Rumours Elizabeth II will then pass the baton to her son, Prince Charles, who’d become prince regent, have been bubbling away for ages. Some royal observers who believe she’ll quit the throne at 95 point to the fact her husband, Prince Philip, announced his retirement from public life at that age. Other royal watchers feel Prince William, 38, would be a more popular monarch.
Late last year, the palace, in an attempt to kibosh the scuttlebutt, issued a statement emphasising that the Queen would remain boss of The Firm. “There are no plans for any change in arrangements at the age of 95 — or any other age,” the statement read, with not a small hint of defiance.
FIT AND ABLE
The view that the Queen is readying to retire is not one shared by royal author, Ingrid Seward, whose latest book, Prince Philip Revealed, sheds light on his incredible life – and his impressive 73-year partnership with the Queen.
“She won’t step down,” Seward emphatically tells New Idea Royals. “When she took her coronation vows, she did so in the eyes of God.
“She was crowned Queen as long as she was fit and able to be queen. Of course, she is still fit and able to be queen.”
While the Queen may not step down, there are already signs she is stepping back. “What we’ve seen during COVID is the gradual handing over of duties,” Ingrid says.
“In a way, it’s worked out slightly favourably for the monarchy. We’ve seen much more of Charles and Camilla and, because of her age, we’ve seen much less of the Queen.
“We have seen her on Zoom meetings and videos but we haven’t seen as much of her as we [normally] would.”
While the Queen’s step back from public life may be, as Ingrid says, “very gradual”, both she and Philip have been scaling back their commitments for some years.
In 2011, the Queen’s royal trip to Australia with Prince Philip, was dubbed her “farewell tour”. The trip took in a number of capital cities and even included an event called The Big Aussie BBQ. Ripper royals!
But the trip proved very taxing. “They said it nearly killed us going to Australia,” Ingrid says of the Queen and Philip. “The Queen was in her late 80s and that was when they stopped long-haul travel.”
LINE OF DUTY
At 21 – the same age as when she gave the stirring speech tying her to the monarchy – Princess Elizabeth married Philip, then 26, at Westminster Abbey.
Philip gave up his military career to serve alongside his wife. He is a man defined by a profound sense of duty. At the Queen’s Coronation Day in 1953, he said he’d be her “liege man of life and limb”, and they would go on to be a family of six, with their children Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward.
“Above all, Prince Philip is loyal,” the author says in Prince Philip Revealed. “He is loyal to his wife, the Queen and the institution of the monarchy – which they have both given up so much to support.”
She goes on to describe Philip as an “old-fashioned alpha male in a beta role”, because he’s always had to walk two steps behind his wife. He was ahead of his time with his thoughts on sustainability and his greatest legacy may be the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for young people.
But initially, it wasn’t easy for Philip, after unexpectedly becoming the Queen’s consort when she took the throne on February 6, 1952. “He did go into a very low state of mind at the very beginning because he was an also-ran,” Ingrid explains. “Everyone was concentrating on her and he didn’t matter anymore.”
So, how did Phil and Liz make their partnership such a success? “Philip decided to make a life for himself outside of the monarchy, but yet within it,” Ingrid says. “He started doing lot of charity work and travelling abroad. They had their own lives and that’s how they made it work.”
NOT HAPPY, HARRY
Given Prince Philip is such a man of duty, it’s perhaps no surprise he’s less than pleased by his grandson, Prince Harry, decision to quit as royals with wife, Meghan Markle.
“He feels that Harry had a really positive place in the succession,” the author says. “Philip thought, ‘What the hell is wrong? Why can’t he stick at this?’
“Philip gave up the thing he loved, which was the navy, in order to support his wife. He’s just saddened about Harry, really.”
Of course, Philip had quite a difficult relationship with his son, Charles. Ingrid says Charles “just wasn’t the kind of child he wanted”. Where Philip was brave and bold, Charles would be reticent and tended hide behind his nanny’s skirts – this wasn’t Philip at all.
“Everything he wanted Charles to do, Charles was unable to do,” she says.
PHILIP AND THE YOUNG DIANA
When Diana became one of the royal family, Philip took her under his wing. He sat next to her at dinner and helped her because he knew what it was like to be a newcomer. “She was a gorgeous girl,” says Ingrid, “and that always helps with Philip.”
When Charles and Diana’s marriage started to crumble like a cookie, Philip would write letters to her with messages like, “I can’t understand anyone leaving you for Camilla.”
Philip, says Ingrid, judged things very well with Diana, “until he didn’t, and she got furious with him and decided that she hated him”.
The author recalls having a conversation with Diana at Kensington Palace during which the English rose had it in for her former father-in-law. “She decided that Philip had a raft of illegitimate children and she was determined to find out who they were. She never did,” Ingrid says.
While there have always been stories of Philip being a notorious ladies’ man, there isn’t any evidence to suggest he cheated on the Queen. Ingrid admits Philip is a “flirt” and mentions various ladies he was rumoured to have affairs with, but as she says, none of them are any longer around to say whether or not anything actually happened.
STATE SEND OFF
Next year, in June, Philip will crack a century, and although he hates fuss, it’s likely the Queen will insist on one being made. Similarly, while Philip has said he doesn’t want a state funeral when the time eventually comes, the Queen will almost certainly see he is honoured with this.
“He has said, ‘I’ll be dead, I don’t care’,” Ingrid recounts of Philip’s thoughts on his funeral.
“For the Queen, it is important that he be sent off with as much style as she dare give him.
“I think people will be saddened and shocked when he goes. It will be the end of an era. Seventy-three years of marriage is just extraordinary. We won’t see the likes of this again.”