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Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have led tributes to Prince Philip after Buckingham Palace announced that he will retire from royal duties this autumn. The prince, who will be 96 next month, will carry out scheduled engagements until August but will not accept any invitations after that.
“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,” the palace said.
The prince may choose to attend public events from time to time and to maintain contact with some of the 780 organisations of which he is patron, president or a member. But after almost 65 years in public life, almost all his duties will now be carried out by other members of the royal family.
“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 prime minister said.
Mr Corbyn, who is a republican, also praised the prince, singling out his work in establishing the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards, which encourage young people to take part in adventure programmes and other challenges.
“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,” the Labour leader said.
Although the prince won a reputation for curmudgeonly eccentricity in later years, he was a modernising influence on the royal family during the early years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Unlike Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, he was not given the title of prince consort, which would have given him a formal, advisory role with access to official papers.
This caused him to complain on one occasion that he was nothing more than “an amoeba” with no useful function. But he eventually found a role, identifying causes he believed to be neglected where his patronage could make a difference.
His blunt personal style, starting conversations with the public with the words “What keeps you busy?” and his frequent gaffes sometimes made him unpopular with some but has endeared him to others, notably in the military.
News that all royal household staff had been called to Buckingham Palace at short notice prompted a frenzy of speculation about the nature of the announcement. The Sun’s website briefly published a story announcing Prince Philip’s death, which was hurriedly taken down.