Prince Philip to step down from public duties

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'Prince Philip will attend previously scheduled engagements between now and August, both individually and accompanying The Queen, ' the statement said.

"His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh decided that since the autumn of this year he will not be engaged in public Affairs".

The palace said the Duke would continue heading numerous charitable organizations although he "will no longer play an active role by attending engagements".

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Prince Philip, the husband of England's Queen Elizabeth II, will retire from royal duties this summer, Buckingham Palace announced Thursday.

Before he married Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip - born into Greek and Danish royal families - became a member of the Royal Navy after he was educated in France, Germany and the U.K. That explains why through the years he sometimes wore official military dress for certain events. Attention has been increasingly focused on her son Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, and on Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Meanwhile in Australia, the acting prime minister Barnaby Joyce was advised to turn his plane around en route to his home in Tamworth in anticipation of some kind of royal announcement. In 1986, he famously warned a group of British students in China not to stay in the country for too long lest they "come home slitty-eyed".

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Despite suffering from heart disease and other ailments in recent years, he has maintained a vigorous public schedule.

WATCH: Prince Philip provides another classic zinger.

Earlier in the day, a report by Britain's Daily Mail of an unusual meeting of royal household staff sparked a worldwide wave of speculation about the health of the queen and Philip, including incorrect reports that the flag atop Buckingham Palace had been lowered to half-mast. He has been by the queen's side during her 65-year reign, and they will celebrate 70 years of marriage in November.

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