Prince Philip marks 90th birthday with new title

10th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Prince Philip received a new royal title from his wife Queen Elizabeth II as a gift on his 90th birthday Friday, as the outspoken consort said he would finally scale back his workload.

The queen made him Lord High Admiral -- the titular head of the British Royal Navy and an office until now held by her -- partly in recognition of the promising seafaring career Philip gave up to spend a lifetime at her side.

The gruff patriarch, the longest-serving consort in British history, opted to spend his birthday with a typical lack of fuss, as he hosted a charity reception and chaired a conference for military colonels.

Despite remaining sprightly for his age, if not the dashing blond naval officer of more than five decades ago, Philip admitted he would now take a step back from official duties.

"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.

"On top of that my memory's going, I can't remember names. I'm just sort of winding down."

There has been speculation he could hand over some of his duties to his grandson Prince William's new wife, Catherine.

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.

On a visit to China in 1986, he warned a group of British students: "If you stay here much longer, you'll all be slitty-eyed." And he told a British student who had trekked in Papua New Guinea in 1998: "You managed not to get eaten, then?".

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, covering fields including 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 Royal Navy, including service in World War II, was halted when his wife became queen in 1952.

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."

Buckingham Palace said in a statement that the award of the title of Lord High Admiral was a "gift to The Duke of Edinburgh on the occasion of his 90th birthday", and that an official ceremony would take place at a later date.

The queen has held the title, which dates back to the 14th century, since 1964.

On Friday Philip was also 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.

At the event he attended for the Royal National Institute for Deaf People he was given a pair of ear defenders.

But the official celebration of his birthday will be on Sunday when there will be be a service at Saint George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, attended by the royal family, with a reception to follow.

"There is no ceremony or anything today. The main event will be on Sunday," a Buckingham Palace spokesman told AFP.

The duke showed the accolades were unlikely to go to his head, 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, adding that Britons found the duke's down-to-earth style "endearing".

© 2011 AFP

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