The news that Prince Philip will be retiring from his royal duties from August is a terrible blow. It’s entirely fair, of course. The Prince, after all is 95, and will be 96 by the time he retires. He has done far more than his share of Royal duties; last year he had 219 official engagements in the UK, and he’s Britain’s longest serving consort in history. But it’s still a terrible shame, because where will the fun be in the royal family without Prince Philip?
I remember nervously waiting in a queue at St. James's Palace to receive my Gold Duke of Edinburgh's award – which was, of course, all his idea – worrying what questions he might ask and how I might be embarrassed. (Though, having chosen polo as my Duke of Edinburgh sport, taking the mickey would have been entirely fair). Sadly – or perhaps happily – the day passed without incident… I seem to remember that there were others in my group who’d done their Gold expedition by kayak or something, which proved far more interesting than anything I had to say. But which other Royal could elicit those kind of feelings?
If you were going to an event that a Royal was attending, you’d be excited, that’s for sure. If Prince Philip was the one due to turn up, you’d be on tenterhooks, wondering what witty one-liner he might come up with. Even today he managed it:
'I'm sorry to hear you're standing down', mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah told him at a St James’s Palace do. 'Well I can't stand up much longer', Philip shot back.
All of the Windsors are naturally very dutiful; they turn up day after day to reveal plaques, support charities and cut ribbons. But, dare I say it, they are all just a bit, well, dull. Even Prince Harry has calmed down now and put his days of bad behaviour behind him. If you’re lucky, he might turn up and do a Usain Bolt pose, but he doesn’t have the quick wit of his grandfather. Princess Anne probably comes the closest to sharing Prince Philip’s line in quips; but it’s just not quite the same. Perhaps we’ll have to turn to Prince George or Princess Charlotte to provide some entertainment.
I don’t want any of this to sound like an ode to the Duke of Edinburgh, though. After all, Prince Philip isn’t going anywhere. The Palace have made it clear that even though he will no longer carry out public engagements, ‘he may still choose to attend certain events from time to time’, and we all know that he is a tough old boy. But for those of us who delight in his jokes and repartee, it’s still a sad day indeed.