10 Apr Prince Philip: Remembering the grace, stoicism and jokes at the last of the Duke of Edinburgh’s 22, 219 solo engagements | UK News
The Duke of Edinburgh completed more than 22,000 solo engagements during his long life of service – with the last at aged 96.
After 65 years, having become the Queen’s consort when she acceded to the throne in 1952, Philip completed his last public event on 2 August 2017.
It was to be his 22,219th solo outing (he completed many thousands more at his wife’s side), ending a life of duty at the very heart of the Royal Family.
The final engagement was one dear to his heart – to congratulate Royal Marines who had pushed themselves to the limit in a series of charity fundraising challenges.
And for it, he was was greeted with very British weather of persistent, pouring rain.
The duke, who was the Captain General of the Royal Marines, wore his Royal Marines tie for the occasion, a raincoat and his famous bowler hat.
Those who were present said the day had a relaxed feel, even though the duke received a Royal Salute from the guard of honour and the national anthem was observed.
Philip joked that those who had participated in the 1664 Global Challenge – named after the year the Royal Marines were founded – should be “locked up” for their madcap feats.
He met Corporal Will Gingell, 33, and Corporal Jamie Thompson, 31, who ran 1,664 miles over 100 days.
Cpl Gingell said on the day: “I think he was pretty upbeat, considering the weather and considering he’s 96. He was chatty, he seemed happy to be there and was interested in what we’d done.”
Cpl Thompson said the duke was amazed by their efforts: “He pretty much thought we were mad for running that distance.”
The duke also chatted to Sergeant Matt Burley, a physical training instructor, who swam 1,664 lengths underwater over 10 days and Lieutenant Colonel Aldeiy Alderson, who ran 100km in 12 hours wearing his Royal Marines uniform and polished boots.
Lieutenant Colonel Gary Green, who devised the 1664 Global Challenge, said at the time: “This day is hugely historic when you look back at when the duke became Captain General in 1953, 64 years later this is his last [solo] event in public.”
PA photographer Yui Mok’s most enduring memory of Philip’s final engagement is of his stoicism in the torrential rain.
“I was worried about my camera getting wet and if it would survive the weather,” he said.
“The duke came out in his bowler hat and his trench coat and he was very matter of fact about it.
“He was 95 and he was braving the elements, but there was no fuss and he just got on with it and did the engagement, which was very fitting of his stoic demeanour.”
Philip had a reputation for not always being the easiest royal to photograph.
“He just wanted to sit for as little time as possible for portraits, but if you were efficient and quick he was happy with that,” Mr Mok said.
At the end, Philip gave a debonair doff of his bowler hat after receiving the Royal Salute and a quick wave to the crowd before heading back inside, his royal service finally over.
“That was his character – no fuss, no airs and graces,” Mr Mok said.