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Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip

After a lifetime of public service by the side of his wife Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip will finally retire on Wednesday at the age of 96.

The Duke of Edinburgh will attend a parade of Royal Marines at Buckingham Palace, the last of 22,219 solo public engagements since the Queen ascended to the throne in 1952.

He has attended countless more events with the Queen, now 91, offering his support and livening proceedings with a style of humor that often makes headlines, but has also eased many an awkward exchange.

Prince Philip will take the salute on Wednesday at the end of a charity challenge by the Royal Marines, in which members ran 2,678 kilometers over 100 days to mark the founding of the commando force in 1664. He has been captain general of the corps since 1953, taking over from the Queen's father, King George VI, who had died the year before.

The event also honors his military background - the duke was a naval officer during World War II and was marked out for a glittering career, before he gave it up on becoming the royal consort.

Over the past 65 years, he has carried out 637 visits abroad on his own, given almost 5,500 speeches, and was patron, president or a member of more than 780 organizations. He has a keen interest in scientific and technological research, was an early champion of the conservation movement, and his youth scheme the Duke of Edinburgh's Award has extended across the world.

"He may miss the activity, because he's been the busiest royal. Every year, he and [daughter] Princess Anne vie to which of them does more," one of his biographers, Gyles Brandreth, told BBC radio.

While Prince Philip's life had not turned out as expected, Brandreth said the duke once told him: "I tried to make the best of it ... I had to try to support the Queen as best I could, without getting in the way."

A palace spokeswoman said his individual program of public events had come to an end, but "he may choose to attend engagements alongside the queen from time to time."

Announcing his plans to retire in May, Philip joked that he was the "world's most experienced plaque-unveiler."

The prince's sense of humor has got him into trouble in the past, making headlines for politically incorrect jokes.