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Duke of Edinburgh meets oldest living land animal – Jonathan the tortoise

The Duke of Edinburgh meeting Jonathan (St Helena Diana Jarvis/PA)
The Duke of Edinburgh meeting Jonathan (St Helena Diana Jarvis/PA)

The Duke of Edinburgh has encountered the world’s oldest living land animal – Jonathan the 191-year-old giant tortoise.

Edward crouched down to meet Jonathan as the tortoise stretched his neck to take a closer look at the visiting royal on the remote South Atlantic island of St Helena.

Such is Jonathan’s age that he also met the duke’s late mother Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II, and grandparents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, in 1947 when he was 115 years old.

Jonathan takes a closer look at the visiting royal
Jonathan takes a closer look at the visiting royal (Diana Jarvis/PA)

In 1957, Prince Philip, the late Duke of Edinburgh, fed Jonathan – then 125 – during a trip to St Helena.

The Seychelles giant tortoise has outlived seven British monarchs, being born in the reign of William IV – with Charles III the eighth monarch of his lifespan so far.

He was brought to the island from the Seychelles in 1882 along with three other tortoises at about 50 years of age, and lives in the ground of Plantation House, the Governor’s residence.

Jonathan is thought to have hatched in 1832 and, although the exact date of his birth is unknown, his official 191st birthday was celebrated in December.

Princess Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and George VI and Queen Elizabeth with the tortoise in 1947
Princess Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and George VI and Queen Elizabeth with the tortoise in 1947 (St Helena/PA)

The duke is spending four days on the subtropical British Overseas Territory, opening its airport, meeting community leaders and learning about wildlife conservation efforts.

A public holiday was staged on the island on Wednesday to celebrate the visit by Edward, who is 14th in line to the throne.

He is the first royal to visit since the Princess Royal travelled there 22 years ago in 2002.

Governor Nigel Phillips described it as a “special occasion”, with the holiday “allowing the entire community to join this opportunity to celebrate all that is great about the culture and environment of this remarkable island”.

The overseas tour comes as the Princess of Wales remains in hospital after abdominal surgery, with the Prince of Wales stepping back temporarily from royal duties to care for her and their children, and while the King prepares to be admitted to undergo treatment for an enlarged prostate.

Edward admiring St Helena's famous resident
Edward admiring St Helena’s famous resident (Diana Jarvis/PA)

The duke and his wife the Duchess of Edinburgh, both 59, are the youngest members of Charles’s slimmed down working monarchy currently carrying out royal duties.

At just 47 square miles, St Helena is a third of size of the Isle of Wight and around the same size as Disney World Orlando.

Its nearest landmass is Ascension Island, which is 807 miles to the north west.