In the wee hours of the morning on May 4, there was word that there was a meeting called with the royal staff about a big announcement regarding the royals, and speculation went wild wondering what it was about. It turned out not to be as drastic as had been speculated, but it was very significant: Prince Philip has decided he will no longer carry out public engagements.
Following in the footsteps of Prince Henrik of Denmark, who retired from public duties at the end of 2015, Philip has, with the full support of the Queen, decided that he will retire from public engagements starting in autumn of 2017. He will carry out his scheduled engagements through August, but will no longer accept any new engagements. He will continue to be associated with his over 780 patronages but will not take an active role in supporting them with public engagements. The full press release from Buckingham Palace:
“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. Thereafter, The Duke will not be accepting new invitations for visits and engagements, although he may still choose to attend certain public events from time to time.
“The Duke of Edinburgh is Patron, President or a member of over 780 organisations, with which he will continue to be associated, although he will no longer play an active role by attending engagements. Her Majesty will continue to carry out a full programme of official engagements with the support of members of the Royal Family.”
Shortly after the announcement was made Philip accompanied the Queen to a St. James Palace service and lunch for the Order of Merit (thankfully he made a public appearance to quell some of the worst speculation). When he met mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah, he said to Philip: “I’m sorry to hear you’re standing down.” To which Philip responded: “Well I can’t stand up much longer.”
Back in January, KP announced that, starting in the autumn, William and Kate will increase their time at their KP apartment and will increase their official work. Philip stepping down from public duties will leave a big hole to fill in the royal workload, so William and Kate (and Harry) will have to step up. I wonder if Philip’s retirement was one of the reasons for announcing William and Kate increasing their workload starting in autumn.