The Duke of Edinburgh’s decision to step down from public duties has been met with tributes praising his contribution to national life – and a lighthearted quip from Philip himself.
The Queen’s consort will retire from royal engagements in the autumn after more than 65 years supporting the Queen in her role as head of state and attending events for his own charities and organisations.
Philip saw the funny side of the announcement on Thursday when he met mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah at a reception for members of the Order of Merit at St James’s Palace.
When Sir Michael, who is 88, said to him: “I’m sorry to hear you’re standing down,” the duke joked: “Well I can’t stand up much longer.”
The Queen’s public schedule will continue as normal but it is understood other members of the royal family will “step up” in support of the monarch.
Despite being 95, Philip’s decision – supported by the Queen and not medically related – came as a surprise and followed a night of frenzied speculation caused by news reports about an “emergency” palace meeting.
An announcement regarding The Duke of Edinburgh. 苏州美甲培训学校,长沙SPA,/SF1bgo68Un pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/TO9mR70xTk
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) May 4, 2017
Prime Minister Theresa May led the tributes to the Queen’s consort, saying he has given the monarch “steadfast support”, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the duke’s “clear sense of public duty” had inspired people for more than 60 years.
It is understood the Duke had been thinking about stepping down from public duties in the past few months and made the announcement now as his diary for the autumn would have been finalised during this period.
But Buckingham Palace stressed he might decide to attend certain events from time to time.
The Order of Merit was created in 1902 by Edward VII to honour leaders in the arts, sciences, culture and military and is limited to just 24 living members.
Watch: Theresa May comments on Prince Philip
Members at the event on Thursday included former Australian prime minister John Howard, TV presenter Sir David Attenborough, artist David Hockney, the former Commons speaker Betty Boothroyd and entrepreneur James Dyson.
Outside the palace on Thursday, tourists waited to try to catch a glimpse of the royal couple as they arrived.
Emma Sandvick, 31, from Brisbane in Australia, said: “He deserves to retire from royal duties, he has served his county well. He definitely deserves a break.”
Alan Doyle, 47, a guide with London Tailored Tours, added: “He has supported the Queen, he’s been her rock.”