Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, KG, GCVO, CD, ADC(P) (Edward Antony Richard Louis; born 10 March 1964)[2] is the youngest of four children and the third son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. At the time of his birth, he was third in line of succession to the British throne; as of July 2019, he is 11th. The Earl is a full-time working member of the British royal family and supports the Queen in her official duties – often alongside his wife, the Countess of Wessex – as well as undertaking public engagements for many of his own charities. In particular he has assumed many duties from his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, who retired from public life in 2017. Prince Edward succeeded Prince Philip as president of the Commonwealth Games Federation (vice-patron since 2006) and opened the 1990 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand and the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia. He has also taken over the Duke's role in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award.

Prince Edward
Earl of Wessex (more)
The Earl in Belfast, February 2015
Born (1964-03-10) 10 March 1964
Buckingham Palace, London, England
Full name
Edward Antony Richard Louis[lower-alpha 1]
FatherPrince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
MotherElizabeth II

Early life and education

Prince Edward was born on 10 March 1964, at Buckingham Palace, London,[3] as the third son, and the fourth and youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. He was baptised on 2 May 1964 in the private chapel at Windsor Castle[4] by the Dean of Windsor, Robin Woods.[lower-alpha 2]

As with his older siblings, a governess was appointed to look after Edward and was responsible for his early education at Buckingham Palace before he attended Gibbs School in Kensington. In September 1972, he joined Heatherdown School, near Ascot in Berkshire. Then, as his father and elder brothers had done before him, he moved to Gordonstoun, in northern Scotland, and was appointed Head Boy in his last term. Edward obtained a C-grade and two D-grades at A-level,[6] and after leaving school spent a gap year abroad, working as a house tutor and junior master for two terms at the Wanganui Collegiate School in New Zealand.[7][8]

Upon his return to Britain, Edward matriculated at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he read history. His admission to Cambridge caused some controversy, since his A-level grades were far below the standard normally required for Oxbridge entrance, "straight As".[9] Edward graduated in 1986 as BA (lower second class honours).[10]


Royal Marines

In 1986, on leaving university, Prince Edward joined the Royal Marines, who had paid £12,000 towards his tuition at Cambridge University on condition of future service.[11]

In January 1987, however, Prince Edward dropped out of the gruelling commando course after having completed just one-third of the 12-month training. Media reported that the move prompted a berating from Prince Philip who "reduced his son to prolonged tears".[12] Later, others claimed that Philip was in fact the most sympathetic family member and that he understood his son's decision.[13]

Theatre and television

After leaving the Marines, Edward opted for a career in entertainment. He commissioned the 1986 musical Cricket from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, for his mother's 60th birthday celebration, which led to a job offer at Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Theatre Company, where he worked as a production assistant on musicals such as The Phantom of the Opera, Starlight Express, and Cats. His duties reportedly involved making tea for the artistic staff.[14] While there he met actress Ruthie Henshall, whom he dated for three years.

Edward's first foray into television production was the programme The Grand Knockout Tournament, informally known as It's a Royal Knockout, on 15 June 1987, in which four teams sponsored by him, Princess Anne and the Duke and Duchess of York competed for charity. The media attacked the programme; it was later reported that the Queen was not in favour of the event and that her courtiers had all advised against it.[15]

Ardent Productions

In 1993, Edward formed the television production company Ardent Productions.[16] Ardent was involved in the production of a number of documentaries and dramas,[17] but Edward was accused in the media of using his royal connections for financial gain,[18] and the company was referred to by some industry insiders as "a sad joke" due to a perceived lack of professionalism in its operations. Andy Beckett, writing in The Guardian, opined that "to watch Ardent's few dozen hours of broadcast output is to enter a strange kingdom where every man in Britain still wears a tie, where pieces to camera are done in cricket jumpers, where people clasp their hands behind their backs like guardsmen. Commercial breaks are filled with army recruiting advertisements".[19]

Ardent's productions were somewhat better received in the United States[20] and a documentary Edward made about his grand-uncle, Edward VIII (the late Duke of Windsor) in 1996,[17] sold well worldwide.[21] Nonetheless, the company reported losses every year it operated save one when Edward did not draw a salary.[16] An Ardent two-man film crew was alleged to have invaded the privacy of his nephew Prince William in September 2001, when he was studying at the University of St Andrews, against industry guidelines regarding the privacy of members of the royal family;[22] William's father, Charles, Prince of Wales, was reportedly angered by the incident.[23] In March 2002, Edward announced that he would step down as production director and joint managing director of Ardent[16] to concentrate on his public duties and to support the Queen during her Golden Jubilee year. Ardent Productions was voluntarily dissolved in June 2009, with assets reduced to just £40.[24]


Edward met Sophie Rhys-Jones, then a public relations executive with her own firm, in 1994.[25] Their engagement was announced on 6 January 1999. Edward proposed to Sophie with an Asprey and Garrard engagement ring worth an estimated £105,000: a two-carat oval diamond flanked by two heart-shaped gemstones set in 18-carat white gold.[26]

