INTERNATIONAL: Prince Philip to step away from public duties

Prince Philip conducted 219 royal engagements past year, and was in good form when he opened a new stand at Lord's Cricket Ground in London on Wednesday.

A dozen television news crews headed to Buckingham Palace in the early morning, and the website of one tabloid reported, in an article that was quickly taken down, that the prince had died.

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.

He once admitted the curtailment of his career was "disappointing", but said that "being married to the queen, it seemed to me that my first duty was to serve her in the best way I could".

Philip saw the amusing side of the announcement when he met mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah at a reception for members of the Order of Merit at St James's Palace.

Prime Minister Theresa May offered him the whole country's "deepest gratitude and good wishes".

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".

Prince Philip still has scheduled appointments to make between now and his official retirement in August, many of them accompanying the Queen, and plans to fulfill those obligations.




Queen Elizabeth II, meanwhile, who recently turned 91, "will continue to carry out a full programme of official engagements with the support of members of the Royal Family".

Despite being 95, Philip's decision - which is fully supported by the Queen and is not medically related - came as a surprise as he still has a busy official diary and appears to relish meeting the public.

The meeting was called somewhat last minute, leading many to fear that some actual emergency was taking place at the palace.

However, "he may still choose to attend certain public events from time to time", the palace said.

Prince Philip has been ever present at his wife's side since she took the throne in 1952.

Like her husband, Queen Elizabeth has gradually cut back her workload in recent years as they go into their nineties.

The announcement came after members of the royal staff were summoned to a meeting on Thursday in London, a development that touched off alarms about the health of the queen and her husband.

There will be a few more solo engagements - she didn't always do every visit with Philip anyway, and we can expect to see more joint engagements with other members of the royal family.

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