royal Navy during the war and later becoming a British subject, adopting the surname Mountbatten from his mother’s family.
The duke is father to Charles, Prince of Wales – first in line to the throne – Princess Anne; Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.