It was supposed to be a few years of peace, quiet and time to himself after a very well-earned retirement.
When Prince Philip stepped down from royal duties at the age of 96 in August 2017, he had completed 22,219 solo engagements, 637 solo overseas visits and given almost 5,500 speeches since 1952.
“I reckon I’ve done my bit so I want to enjoy myself a bit now,” he said.
But the last few years of his life were to be anything but tranquil and he leaves the family he held together for so long facing its biggest challenges in decades.
It was unfortunately Philip himself who began what seems tobe a recent run of bad luck for the Windsors.
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In January 2019, the car enthusiast was leaving the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk when he was in a collision with a car driven by Emma Fairweather and carrying her nine-month-old baby.
The Prince’s Land Rover flipped on to its side, the window smashed and it was down to a passing motorist to help free him from the vehicle.
Ms Fairweather and her baby were treated in hospital and later discharged.
And while Philip sent her a letter to say he was “deeply sorry”, adding he was “somewhat shaken after the accident”, it was a PR nightmare.
The Prince subsequently gave up his licence to drive on public roads.
He would no longer be able to spend his days behind the wheel – except, of course, on the private roads of the royal estates.
The accident drew out the usual critics but as the dust settled, it became almost a metaphor for the car crash years ahead for the royals.
In November 2019, Prince Andrew’s much speculated-about friendship with convicted paedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was back in the headlines.
Andrew was accused by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, an alleged sex trafficking victim of Epstein, of having sex with her three times when she was 17.
Andrew vehemently denies the accusation.
Yet in a infamously disastrous interview with Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis, Andrew tried to defend his friendship with Epstein.
He has since stepped back from Royal life, but the FBI would still like to talk to him.
And as the trial of Epstein’s alleged right-hand woman Ghislaine Maxwell looms, there’s unease about how far Andrew will be drawn into the case.
Royal biographer Ingrid Seward understands Philip confronted Andrew.
“He thought Andrew behaved in the most ridiculous fashion,” she said. “But certainly Prince Philip would have absolutely rounded on Andrew and told him what a fool he was in no uncertain terms.”
Just as Philip had put out one fire, along came another. In December 2019, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex revealed they too would be stepping back as senior royals.
By the time Harry and Meghan’s declaration of independence was announced – against tradition – with the launch of their Sussex Royal website, Philip was apparently fuming.
He reportedly shouted: “What the hell are they playing at?”
Ingrid claims that Philip had initially been fond of Meghan because, like him, she was an outsider who married into the royal family
But he simply could not understand why the Duchess would not stay in the UK and make the sacrifice he had to support the monarchy.
Ingrid said: “He was baffled, completely baffled. Philip just thought that their dereliction of duty was appalling.”
Worse was to come, however. Only last month, as Philip spent his third week in hospital after a heart operation, Harry and Meghan’s explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey was broadcast around the world.
One can only imagine how he felt lying in hospital, knowing the world would now be speculating over the identity of the royal who Meghan said had raised “concerns” about how dark their baby’s skin might be, or the palace’s alleged lack of support for Meghan’s mental health.
Years of the royals living by the infamous “never complain, never explain” motto went out of the window, for better or worse, with one 90-minute interview and a bunch of rescue chickens.
But while Philip would have been burdened with the thought of leaving the Queen with a fractious family to heal, the past few years have also given him moments of joy.
In May 2018, there were cheers of delight when, just one month after a hip operation, he was able to walk unaided down the aisle of St George’s Chapel for Harry and Meghan’s nuptials.
He and the Queen posed together for his 99th birthday last June, and attended granddaughter Princess Beatrice’s private lockdown wedding to property tycoon Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.
Philip also had the rare chance to spend some precious time with his wife in lockdown, which they spent together at Windsor.
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And with the Sandringham festivities cancelled, Christmas was just the two of them. For the first time since Kenya in the early ‘50s, they were free of the pomp and circumstance of royal life.
Philip indulged his passion for the simpler things in life: fishing, writing letters, reading and watching his favourite cookery shows.
“He loves Mary Berry,” Ingrid said.
The Prince never got that peaceful retirement.
And for the first time, he will not be around to support the Queen as she faces one of her most difficult challenges to date – to unite the family.
But I suspect Philip’s wisdom and advice will never be far from her mind. So in a sense, even now he can still keep his most precious title: protector of the family.