Prince Philip has announced he is retiring from Royal Duties. At 95, it can reasonably be said he has done his duty. He has rendered exceptional, loyal and unstinting support tIto the Queen, and in doing so to the United Kingdom. A modest and self-effacing person he does not welcome personal praise or thanks for his work, but he certainly deserves it.
The announcement is both highly personal and of national significance. It must have been planned for a long time and the Queen’s advisors would not have wanted such a significant announcement to come in the middle of a General Election. Like everyone else they have been caught on the hop by Mrs May’s decision to call an election. The Prime Minister must have been informed of this decision and agreed that the announcement should go ahead. If Parliament had been sitting the Prime Minister may well have gone to the House of Commons to make a statement, thanking the Prince for his work. It should be very high up the agenda of the new Parliament to receive such a statement.
It seems unlikely that this announcement means we have seen the last of the Duke on the national stage. He is bound to continue to accompany the Queen on formal and State occasions, as he has done for nearly 70 years. He is too engaged and interested in world events to simply sit at home in his slippers. This announcement is more about making it easier for his staff to say no to the enormous number of requests that pour in to his office asking for his support and encouragement. Some years ago it was announced that his office was working on ways to reduce his workload, but judging by the number of engagements he continues to carry out it would seem it is very difficult to scale back his activity.
He is a remarkable individual. Engaged and engaging, challenging and provocative at times, but his care and concern for people, institutions and organisations over the many decades he has served – in a role with no clear definition – is considerable.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is a hugely successful and valuable initiative. In interviews he deflects suggestions that he has responsibility for its success, but his consistent support and encouragement has enabled it to thrive nationally and internationally.
The Armed Forces and service families hold Prince Philip in special affection and regard. He saw combat and was Mentioned in Despatches for his work at the Battle of Matapan. When he speaks with those who serve, he does so with real insight and credibility.
There are tens of thousands of people, institutions and organisations, who speak of his help and support. Quite often this is not done in the public arena. He just does things to try and help. This, of course, is what most significantly he has done for the Queen – helped, supported, encouraged. She has spoken movingly about him being “her rock”. In many ways he has been a rock in our national life too. For a while yet let’s hope he continues to be so.