The End of an Era: Prince Philip’s Last Engagement & Palace “Shakeups”

Yesterday the Duke of Edinburgh carried out his final engagement as a full-time working royal, ending a 70-year career and beginning a very well-deserved retirement. In his capacity as Captain General of the Royal Marines, Philip attended a parade outside Buckingham Palace on Wednesday marking the finale of the 1664 Global Challenge, a series of physical challenges raising money for charity.

With grey skies and steady rain, the sight of Philip smoothly carrying out his work in a bowler hat and rain coat felt old school – a hallmark of a very particular generation of the House of Windsor and the end of an era.

And quite the era it was – Philip has carried out 22,219 solo engagements (not counting occasions during which he accompanied the Queen), gave 5,496 speeches and served as patron to 785 organizations.

From royal reporter Victoria Murphy:

“Consort” is an odd role, one without a concrete job description and which is largely thankless with considerable room for missteps. That Philip consistently and reliably carried out his duties is commendable and the British public should be grateful for his service – whether you agree with the concept of monarchy or not, it exists and it provides a function that is meant to support good. His real legacy, however, is that he has always understood his first responsibility was to support the Queen in fulfilling her job and in that respect he outdid himself.

Contrast him, then, with Queen Margrethe of Denmark’s husband, Prince Henrik, who has made news by refusing plans to eventually bury him alongside his wife because he wasn’t made “King of Denmark” upon his marriage – standard practice, I might add, for male consorts. Indeed, Henrik was given the official title of “Prince Consort,” while Philip has always been known “only” as the Duke of Edinburgh – somehow I highly doubt the disparity keeps him up at night and I think it’s safe to say Philip would never embarrass the Queen with such a statement. Would that all royal spouses took a page out of his book.

Rumor has it that the Duchess of Cambridge means to follow Philip’s example as her royal career unfolds and, if true, I’m hard pressed to think of a better professional role model.

Perhaps Philip’s most controversial characteristic are his “quips,” if you will. I generally find them funny, however I’ll grant you that a few mid-century remarks haven’t exactly aged well. Even so, his candor and sense of humor have always been cornerstones of his public interactions. Per the BBC:

“The duke also met Sgt Matt Burley, a physical training instructor, who swam 1,664 lengths underwater over 10 days, and Lt Col Aldeiy Alderson, who ran 100km (62 miles) in 12 hours wearing his Royal Marines uniform. After hearing about their exploits, he told the group of marines: ‘You all should be locked up.’”

Also from Murphy:

Most poignant was the crowds that had gathered to cover the day and the cheers that greeted the Duke as he arrived. Philip’s “Kate” days are behind him – I think it’s fair to say that most of his engagements don’t receive a fraction of the coverage William and Kate’s do, despite his seniority and rank. Because of that, it was touching to hear three cheers and “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” in his honor and it was equally as remarkable to watch him break with tradition and offer a rare acknowledgement of the public.

Video from royal reporter Rebecca English:

And with that Philip is off to Scotland to meet his wife for their annual sojourn to the Highlands until the autumn. Generally they are joined for at least a part of the time by their family, including their children and grandchildren. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were recently in Scotland as part of their annual tour of the UK, however it’s been revealed they’ve taken a personal holiday this week aboard a yacht in Greece. As for the younger generation, given that Meghan Markle is in town, I expect Prince Harry is with her in London to mark her birthday tomorrow. And as for William and Kate, I’ve no idea, but I would imagine a considerable portion of this month will be spent enjoying their home of Anmer Hall in Norfolk until they move full-time to Kensington Palace next month. It’s unclear whether they’ll make a trip to Balmoral, but they generally at least fit in a weekend visit.

Surprisingly, Philip’s retirement almost wasn’t the biggest royal news this week. On Sunday it was announced that Sir Christopher Geidt is stepping down as the Queen’s private secretary after a decade of service. The move dovetailed the announcement that Kate has appointed Catherine Quinn, currently COO of Oxford University’s Said Business School, to replace her current right-hand woman, Rebecca Priestley, who announced she was stepping down after marrying earlier this year.

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There is also a rumor that Miguel Head, William’s private secretary, and Edward Lane Fox, Harry’s private secretary are also thinking about leaving.

The “shakeup” is apparently part of “Operation Handover,” which is a sentence I never thought I would write. Essentially, ahead of Charles’s eventual accession, the Queen is working with other senior royals in the line of succession to help bridge the gap between the divided “firms.” Consolidating efforts means staff changes and it’s likely further announcements will be made before the end of the year. The end goal? Reportedly a merged household for the Queen, Charles, William and Kate. What a world.

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