Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Prince Philip's final engagement

In the end, there was no other way to say goodbye. As the Duke of Edinburgh walked back into Buckingham Palace at the end of his final solo public engagement, the band broke into 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow'. And so say all of us.

After 22, 219 solo engagements, Prince Philip's career as a working royal came to an official end outside the palace he has come to call home. The longest serving consort in British history carried out one more act of duty with the eyes of the world upon him.  The Duke of Edinburgh, Captain General of the Royal Marines, welcomed the regiment to London to celebrate the end of the 1664 challenge. And he left in the style we've come to know and love, asking some of those who completed the event ''are you mad?''

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The 1664 challenge has seen 1,500 Royal Marines run 16.64 miles a day for 100 days so it was really quite a sensible question. It's just that no royal other than Philip would probably ever ask it. The annual challenge raises awareness of and funds for the Marines' charity - it's billed as being all about endurance. Now there's a word for today.

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The Duke of Edinburgh didn't bat an eyelid at the pouring rain, stepping out in mac and bowler hat to take the Royal Salute at the parade. He met some of those who have completed the running feat before and chatted to veterans and members of the Royal Marine's Association of which he has been patron since 1948.

Everything about this last engagement rang with resonance. The Duke of Edinburgh became Captain General of the Royal Marines on June 2nd 1953, Coronation Day, taking on a role held before by his late father in law, King George VI. A former military man himself, he left royal life saluting those in service. And it all took place in the shadow of Buckingham Palace, the royal residence he came to occupy against the odds. This was a fitting farewell.

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Of course, there was no sentiment. This is Philip we're talking about. There were three cheers for the Captain General and with a tip of his hat, he strode off the stage. Who knows if the rain mixed with a misty eye as he walked into the Palace. All we saw was that back and one arm held up in a final wave. Prince Philip, consort and bedrock of the House of Windsor, has retired. For he's a jolly good fellow, which nobody can deny.

Photo credit: Royal Family Twitter.

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