Prince Philip takes part in rare official public engagement at Windsor Castle

Video report by ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship

Prince Philip has made a rare public appearance to carry out a unique ceremony – handing over a military role to the Duchess of Cornwall.For almost seven decades, Philip has been closely associated with The Rifles and its earlier regiments, acting as Colonel-in-Chief of the infantry unit.But the 99-year-old Queen’s consort, who retired from public duties in 2017, has now handed over his role to Camilla – while she was almost 100 miles away at her Highgrove home in Gloucestershire.

Amid extreme coronavirus social distancing, Philip was at Windsor Castle in Berkshire, while the duchess was in Gloucestershire.

During the Windsor ceremony, Philip was thanked for his 67 years of support for The Rifles, and their forming and antecedent regiments, by Assistant Colonel Commandant, Major General Tom Copinger-Symes.

And immediately afterwards at Highgrove, Camilla was welcomed as the new colonel-in-chief by The Rifles’ Colonel Commandant, General Sir Patrick Sanders.

After the ceremony, Camilla met the buglers and a small party from 4th Battalion The Rifles, before retiring for an audience with General Sir Patrick Sanders.

Royal Editor Chris Ship reports from Windsor Castle

At Windsor Castle, four buglers from the Band and Bugles of The Rifles were standing to attention when the duke – who served as a Royal Navy officer during the Second World War – arrived on the steps of the Equerries’ Entrance.

The duke went around and spoke to each bugler individually and to thank them for their service.

Speaking before the ceremony, General Sanders said: "We feel it’s a bittersweet day because we’re enormously proud of our association with the Duke of Edinburgh who has been the most amazing Colonel-in-Chief and we’ve really flourished under his tenure.

"But it’s also really special to have the Duchess of Cornwall coming in because she has a long association with The Rifles.

"She has been absolutely inspiring and the support that she’s given and the way that she sustained that through some quite difficult and bloody tours."

Philip was recently pictured with the Queen at Windsor to mark his 99th birthday in June, and at Princess Beatrice’s wedding on Friday.

He was last seen at a big event when he was a guest at Lady Gabriella Windsor’s wedding in May 2019.

The ceremony later on Wednesday will be Philip’s first engagement in more than a year.

Prince Philip was thanked for his 67 years of support for The Rifles.

In June 2019, he held an audience when he received General Sir Nicholas Carter who was relinquishing his appointment as Colonel Commandant of The Rifles.

On August 2 2017, he carried out his final official engagement as he retired from public duties.

Camilla was appointed Royal Colonel of 4th Battalion The Rifles in 2007 and will continue to hold this position.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi’s wedding Credit: Benjamin Wheeler/Princess Beatrice/PA

Philip’s links to The Rifles stretches back to 1953 when he was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of The Wiltshire Regiment (Duke of Edinburgh’s).