Philip's step back means others will step up

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Their son and heir, Prince Charles, and grandsons Princes William and Harry are likely to take on additional royal duties to step in for Prince Philip at public engagements from later this year.

Prince Philip has joked about his advanced years at a palace reception hours after officials announced his retirement from public duties.

The prince, also known as The Duke of Edinburgh, made the decision himself and "has the full support of the Queen", who will continue to fulfill her duties, supported by other members of the royal family.

Philip saw the amusing side of the announcement when he met mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah at a reception for members of the Order of Merit at St James's Palace.

Prime Minister Theresa May offered the country's "deepest gratitude and good wishes" to Philip on his retirement.

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"I can't stand up much", quipped the prince, whose off-the-cuff remarks have sometimes landed him in hot water.

As Prince Philip, who turns 96 next month, gets ready for more leisure time (maybe some carriage driving or a spot of reading), he will still be there for advice and support, and the odd public event.

The prince will continue with his previously scheduled engagements through August.

But Buckingham Palace stressed he may decide to attend certain events from time to time.

Prince Philip has been ever present at his wife's side since she took the throne in 1952.

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Both the queen and Philip have suffered some health issues in recent years.

"From his steadfast support for Her Majesty the Queen to his inspirational Duke of Edinburgh Awards and his patronage of hundreds of charities and good causes, his contribution to our United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the wider world will be of huge benefit to us all for years to come", the statement said.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1947. But the queen emphasised his importance in a 1997 speech marking their golden wedding anniversary, saying he "has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years".

Staff for the royal family were called to London on Wednesday for a household meeting from the various residences they maintain for the Crown.

Members at the event on Thursday included former Australian prime minister John Howard, TV presenter Sir David Attenborough, artist David Hockney, the former Commons speaker Betty Boothroyd and entrepreneur James Dyson.

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The announcement followed a meeting of royal staff from around Britain, which prompted speculation about the health of the Queen and her husband.