Their wedding took place on 19 June 1999 in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. This was a departure from the weddings of his elder brothers, which were large, formal events at Westminster Abbey or St Paul's Cathedral, and had ended in divorce. On his wedding day, Prince Edward was created Earl of Wessex, with the subsidiary title of Viscount Severn (derived from the Welsh roots of the Countess's family),[27][28] breaking from a tradition whereby sons of the sovereign were created royal dukes. It was however revealed that the Queen wished that he be elevated from the rank of Earl to Duke of Edinburgh after that dukedom, held by Prince Philip since 1947, reverts to the Crown[2] (after the death of the current Duke and the Queen[29]), and for his children to be styled as the children of an Earl, rather than as prince/ss and royal highness.[30]

He and his wife have two children: Lady Louise Windsor, born 8 November 2003, and James, Viscount Severn, born 17 December 2007, and they reside at Bagshot Park in Surrey. While their private residence is Bagshot Park, their office and official London residence is based at Buckingham Palace.[31]


The Earl of Wessex has assumed many duties from his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, who has been reducing commitments due to his age. Prince Edward succeeded Prince Philip as president of the Commonwealth Games Federation (vice-patron since 2006) and opened the 1990 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand and the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia. He has also taken over the duke's role in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, attending Gold Award ceremonies around the world.[32]

The Earl and Countess of Wessex established their foundation The Wessex Youth Trust in 1999, with a focus on helping, supporting and advancing registered charities which provide opportunities specifically for children and young people.[33] His patronages include: the British Paralympic Association,[34] the International Real Tennis Professionals Association,[35] the Commonwealth Games Federation,[36][37] BadmintonScotland,[38] the Tennis and Rackets Association,[39] City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus,[40][41] London Mozart Players,[42] Haddo House Choral and Operatic Society,[43] Northern Ballet,[44][45] the Edinburgh International Festival,[46] and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.[47]

In September 2007, the Earl visited Israel in his capacity as chair of the International Council of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award to attend a number of events organised by the Israel Youth Award program, an affiliate of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award which was founded by his father to recognise adolescents and young adults for completing a series of self-improvement exercises.[48] Edward was himself a recipient of the award's gold medal in 1986 for "a 60-mile, four-day trek from Blair Atholl to Tomintoul" that he had planned.[49] Edward later went on to become the chair of the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award,[50] and has promoted its work on different occasions.[51][52][53][54] In addition to being the chair of the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Foundation, Edward is also a trustee of the International Award Association, which "encompasses the DofE UK and all its other 61 National Award Authorities across the globe".[55] He was also chair of its international council and in 1999 founded the International Special Projects Group "to provide a capital fund to broaden the reach of the Award".[56]

In June 2011, Edward visited Baltimore to meet the students and staff of the Living Classrooms Foundation and encourage them to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award's programme.[57] In December 2011, the Earl and Countess of Wessex visited troops in Afghanistan. On the same trip, the royal couple visited Bahrain, and received two gifts of jewels from the Bahraini royal family and Prime Minister. Given concern about human rights abuses in Bahrain, this gift attracted controversy, with calls for the jewels to be sold, and the proceeds used for the benefit of the Bahraini people.[58] In February and March 2012, the couple visited the Caribbean for the Diamond Jubilee. The itinerary consisted of Saint Lucia; Barbados, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Grenada; Trinidad and Tobago; Montserrat; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda. Highlights included Independence Day celebrations in Saint Lucia,[59] addressing Senate and Assembly of Barbados jointly,[60] and a visit to sites affected by the volcanic eruptions in Montserrat.

In 2013, the couple visited South Africa.[61] The Queen appointed the Earl of Wessex as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for 2014.[62][63] In 2015, for his contributions to projects associated with badminton, Edward was awarded the President's Medal by the Badminton World Federation President Poul-Erik Hoyer.[64] In May 2016, the Earl visited Ghana. Alongside President Mahama, he presented young people with the Head of State Awards for their participation in the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Scheme.[65] In September 2016, Edward travelled to Chile as a part of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award's diamond anniversary, and visited projects by British and Commonwealth Fire and Rescue Company and Chilean-British Culture University, of which he is an honorary member and patron respectively.[66] The Earl and Countess of Wessex represented the Queen at the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's Accession to the Throne of Brunei in October 2017.[67] In February 2018, the Earl and Countess toured Sri Lanka, participating in the 70th Independence Day celebrations in Colombo.[68][69] In April 2018, the Earl visited Australia to attend the XXI Commonwealth Games and attend fundraising events for those participating in the Duke of Edinburgh Award challenges.[70][71]

