Queen makes Duke of Edinburgh head of
the Navy as 90th birthday gift
The Queen sprang a 90th birthday surprise on the Duke of Edinburgh yesterday by
making him Lord High Admiral, the titular head of the Royal Navy.
  by Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter
2:35PM BST 10 Jun 2011
 The Duke of Edinburgh in naval uniform on a boat in Malta in 1949. The Duke
served with the Mediterranean and Pacific fleets during
the Second World War Photo: GETTY

Her Majesty has held the title herself since a re-organisation of the Navy in 1964, but decided to bestow it on her husband as a gift to mark his landmark birthday and to show her gratitude for his unstinting support during 59 years as her consort.

A royal insider said the Duke was “really, really touched” by the honour, which the Queen told him about during a private birthday lunch for two at Buckingham Palace.
“The Duke’s great passion in life was the Royal Navy,” said the insider, “so this it’s just the most amazing gift for the Queen to have given him. It was a complete surprise and he only found out about it when the Queen told him during their lunch.”
The title is a particularly fitting gift for the Duke, who served with the Mediterranean and Pacific fleets during the Second World War, and will be seen as a recognition by the Queen of the sacrifice her husband made by giving up his Naval career to be her full-time consort when she became monarch in 1952.
Some of the Duke’s colleagues believed he had the talent to become First Sea Lord, the professional head of the Royal Navy, and in a recent ITV interview he admitted it had been “disappointing” to have to leave active service.
“I had just been promoted to commander and the fact was that the most interesting part of my Naval career was just starting,” said the Duke, who joined the Navy at the age of 18.
The office of the Lord High Admiral dates from the 14th century, when the English Navy was consolidated into a single fighting unit. The position was held on commission until 1628, when it became an honorary title, with policy matters being delegated to a Board of Commissioners.
It later fell out of use but was re-vested in the sovereign during a review of the Navy's structure in 1964, and has remained in the Queen's gift ever since.
An official ceremony will be held at a date yet to be announced, when the Duke is expected to be presented with two symbols of office – a 350-year-old verge, or staff, and an oak casket containing the Lord High Admiral’s flag, which currently hangs in the Naval church of St Martin in the Field.
The Duke treated his 90th birthday yesterday as a normal working day, hosting a reception at Buckingham Palace for the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, of which he is patron, to mark its centenary.
He was presented with a pair of ear defenders by the charity, and joked: “Can you get Radio 3 on this?”
Invited guests, who included famous supporters of the charity such as the historian Dr David Starkey and the former MP Ann Widdecombe, sang Happy Birthday to the Duke, who looked a little embarrassed and reminded them that they were there to celebrate the charity’s birthday, not his.
He said: "What I just want to do is to welcome you all here on this 100th birthday party - 100th you'll notice, not 90th - and say what a great pleasure it is to see you all here.”
During the daily changing of the guard, tourists outside the Palace joined in the celebrations by singing along as the Band of the Irish Guards played Happy Birthday.
The milestone was also marked by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery who fired a 41-gun salute from nearby Hyde Park.
Mohammed Fayed wasn't invited.
Sorry! I read Private Eye....
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