Standing ramrod straight, splendid in military dress, on the eve of his 90th birthday, Prince Philip still has the dignified bearing and penetrating gaze that his admirers describe as that of "a bird of prey, a hawk or an eagle".The Duke of Edinburgh had been taking the salute at an annual military parade, watched by 4,000 people, in his capacity as the Colonel of the Grenadier Guards.
Held on London's Horseguards Parade the ceremony was first used in the 16th century to recall nearby patrolling units to their castle and is known as beating the retreat.Not that the Prince, a decorated war veteran, has plans to do any such thing. Instead, there will be an orderly winding down of , what has been up until now, tireless work for many charitable causes.In an interview marking his 90th, he told the BBC that he planned to "slow down"."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."On top of that your memory's going, I can't remember names and things."It's better to get out before you reach the sell-by date."It's typically plain speaking from the royal, whose friends and family say, is bemused by what he'd see as 'the fuss' over his milestone birthday.
Cards having come pouring in to Buckingham Palace wishing him well. The Royal Mint has also producing a £5 coin commemmorating the special day.It features the Queen on one side and her husband of 63 years on the other, marking the first time that a reigning monarch and a consort have appeared on opposite sides of a UK coin.But, despite his undoubted modesty about his achievements, the Prince looked genuinely touched by all the good wishes as he attended a champagne reception on Thursday.Which leads one to suspect that perhaps, the doughty royal is secretly content that his considerable achievements are being recognised after all this time.Philip: A life of service to Queen and countryHow a dashing naval officer wooed and wed Princess ElizabethDon't miss full coverage of Prince Philip's birthday celebrations in next week's HELLO! on sale Tuesday June 14