How Prince Phillip was mistakenly killed off online

The Duke of Edinburgh will retire from public life later this year. Picture: PA
The Duke of Edinburgh will retire from public life later this year. Picture: PA
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It was Mark Twain who famously wrote to a journalist to explain reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated.

More than a century later and mistaken death notices have, thanks to the never-ending cycle of online news, become a semi-regular occurrence.

Today it was Prince Philip’s turn. An official announcment from Buckingham Palace confirmed the Duke of Edinburgh had, at the age of 95, decided to retire from public duties.

Philip, however, remains very much alive and met with members of the public this afternoon.

But reports last night that a major staff meeting would be held at the palace at 10am this morning prompted more than one news site to momentarily lose its editorial judgment.

A story headlined “Prince Philip dead at 95, how did the Duke of Edinburgh die, etc etc” briefly appeared on The Sun website at 8am this morning, prompting a storm of reaction among social media users.

The story read: “Prince Philip, otherwise known as the Duke of Edinburgh, was the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.”

READ MORE: Sturgeon praises Prince Philip’s humour and devotion to duty

A spokesman for The Sun later told the Daily Mail that a reporter had been asked to update an obituary for Prince Philip when it was accidentally published online.

But it wasn’t just the London-based tabloid that dropped the ball - several French media outlets followed suit.

Taking a slightly different angle on the story - but one still equally wrong - was a UK correspondent for an Australian news channel. Standing outside the palace, he confidently announced at 7pm local time that the Queen was stepping down from her duties.

The real reasons for the Duke’s retirement were outlined in an official statement release by the palace.

“His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has decided that he will no longer carry out public engagements from the autumn of this year,” it said.

“In taking this decision, the Duke has the full support of the Queen. Prince Philip will attend previously scheduled engagements between now and August, both individually and accompanying the Queen.

“Thereafter, the Duke will not be accepting new invitations for visits and engagements, although he may still choose to attend certain public events from time to time.

“The Duke of Edinburgh is Patron, President or a member of over 780 organisations, with which he will continue to be associated, although he will no longer play an active role by attending engagements.

“Her Majesty will continue to carry out a full programme of official engagements with the support of members of the Royal Family.”