Prince Philip is to stand down from royal duties for good, it was announced today (Thursday 4 May).

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Princess Elizabeth (future Queen Elizabeth II), Philip Mountbatten (also the Duke of Edinburgh), Queen Elizabeth (future Queen Mother), King George VI and Princess Margaret pose in the Buckingham Palace on July 09, 1947 in London, the day the engagement of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten was officially announced Getty

His retirement was revealed when the Queen's most senior aides were ordered to attend a special meeting at Buckingham Palace in London – led by William Peel, the Lord Chamberlain. Those at the 10am meeting were told that the Duke would be retiring in September.

Ahead of the meeting, the rumour mill went into overdrive over what it could be about.

Prince Philip – who turns 96 on 10 June – has been a few steps behind the Queen for the majority of their engagements since they wed on 20 November 1947.

The decision to retire was made by Prince Philip himself and is supported by the Queen, who recently turned 91, a palace spokesman said. The palace said that the Queen "will continue to carry out a full programme of official engagements".

Prince Philip conducted 110 days of engagements in 2016 which made him the fifth busiest member of the royal family, Court Circular listings claim.

He is a keen sports enthusiast and serves as patron of 780 organisations, serving as chairman of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme for people aged 14 to 24. He still plans to be associated with them in his retirement.

He will however "no longer play an active role by attending engagements," the palace claims.

The Duke is the longest-serving consort of a reigning British monarch, and the oldest-ever male member of the British royal family.

Born in Corfu, Greece, Philip was the tall, handsome and blond naval officer who began corresponding with the 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth who he first met in 1934.

During the Second World War he served with the Mediterranean and Pacific fleets.

He is father to four children with the Queen; Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.

Philip left active military service when Elizabeth became Queen in 1952, having reached the rank of commander, to focus on royal and family duties. He was formally made a Prince of the United Kingdom in 1957.

In November, he and the Queen will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.

Full statement from the Royal Family regarding Prince Philip's retirement:

His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has decided that he will no longer carry out public engagements from the autumn of this year. In taking this decision, The Duke has the full support of The Queen.

Prince Philip will attend previously scheduled engagements between now and August, both individually and accompanying The Queen. Thereafter, The Duke will not be accepting new invitations for visits and engagements, although he may still choose to attend certain public events from time to time.

The Duke of Edinburgh is Patron, President or a member of over 780 organisations, with which he will continue to be associated, although he will no longer play an active role by attending engagements.

Her Majesty will continue to carry out a full programme of official engagements with the support of members of the Royal Family.

Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh
The Duke of Edinburgh is 95 Phil Noble/Reuters