After twenty years, the Wessex Youth Trust is reverting to its previous name – The Earl and Countess of Wessex Charitable Trust – and will be managed by the Private Office of the Earl and Countess of Wessex. There will be no change to the Trust's broad charitable objectives: it will focus on developing sustainable relationships with a range of selected partner charities and will expand its remit beyond supporting children and young people.[72]

In July 2019, the Earl and Countess visited Forfar on their first official visit to the town since the Queen granted the Earl the additional title Earl of Forfar in March 2019.[73] The Earl was presented with 'Earl of Forfar' tartan, which has been designed to celebrate their new titles by town firm the Strathmore Woollen Company. The weave is based on the existing Forfar tartan, which the company designed in 2004 around the colours on the Forfar coat of arms. The geometry remains virtually the same, but the colours have been strengthened, with Azure blue replaced by the St Andrew's blue of the Scottish flag, and white yarns replaced by a brown to reflect the rich agriculture of the surrounding area.[74][75][76]

Titles, styles, honours, and arms

Titles and styles

  • 10 March 1964 – 19 June 1999: His Royal Highness The Prince Edward
  • 19 June 1999 – present: His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex[77]
    • in Scotland: 10 March 2019 – present: His Royal Highness The Earl of Forfar[78][79]

Before Edward's marriage in 1999, royal commentators conjectured that former royal dukedoms such as Cambridge or Sussex might be granted to him. Instead, the Palace announced the intention that Prince Edward would eventually be created Duke of Edinburgh, once that title had reverted to The Crown upon the death of both his parents.[80][lower-alpha 3]

On his marriage in 1999, the prince was ennobled in keeping with tradition, however he was the first prince since the Tudors to be known as an earl rather than a duke (while reserving the rank of duke for the future).[81] The Sunday Telegraph reported that he was drawn to the Earldom of Wessex after watching the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love, in which a character with that title is played by Colin Firth.[82]

On 10 March 2019, on his 55th birthday, the Earl of Wessex was granted the additional title of Earl of Forfar for use in Scotland.[78][79][83]



Military appointments

Honorary military appointments
United Kingdom

Civic appointments

Academic appointments

Honorary degrees


Coat of arms of the Earl of Wessex
The Earl's personal coat of arms is that of the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom with a label for difference
The coronet of a son of the sovereign Proper, thereon a lion statant gardant Or crowned of the same coronet charged with a label as in the arms.
Quarterly, 1st and 4th Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or armed and langed Azure, 2nd Or a lion rampant Gules armed and langued Azure within a double tressure flory counterflory of the Second, 3rd Azure a harp Or stringed Argent
Dexter, a lion rampant gardant Or imperially crowned Proper; Sinister, a unicorn Argent, armed, crined and unguled Or, gorged with a coronet Or composed of crosses pattées and fleurs de lis a chain affixed thereto passing between the forelegs and reflexed over the back also Or
The Order of the Garter circlet.
Honi soit qui mal y pense
(Shame be to him who thinks evil of it)
Other elements
The whole differenced by a label of three points Argent the central point charged with a Tudor rose.
The Royal Standard of the United Kingdom labelled for difference as in his arms. (In Scotland: )
As with the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom. The first and fourth quarters are the arms of England, the second of Scotland, the third of Ireland.

Personal flag for Canada

Since 2014, the Earl of Wessex has a personal heraldic flag for use in Canada. It is the Royal Arms of Canada in banner form defaced with a blue roundel surrounded by a wreath of gold maple leaves, within which is a depiction of an "E" surmounted by a coronet. Above the roundel is a white label of three points, the centre one charged with a Tudor rose.[96][97]


See also


    1. Edward does not usually use a family name but when one is needed, it is Mountbatten-Windsor.[1]
    2. Edward's godparents were: Prince Richard of Gloucester (his mother's cousin); the Duchess of Kent (his mother's cousin-in-law, for whom Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, his mother's aunt, stood proxy); Princess George William of Hanover (his aunt); the Prince of Hesse and by Rhine (his first cousin twice removed); and the Earl of Snowdon (his uncle).[5]
    3. The Earl of Wessex would not automatically succeed his father, as titles are passed to the eldest son; hence, the current Prince of Wales would succeed the present Duke. Once the Prince of Wales succeeds to the throne, any titles he has inherited (or will later inherit, if the current Duke is still alive) from his father will merge with the Crown, and he will be free to re-create the Dukedom of Edinburgh


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    Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
    Born: 10 March 1964
    Lines of succession
    Preceded by
    Princess Eugenie of York
    Succession to the British throne
    11th in line
    Followed by
    Viscount Severn
    Peerage of the United Kingdom
    New creation Earl of Wessex
    James, Viscount Severn
    Earl of Forfar
    Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
    Preceded by
    The Duke of York
    The Earl of Wessex
    Followed by
    The Duke of Cambridge
    in current practice
    Followed by
    The Duke of Sussex
    Academic offices
    Preceded by
    The Lord Tugendhat
    Chancellor of the University of Bath

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