Prince Philip celebrates 90th birthday

The Duke of Edinburgh, husband of the Queen, celebrates his 90th birthday Friday, and Buckingham Palace is inviting people to send their best wishes via email.

'I want to enjoy myself now,' says the Queen's consort

Prince Philip arrives on the eve of his 90th birthday to take the salute of the Household Division Beating Retreat on Horse Guards Parade in London. (Paul Edwards/Pool/Reuters)

The Duke of Edinburgh, husband of the Queen, celebrates his 90th birthday Friday, and Buckingham Palace is inviting people to send their best wishes via email.

In an interview with the BBC, Philip said he is "winding down" and reducing his workload as a member of the Royal Family.

"I reckon I've done my bit so I want to enjoy myself a bit now, with less responsibility, less frantic rushing about, less preparation, less trying to think of something to say," he said.

To mark Philip's milestone birthday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed him as an honorary admiral and general in Her Majesty’s Canadian Armed Forces.

It is the first time that such an honour has been granted at the highest level of the Canadian Armed Forces, which underscores its importance, Harper said in a news release.

Philip has had a close association with the Armed Forces since the Queen's coronation in 1953 and currently is Colonel-in-Chief of five Canadian regiments.

"On this important day, it is most appropriate for Canada to honour The Duke of Edinburgh for his outstanding record of service and dedication to the Canadian Armed Forces and to Canada over the past 58 years.  He is truly an inspiration to us all," Harper said.

Philip will spend his birthday today hosting a Buckingham Palace event for the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, which is marking its centenary.

A 62-gun salute in his honour will be fired by the Honourable Artillery Company in the afternoon.  

The Royal Mint is marking the occasion with a commemorative £5 coin featuring a portrait of Prince Philip on one side and the Queen on the other. It's the first time a reigning monarch and consort have appeared on opposite sides of a U.K. coin.

Born in Corfu

The Duke was born in 1921 on the island of Corfu as Prince Philip of Greece, but the Greek royal family was forced into exile in 1922 when Philip was 18 months old.

Despite his birthplace, he has no Greek ancestry. His family tree includes members of the royal families of Denmark, Germany, Russia and Britain.

His father was Prince Andrew of Greece, whose own father was the grandson of King Christian IX of Denmark. Philip's mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg, the eldest child of Prince Louis of Battenberg and the sister of Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

As a boy, he attended schools in England, Germany and Scotland before joining the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, England, as a cadet in 1939.

Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, and Prince Philip appear at Epsom Racecourse in southern England June 4. (Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters)

Through his uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten, the 18-year-old Philip was introduced to British royal circles. It was at this age he first met a 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth, his third cousin: both had Queen Victoria as a great-great-grandmother.

But as war broke out, he turned his attention to his naval career and quickly rose through the ranks. At the almost unprecedentedly young age of 21, he was appointed first lieutenant (second in command) of the destroyer HMS Wallace, which took part in the Allied landings at Sicily.

Courting a young princess

When he returned home in January 1946, Philip, who had kept in touch with Elizabeth, began courting the young princess. Their engagement was announced 18 months later.

Although most of the public embraced the union, some were unhappy with Philip's un-British origins and many began referring to him as "Phil the Greek." He silenced those critics when he became a British citizen in 1947 and renounced his Greek royal titles. He became Lt. Philip Mountbatten.

He and Elizabeth were married on Nov. 20, 1947, in Westminster Abbey in a wedding that helped boost British spirits still recovering from the war. He was designated a royal highness, created a knight of the Garter and awarded the title Duke of Edinburgh.

With files from The Canadian Press