Entertainment Celebrity Royal Photo with the Queen to mark Prince Philip’s 99th birthday
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Photo with the Queen to mark Prince Philip’s 99th birthday

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Buckingham Palace has released the first photograph of Prince Philip in more than six months to mark his 99th birthday on Wednesday.

The Duke of Edinburgh is pictured with his wife, the Queen, in the grounds of Windsor Castle where the couple have been in lockdown since before Easter.

It is the first picture of Philip since he was snapped leaving a London hospital in December 2019. He had spent four nights in the private King Edward VII’s Hospital for treatment for a “pre-existing condition”.

The Queen and the Duke – who have been married 72 years – are likely to have spent more time under the same roof together for the coronavirus lockdown than they have in many years.

The Duke of Edinburgh retired from royal duties in 2017. Since then, he has spent much of his retirement at his cottage on the Sandringham estate, more than 150 kilometres away from the Queen, who was usually at Buckingham Palace or at Windsor.

But they were reunited Windsor three months ago for their safety after Philip was flown there by helicopter on March 19 ahead of Britain’s coronavirus lockdown.

Royal expert Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, said it was unusual for the couple to spend so much time together.

“This must be the longest they’ve been under the same roof for many years, I would say,” he told Britain’s PA news agency.

“But it’s an opportunity for them in their later years to reconnect.

“It is the perfect royal cocooning.”

The Queen and Philip are staying with a reduced household of about 20 staff, dubbed Operation HMS Bubble.

Little said the monarch and Philip most likely had lunch or dinner together each day while spending other time on separate interests.

Philip keeps himself busy reading, writing and painting, and even released a rare public statement in April – his first since his retirement – praising key workers and those making sure that essential services are kept running during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Queen riding a favourite pony at Windsor in May. Photo: Getty

As well as enjoying riding her fell ponies in Windsor Home Park, the Queen – the nation’s longest reigning monarch – has official duties to deal with, including her red boxes of papers and regular telephone audiences.

The success of the Queen and Philip’s long-lasting marriage has often been put down to their differing personalities.

“The Queen is a much more laid-back character, while the duke has never suffered fools gladly,” Little said.

“The Queen is much less confrontational so I suppose they are opposites in many ways, but clearly the chemistry has worked for them as they are now in the 73rd year of marriage. So that itself is quite remarkable.”

He said the Queen and duke had admitted tolerance was essential for their happy marriage.

“For them, perhaps it’s always been a case of absence makes the heart grow fonder. They would go through periods of not really seeing much of each other,” he said.

Little expected Philip’s birthday to be different, however.

“They will make a fuss of him on Wednesday, as much as you can make a fuss of the Duke of Edinburgh,” he said.

-with AAP