LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s Queen Elizabeth awarded her husband Prince Philip a new title as a 90th birthday present on Friday as he announced he would be winding down his activities after decades of official engagements.
Philip, renowned for his blunt talk and unguarded off-the-cuff remarks, spent his birthday as he has much of life performing duties in his role as the queen’s consort following their marriage in 1947.
“It’s a normal working day for him. There’s no celebration as such,” his spokeswoman said, although a military band played Happy Birthday outside Buckingham Palace and there was a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London.
To mark the occasion, his wife conferred the office of Lord High Admiral, the titular head of the Royal Navy, to Philip who served in the navy during World War Two, took part in the Allied landings in Sicily and was in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered in 1945.
Despite being a near constant companion at the queen’s side during her long reign, the still sprightly prince has rarely sought the limelight himself.
His birthday will be in keeping with that low-key style; he held a reception to mark the centenary of a charity for the deaf and in the evening he will chair a conference for senior British military figures followed by a dinner.
Philip is now the longest-serving consort and oldest-serving spouse of any British monarch and during those years he has supported hundreds of charities and causes.
However, in an interview with the BBC to mark his birthday, he said he would be stepping back from his official duties.
“I reckon I’ve done my bit so 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 said.
“On top of that, your memory’s going — I can’t remember names and things.”
It is for such direct comments and gaffes that Philip is best-known.
He once told British students in China: “If you stay here much longer, you’ll be slitty-eyed” and asked Aborigines in Australia if they still threw spears at each other.
Prime Minister David Cameron said Philip had always done things “in his own inimitable way, with a down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach that the British people I believe find endearing”.
While Philip has spent his life in the shadow of the queen, there is one place where he outshines his wife — on the south Pacific island of Tanna in the Vanuatu group, where the locals worship him as a god.
Editing by Paul Casciato