The Duke of Edinburgh may rarely be seen in public these days but he showed he has lost none of his mischievous sense of humour when he joked with a soldier about his fitness levels.
Philip shared a chuckle with Lance Corporal Colin Streetin, 33, when he attended a Windsor Castle ceremony to formally hand over his role as Colonel-in-Chief of the infantry regiment The Rifles to the Duchess of Cornwall.
Philip has been closely associated with The Rifles and its earlier regiments for almost 70 years.
The duchess took part in the second half of the ceremony almost 100 miles away, at her Highgrove home in Gloucestershire.
The Rifles’ Colonel Commandant, General Sir Patrick Sanders, said: “We feel it’s a bittersweet day because we’re enormously proud of our association with the Duke of Edinburgh, who has been the most amazing Colonel-in-Chief, and we’ve really flourished under his tenure.
“But it’s also really special to have the Duchess of Cornwall coming in because she has a long association with The Rifles.”
The sprightly duke carefully walked down the steps of Windsor Castle’s Equerries’ Entrance to meet four buglers from the Band and Bugles of The Rifles during the ceremony.
L/Cpl Streetin said afterwards that Philip quizzed him about his other roles when not playing the bugle and he highlighted his work as an assault pioneer, providing engineering support to frontline troops.
He added: “But he looked me up and down and I thought ‘Are you trying to say I’m fat?’ – that’s what we were laughing about.”
The ceremony was the highest profile official public engagement Philip has attended since his farewell retirement event in August 2017, when he met Royal Marines in Buckingham Palace’s forecourt.
He has been seen at royal weddings – including the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s nuptials in 2018 and Princess Beatrice’s recent big day – held various private audiences over the years and was recently featured with the Queen in pictures to mark his 99th birthday on June 10.
The open-air ceremony was staged on the castle steps overlooking the quadrangle and the duke, who was treated in hospital last December for a pre-existing but undisclosed condition, looked well.
Dressed in a suit and wearing The Rifles regimental tie, Philip returned the salute of the Assistant Colonel Commandant, Major General Tom Copinger-Symes who highlighted it was Salamanca Day, the annual regimental day.
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.”
The duke had been Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles since its formation in 2007, but his connection stretched back further, as he has served in the same role since 1953 with successive regiments which now make up The Rifles.
After chatting to the four buglers taking part in the ceremony the duke was off following a wave and a “thank you”, and he walked back inside the castle.
Major General Copinger-Symes said they could not have been “more lucky” in having the duke as their Colonel-in-Chief, and highlighting some of his qualities added: “The ability to make an instant connection with Riflemen, whether junior or senior, of all ranks.
“And just to be able to put them at their ease and get the best from them and leave them feeling like they’re the only person in the room – or indeed the quadrangle of Windsor Castle – which you saw in the eyes of the buglers.”
The ceremony continued at Highgrove House, near Tetbury, where Camilla was addressed by The Rifles’ Colonel Commandant, General Sir Patrick Sanders, who welcomed the duchess as the new Colonel-in-Chief.
The brief ceremony was concluded when four buglers sounded The Rifles Regimental Call and The Advance.
Camilla wore a Rifles brooch to mark the occasion and was dressed in a bespoke bottle green dress with black trim, modelled on the Rifles uniform and featuring the same buttons, with a bugle motif, as stitched to the soldiers’ tunics.
The duchess has been Royal Colonel of 4th Battalion The Rifles since 2007 and will continue to hold the position.
Afterwards, she met the buglers and a small party from 4th Battalion The Rifles, before holding a private meeting with General Sanders.
The duchess supported the Battalion during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, writing to next of kin, sending letters to the injured, and meeting families – as well as attending traditional medals parades.