Prince Philip, gruff consort, slows down for 90th birthday
Britain's Prince Philip, the plain-speaking husband of Queen Elizabeth II, said he was "winding down" his royal workload as he marked his 90th birthday on Friday with a typical lack of fuss.
The gruff patriarch, the longest-serving consort in British history, spent his birthday at work, hosting a charity reception and chairing a conference for military colonels, but admitted that he would now take a step back.
"I reckon I've done my bit. I want to enjoy myself a bit now, with less responsibility, less frantic rushing about, less preparation, less trying to think of something to say," he told the BBC in an interview.
"On top of that my memory's going, I can't remember names. I'm just sort of winding down."
A Buckingham Palace spokesman told AFP: "There is no ceremony or anything today. The main event will be on Sunday," when there will be be a service of thanksgiving at Saint George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, attended by the royal family, with a reception to follow.
Since marrying the then princess Elizabeth in 1947, Philip has carved out his own role supporting the monarch, accompanying her on visits around the world and jollying people up with his off-the-cuff remarks.
Some have been near the knuckle.
"You managed not to get eaten, then?" he told a British student who had trekked in Papua New Guinea, in 1998.
But in a sign of the public affection for him, the palace revealed that almost 2,000 birthday cards had been sent to the duke from across the globe, including New Zealand and Australia, Italy, Poland, France and Germany.
Known officially as the Duke of Edinburgh, he is patron of some 800 organisations, and has found a niche for himself in the fields of conservation, design and developing life skills among youngsters.
Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark, a nephew of Greek king Constantine I, was born on a kitchen table on Corfu on June 10, 1921.
After a turbulent childhood, Lieutenant Mountbatten, as he became, married Elizabeth but his stellar progress in the British Royal Navy was halted when his wife became queen in 1952 and he was forced to abandon his career.
He told ITV it was "disappointing", but "being married to the queen, it seemed to me that my first duty was to serve her in the best way I could."
On Friday Philip will be honoured with a 62-gun salute and the striking of a Royal Mint coin with his image on one side and the queen's on the other.
In an unusual step, BBC radio played the royal anthem "God Save The Queen" ahead of its morning news broadcast.
But the still sprightly Philip has not let the accolades go to his head or temper his famous impatience, as he showed when he was asked by the BBC if he thought he had been successful.
"I couldn't care less. Who cares what I think about it? I mean it's ridiculous," he said, adding that he had figured out how to perform his role by "trial and error."
Paying tribute this week, Prime Minister David Cameron said Philip had been "a constant companion and a source of rock-solid strength" to the queen, and had served the British people "with an unshakeable sense of duty".
He said Britons found the duke's "inimitable" down-to-earth style "endearing" and the country owed him a "deserved debt of gratitude."
Buckingham Palace has released 90 facts about the duke to mark his birthday, including that he drives a liquid petroleum gas taxi around London and designed the Inter-University Tiddlywinks Championship trophy.
The no-frills celebrations are very much in keeping with his character.
As a youth, the prince was "very boyish, but great fun, always great fun and very kind," his cousin Lady Myra Butter said.
"He hasn't really changed much as a person at all, I don't think. He just gets on with it. That's his motto. Just get on with it."
© 2011 AFP