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Prince Philip, 95, Retires from Royal Duties After 70 Years by Queen Elizabeth’s Side

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Prince Philip is retiring from public life. The 95-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth is to step down from his duties as her public consort after 70 years of service.

A short statement issued Thursday morning by Buckingham Palace 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. 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.

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“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.”

He may have decided to step back from public duties, but Prince Philip was by the side of the Queen on Thursday — and making light of the news of his impending retirement. 

As he met well wishers at St. James’s Palace one guest said, “I’m sorry to hear you’re standing down.”

Quick as a flash, Philip, who turns 96 in June, came back with, “Well I can’t stand up much longer.”

He and the Queen made the short drive from Buckingham Palace to the Chapel Royal in St James’s Palace, London, for an Order of Merit service shortly after news broke around the world of his stepping down. 

The Order of Merit honors those people who have made great achievements in the fields of the arts, learning, literature and science.

And on Wednesday, the Duke of Edinburgh was out, opening a new stand at Lord’s Cricket ground in London. There, he chatted with former England captain Mike Gatting before carrying out the formalities.

Prince Philip, who was born into the Greek and Danish royal families, wed Queen Elizabeth II – now 91 – in November 1947 after a five-month engagement. Elizabeth became monarch less than five years later after her father, King George VI, died.

Philip will turn 96 in June.

The announcement follows widespread speculation that there was something grave concerning the couple’s health after staff from across Britain who work for the Royal Household were summoned to a meeting at the palace by Lord Chamberlain.

Early Thursday a senior royal source told PEOPLE there was no cause for concern.