The 99-year-old Duke of Edinburgh carried out a rare public engagement at Windsor Castle today, handing over a long-standing military role to The Duchess of Cornwall.
Prince Philip appeared at Windsor Castle, where he has been in isolation with The Queen since March, to formally pass on his role as Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles to his daughter-in-law, Camilla.
Since his retirement, Prince Philip has stayed largely out of the public eye. He has only appeared publicly for a few family occasions, like Christmas Day, and less than a handful of engagements.
In high spirits, the Prince shared a laugh with Lance Corporal Colin Streetin, as he met with four buglers from the Rifles’ Band and Buglers during the ceremony, which lasted for only three minutes. The laugh stemmed from a conversation where the Duke asked the Corporal if he was keeping up his fitness, to which the Corporal replied: “Are you trying to say I am fat?”
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Philip has been Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles since 2007, but his involvement with the regiments stretches back nearly 70 years. The Rifles was officially formed in 2007 from a merger of four other regiments, which can trace their history back to 1685.
During the short ceremony, Assistant Colonel Commandant, Major General Tom Copinger-Symes, offered the salute before thanking Philip for his support and service to The Rifles and their forming Regiments.
He said: “Your Royal Highness, Colonel-in-Chief, good morning. And happy Salamanca Day.
“All Rifleman, whether serving or retired would like to thank you for 67 years of continuous service, support and leadership to the Rifles and to our forming and antecedent regiments. And on this occasion, as you hand over your duties, as Colonel-in-Chief to Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall, we would like to wish you fair wind and following seas.
“And with that, Sir, may I have your leave for the Bugle Major to sound the Rifle Call and No More Parades.”
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Salamanca Day is the annual regimental day. It commemorates the Battle of Salamanca during the Peninsula War in 1812, in which all four forming regiments of The Rifles fought together and were victorious against Napoleon’s army.
Four Buglers, of The Band and Bugles of The Rifles, then sounded The Rifles Assembly call, followed by the ‘No More Parades’ call, to mark The Duke of Edinburgh’s final ceremony as Colonel-in-Chief. And with that the ceremony at Windsor Castle ended and the ceremony at Highgrove House 100 miles away began.
The Duchess of Cornwall’s arrival was marked by four Buglers of The Band and Bugles of The Rifles sounding The Rifles Assembly. The Duchess wore a dress modelled on the Riffles’ uniform, in forest green, and the buttons on the dress featured bugles on them – the same buttons that are worn on the soldier’s tunics. She accessorised with her Rifles badge brooch.
The Duchess was addressed by Colonel Commandant, General Sir Patrick Sanders, who welcomed her as the regiment’s new Colonel-in-Chief. The Rifles Regimental Call and The Advance were then sounded, after which Camilla met the Buglers and a small party from 4th Battalion The Rifles.
Following the short ceremony, the Duchess retreated into her Gloucestershire home for an audience with General Sanders.
The Duchess has a history with The Riffles. Since 2007 she has been Royal Colonel of 4th Battalion The Rifles, and she will continue to hold the position. Her father, Major Bruce Shand served with the 7th Infantry Brigade, also known as the Desert Rats, and two battalions of The Riffles today form part of that Brigade. Camilla is also patron of The Desert Rats Association.
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The Duke of Edinburgh will no doubt be packing his bags now to travel with The Queen to Balmoral for their annual summer break there.
Camilla recently spent nearly three months at nearby Birkhall during lockdown, in which Prince Charles contracted coronavirus.