Prince Philip stands down from official royal duties with joke about his failing health

Prince Philip and the Queen pictured on Thursday after the announcement (PA)
Prince Philip and the Queen pictured on Thursday after the announcement (PA)

Prince Philip is to stand down from all official engagements – signing off with a quip about his ill health.

The Duke of Edinburgh will no longer carry out royal duties from the autumn of this year, Buckingham Palace announced in a statement earlier today.

The Duke of Edinburgh joked he “can’t stand up much longer” as he undertook his first royal engagement since his retirement was announced.

Philip made the comment to mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah at a reception for members of the Order of Merit (OM) at St James’s Palace.

As 95-year-old Philip and the Queen met and spoke to members of the order, Sir Michael, who is 88, said to him: “I’m sorry to hear you’re standing down.”

The Duke replied: “Well, I can’t stand up much longer.”

The Palace said in a statement it was the Duke’s decision taken with the support of the Queen.

A statement read: “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. Prince Philip will attend previously scheduled engagements between now and August, both individually and accompanying the Queen.”

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Shortly after the announcement, the Duke attended a service at St James’s Palace alongside the Queen.

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Senior staff from royal residences around the country had been summoned to London today for a meeting at 10am.

The Duke of Edinburgh is perhaps best known for his gaffes.

He has shocked the public with his outspoken comments and clangers.

His reputation for plain speaking and off-the-cuff remarks has often led to controversy – but also garnered him some affection.

Here are some of his “finest” moments:

  • “Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed” (during the 1981 recession).

  • “If it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane, and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it.” (at a 1986 World Wildlife Fund meeting).

  • “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the test?” (to a driving instructor in Oban, Scotland, during a 1995 walkabout).

  • “If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?” (in 1996, amid calls to ban firearms after the Dunblane shooting).

  • “It looks as if it was put in by an Indian.” (pointing at an old-fashioned fusebox in a factory near Edinburgh in 1999).

During the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit with the Queen to Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park in Queensland, Australia, he surprised Aborigines performers when he asked them “Do you still throw spears at each other?” (01 March 2002)
During the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit with the Queen to Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park in Queensland, Australia, he surprised Aborigines performers when he asked them “Do you still throw spears at each other?” (01 March 2002)
  • “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.” (to British students in China, during the 1986 state visit).

  • In Germany, in 1997, he welcomed German Chancellor Helmut Kohl at a trade fair as “Reichskanzler” – the last German leader who used the title was Adolf Hitler.

  • “You look like a suicide bomber.” (to a young female officer wearing a bullet-proof vest on Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, in 2002).

  • “How many people have you knocked over this morning on that thing?” (meeting disabled David Miller who drives a mobility scooter at the Valentine Mansion in Redbridge in March 2012)

  • “I would get arrested if I unzipped that dress.” (to 25-year-old council worker Hannah Jackson, who was wearing a dress with a zip running the length of its front, on a Jubilee visit to Bromley, Kent, in May 2012)

Royal aides said Philip was looking forward to more leisure time.

An avid reader, the Duke is also a prolific writer, having authored 14 books on environmental, technological, equestrian and animal subjects. He may even use his time to put pen to paper once more.

His son the Earl of Wessex once praised him for his relentless energy.

“He keeps on saying he’s trying to slow down and take on less but I haven’t seen much evidence of that, he seems to fill the gaps with lots of other things, which is fantastic,” Edward said when his father turned 90.

“The fact he’s still got that fascination and interest and energy is superb.”

The earlier reports, somewhat inevitably, sparked a gathering of the world’s media outside Buckingham Palace, as this video shared by a producer at the Huffington Post neatly illustrates.

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Philip has generally been in good health in recent years and on Wednesday he opened a new stand at Lord’s cricket ground in central London looking relaxed and lively.

But it appears the Duke has decided that, now in his advanced years, the time has come to step back from royal duties that can involve extensive travel.

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His grandson, the Duke of Cambridge, has already announced he will be leaving his job as an air ambulance helicopter pilot to concentrate on his public role, and it is likely he will be further supporting the Queen in her position as head of state now the Duke has retired from official engagements.

But a royal aide stressed Philip is likely to attend events in the future and will not completely disappear from public life.

The Duke of Edinburgh (left) is shown a number of bats by Mike Gatting (right), during a visit to Lord's cricket ground
The Duke of Edinburgh at Lord’s cricket ground yesterday (PA)

The meeting was taken by the Lord Chamberlain, the most senior officer of the Royal Household, and Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s Private Secretary.

The Queen is expected to continue her appointments as normal.

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The frenzied speculation on social media was given added impetus as many pointed out that the apparent meeting was not initially being covered by the BBC or Sky, leading many to suggest a media blackout was in force among the major broadcasters.

The Queen, who celebrated her 91st birthday last month, and Philip, who turns 96 next month, still regularly carry out official duties although they have cut back on their workload in recent years.

The Queen and Prince Philip at Royal Ascot on June 15, 2016 (PA)
The Queen and Prince Philip at Royal Ascot on June 15, 2016 (PA)

The Queen and Prince Philip at Royal Ascot on June 15, 2016 (PA)

Elizabeth met Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday to formally agree to the dissolution of parliament ahead of June’s election while Philip opened a new stand at Lord’s Cricket Ground in central London.

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