Duke of Edinburgh: By the Queen’s side publicly for decades

ASCOT, ENGLAND - JUNE 18:  Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh attends day two of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse on June 18, 2014 in Ascot, England.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse)
Prince Philip: The man behind the Queen
01:37 - Source: CNN
London CNN  — 

Prince Philip, the 96-year-old husband of British monarch Queen Elizabeth II, is stepping back from public life this week after decades by her side.

The Duke of Edinburgh will attend a parade of the Royal Marines at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, marking the end of his 65 years of service.

Philip announced his retirement from public duties in May. It is over five years since Buckingham Palace announced that the duke – who married the then-Princess Elizabeth in 1947 – would gradually “wind down” his workload, though he remained keen to perform many of his duties.

In 2016 alone, he attended 200 events as he continued to represent the royal family with his own distinctive style.

Married to Queen Elizabeth II for 69 years, the Prince is known for his wit, humor and controversial off the cuff remarks.

In April 2016 he caused amusement by taking the wheel to drive US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to lunch during their state visit to Britain. That came a month before he withdrew from attending commemorations of the Battle of Jutland in Orkney upon the advice of his doctor.

Philip’s health has long been monitored not just by the palace but by the British media and public. Despite a recent hospitalization for an undisclosed infection, Prince Philip is in good health for a man in his late ’90s.

During an interview with the BBC on the occasion of his 90th birthday in 2011, Philip said it was time to take a step back from his responsibilities.

“I reckon I’ve done my bit, I want to enjoy myself now … have less responsibility, less frantic rushing about, less preparation, less trying to think of something to say,” he said.

However, Philip continued to appear by the Queen’s side. In 2012, he was with Elizabeth as she undertook a busy schedule of public engagements across the UK to mark her 60 years on the throne.

‘Constant strength and guide’

In a diamond jubilee address to parliament in March 2012, the Queen said the support of her own family had been “beyond measure” throughout her reign. And she paid special tribute to the contribution of her husband, who accompanied her on so many of her official visits.

The Queen and Prince Philip arrive at the Diamond Jubilee Pageant in the grounds of Windsor Castle in May 2012.

“Prince Philip is, I believe, well-known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide,” she said.

Phillip jokingly referred to himself as “the world’s most experienced plaque unveiler” – but as a child born in Greece into the turmoil of inter-war Europe, a naval officer decorated for heroism during World War II, the Duke of Edinburgh has been anything but.

When peace came, Philip remained in the navy, but rekindled an earlier friendship with Elizabeth that quickly blossomed into a public romance.

The Queen and Prince Philip wave to guests attending celebrations in London for her 90th birthday in 2016.

Philip and Princess Elizabeth were married in Westminster Abbey in November 1947, after Philip became a naturalized British subject, and shortly afterward he returned to naval duty, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander.

Newly-appointed as Duke of Edinburgh, Philip had to abandon his naval career for royal duties after the queen’s father, George VI became ill. The king died on February 6, 1952 while Philip and Elizabeth were on an official trip to Kenya. It was Philip who broke the news to his wife.

‘Fantastic life partner’

The early years of the couple’s marriage saw the prince enjoy the height of his popularity. On their first major tour together – to Canada and the US in 1951 – huge crowds turned out to see the couple.

The duke himself spoke of his own struggles to find a purpose within the royal family, saying he took on patronages – including the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, which he created to recognize community service – out of duty rather than passion.

Prince Philip, Duke Of Edinburgh, waving through the open roof of a car on May 1948.

“I didn’t want to be president of the World Wildlife Fund,” he said in an interview in 1992. “I was asked to do it. I’d much rather have stayed in the navy, frankly.”

Philip has had no constitutional roles other than being a privy counselor, but the queen in 1952 declared that he had “place, preeminence and precedence” next to herself “on all occasions and in all meetings, except where otherwise provided by act of Parliament.”

He has been by the Queen’s side as she has traveled for state visits around the world and helped her welcome a host of dignitaries.

Their relationship was discussed in a recent ITV documentary about Prince Philip and the jubilee of his much-vaunted Duke of Edinburgh award.

Sophie Wessex, wife of the couple’s youngest son, Prince Edward, revealed how the pair enjoy each other’s company after 69 years of marriage.

The Queen, US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Prince Philip pose together at Windsor in 2016.

“He has been a fantastic life partner for her. I think it’s maybe a fairly lonely job being queen,” she told ITV.

“As a female in the top job I think to have somebody you can lean on, you can discuss things with, she can be honest with behind closed doors … I don’t think she could have chosen better. And they make each other laugh, which is half the battle, isn’t it?”

Even now Philip will continue to be a patron or member of hundreds of charitable organizations. And he will remain the Queen’s support and best companion in the private sphere.