Only a 41 gun salute disturbs the peace as Philip celebrates last birthday before retiring

The Duke of Edinburgh speaking to guests at a garden party at Buckingham Palace
The Duke of Edinburgh speaking to guests at a garden party at Buckingham Palace
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The Duke of Edinburgh will celebrate his 96th birthday today, his last before he steps down from official duties, in private at Windsor Castle.

At noon, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery will ride their horses and gun carriages across the Parade Ground at Hyde Park, where they will stage a 41 gun royal salute in his honour.

Next weekend, Philip is expected to help the Queen celebrate her official 91st birthday at the annual Trooping the Colour parade.

After his retirement in the autumn, he may still appear occasionally at certain public events, but “will no longer play an active role by attending engagements”, Buckingham Palace announced.

Royal aides have said he is keen to enjoy more of his leisure time when he steps away from the limelight.

Among his favourite pursuits are carriage driving and painting in oils, signing each of his works with a Greek “P”

He also collects books - the Buckingham Palace library now has around 13,000 titles. Philip likes poetry and cookery volumes and books about birds, but is said not to enjoy novels.

He is also a food and drink aficionado, avoiding wine but enjoying the occasional beer or gin.

He joked about his advancing age and retirement when he attended his final Buckingham Palace presentation ceremony for his Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme in May.

He told the TV chef Prue Leith: “I’m discovering what it’s like to be on your last legs.”

The Duke, who is known for his no-nonsense approach and acerbic wit, is the longest serving consort in British history and also the oldest serving partner of a reigning monarch. He married the Queen two years after the end of the Second World War.

He avoided his own 90th birthday exhibition at Windsor Castle, claiming it was a lot of fuss about nothing.