Today, after 70 years of official Royal duties, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, retires from public life. Fittingly his last engagement is a military review, with the Royal Marines. For him and for us it is a moment for pause and reflection. It is the end of an era, a moment of change and transition.

At this time of year, the first week in August, Prince Philip is customarily on the Isle of Wight attending Cowes Week. In previous years the Royal Yacht would have been his base and providing the backdrop for the World’s most famous sailing competition. No idle spectator, for many years Prince Philip competed vigorously in the racing. He helped organise and run the event too. In more recent years he no longer competed but still came and supported the event, knowing how much his presence meant to the event. Prince Philip’s involvement in Cowes Week is a good example of his support for and participation in many different organisations and institutions – active support, practical participation, much behind the scenes encouragement.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards are the most high profile of his achievements. Hundreds of thousands of young people have benefitted from being involved in this initiative. It is a huge national and increasingly global success, but there are many other organisations that have benefitted from his support too. Above all else his involvement with the Armed Forces has been especially valuable and important.

A career officer in the Royal Navy Prince Philip was mentioned in Despatches for his work at the Battle of Matapan in World War Two. Having seen active service he has been able to build and maintain an immensely strong relationship with all three Armed Services. Much of this work – visiting, listening, writing letters, attending dinners and other events – is done privately, out of the public eye. His support and work is hugely appreciated and valued.

The most visible part of what the Prince has done is to walk two paces behind the Queen on visits and walkabouts, a constant presence and support. Even here he has done much, quietly, to make a difference. He often spots a young child in a waiting crowd who has been missed or overlooked and takes them over to meet the Queen. In public, as in private, he is thoughtful and kind. Those that know him often speak of his thoughtfulness and kindness.

Prince Philip’s retirement from public life hopefully will not be the last time we see him, but those occasions will be rarer. He has done the job in an exemplary fashion. He has set a standard of public service which is a model to those who follow – think of others, how best to make a difference, don’t talk about self, turn up on time, do your best.

Today, as he attends his last official function, is a moment to reflect on the remarkable contribution Prince Philip has made to our national life and to appreciate all he has done.