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Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Forfar

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Prince Edward
Earl of Wessex and Forfar (more)
Prince Edward at age 50
The Earl of Wessex in Belfast, February 2015
Born (1964-03-10) 10 March 1964 (age 58)
Buckingham Palace, London, England
Spouse
(m. 1999)
Issue
Names
Edward Antony Richard Louis[a]
HouseWindsor
FatherPrince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
MotherElizabeth II
Education
Signature
Signature of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.jpg

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Forfar,[2] KG, GCVO, CD, ADC (Edward Antony Richard Louis; born 10 March 1964)[3] is a member of the British royal family. He is the youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and the youngest sibling of King Charles III. Edward is 13th in line of succession to the British throne.

Born at Buckingham Palace, Edward studied at Heatherdown School and earned his A-levels at Gordonstoun before spending a part of his gap year teaching at the Whanganui Collegiate School in New Zealand. He studied at Jesus College, Cambridge, and graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1986 with a degree in history. After a brief stint in the Royal Marines, Edward worked as a theatre production assistant at the Really Useful Theatre Company before assisting in television production. He later formed his own company, Ardent Productions.

Edward stepped down from the company in 2002 to begin full-time duties as a working member of the royal family, and undertook engagements on behalf of the Queen. He holds patronage within over 70 charities and organisations, including the National Youth Theatre, the Sport and Recreation Alliance and the British Paralympic Association.[4] His charity work focuses on the arts, athletics, and the development of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, which centres around fitness, wellbeing and community service.

Edward was made Earl of Wessex prior to marrying Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999. The Earl and Countess of Wessex have two children: Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor and James Mountbatten-Windsor, Viscount Severn. Edward was given the additional title of Earl of Forfar in 2019.

Early life and education[edit]

Prince Edward and Prince Andrew with their parents, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, at the opening of the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada

Prince Edward was born at 8:20 p.m. on 10 March 1964 at Buckingham Palace, London,[5] as the third son and the fourth and youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His birth was the only one witnessed by his father.[6] He was baptised on 2 May 1964 in the private chapel at Windsor Castle.[7]

As with his three older siblings, Charles, Anne, and Andrew, a governess was appointed to look after Edward and was responsible for his early education at Buckingham Palace before he attended Collingham College, Kensington (then known as Gibbs School). In September 1972, he joined Heatherdown School, near Ascot in Berkshire. Later, 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 in English and two D-grades in history and politics at A-level,[8][9] 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.[10][11]

Upon his return to Britain, Edward studied at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he read History. His admission to Cambridge despite his A-Level results caused some controversy.[12] Edward graduated in 1986 with a BA degree (lower second class honours).[13]

Post-university[edit]

Royal Marines[edit]

Upon leaving university in 1986, Edward joined the Royal Marines, who had reportedly sponsored his tuition at Cambridge on condition of future service.[14] He had signed on to join the Marines in September 1983.[15] In January 1987, he dropped out of the commando course having completed one-third of the 12-month training. Media reported that Prince Philip, who was the Captain General Royal Marines, was displeased but Prince Edward later said that his father had not put undue pressure on him to change his mind. Others stated that Philip was the most sympathetic family member toward his son's decision. Buckingham Palace said that Prince Edward's decision came after "much consideration" and that he was leaving with great regret "but has concluded that he does not wish to make the service his long-term career".[12][16][17]

Theatre and television[edit]

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.[18] 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, the Princess Royal and the Duke and Duchess of York competed for charity. The programme was criticised by the media and the public, and it was later reported that the Queen was not in favour of the event, with her courtiers having advised against it.[19] The programme raised over £1,500,000 for its selected charities.[20]

Ardent Productions[edit]

In 1993, Edward formed the television production company Ardent Productions.[21] Ardent was involved in the production of a number of documentaries and dramas,[22] but Edward was accused in the media of using his royal connections for financial gain,[23] 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".[24]

Ardent's productions were better received in the United States[25] and a documentary Edward made about his great uncle, Edward VIII (the late Duke of Windsor) in 1996, sold well worldwide.[22][26] Nonetheless, the company reported losses every year it operated, with the exception of one when Edward did not draw a salary.[21] An Ardent two-man film crew later allegedly invaded the privacy of Edward's nephew, Prince William, in September 2001, when he was studying at the University of St Andrews, which went against industry guidelines regarding the privacy of members of the royal family;[27] William's father (Edward's elder brother Charles) was reportedly angered by the incident.[28] In March 2002, Edward announced that he would step down as production director and joint managing director of Ardent[21] 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.[29]

Marriage and children[edit]

The Earl and Countess of Wessex in Stockholm, Sweden (2013)

Edward met Sophie Rhys-Jones for the first time in 1987 when he was dating her friend.[30] They met again at a promotion shoot for the Prince Edward Summer Challenge to raise money for charity in 1993, and the two began their relationship soon afterwards.[6][31] In December 1993 and amid growing speculation about whether they were planning to marry, Edward wrote a letter to newspaper editors, in which he denied any wedding plans and asked the media to respect their privacy.[32] Edward proposed to Sophie at a holiday in the Bahamas in December 1998 and their engagement was announced on 6 January 1999.[6][33] 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.[34]

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),[35][36] breaking from a tradition whereby sons of the sovereign were created royal dukes. Edward's children are styled as the children of an Earl, rather than as prince/ss and royal highness.[3][37][38] However, on the wishes of the Queen, he might be made Duke of Edinburgh (the title held by Edward's father, Prince Philip, between 1947 and his death in 2021). The title was inherited by Prince Philip's eldest son, now Charles III, and merged into the crown upon Charles's succession in September 2022. Charles III will decide whether he will pass the title on to his brother.

Sophie had an ectopic pregnancy in 2001.[39] Edward and Sophie have two children: Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor, born prematurely on 8 November 2003 due to a sudden placental abruption;[40] and James Mountbatten-Windsor, Viscount Severn, born on 17 December 2007. The family's country residence is Bagshot Park; their office and official London residence is at Buckingham Palace.[41]

Activities[edit]

Edward visiting the Commonwealth Games in 2010, of which he is patron.

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.[42] His patronages include: the British Paralympic Association,[43] the International Real Tennis Professionals Association,[44] the Commonwealth Games Federation,[45][46] BadmintonScotland,[47] the Tennis and Rackets Association,[48] City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus,[49][50] London Mozart Players,[51] Haddo House Choral and Operatic Society,[52] Northern Ballet,[53][54] the Edinburgh International Festival,[55] the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire,[56] and the Production Guild.[57]

The Earl of Wessex assumed many duties from his father, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, as the Duke reduced his commitments and retired from royal duties. Prince Edward succeeded the Duke 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.[58]

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.[59] 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.[60] Edward later went on to become the chair of the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award,[61] and has promoted its work on different occasions.[62][63][64][65] 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".[66] 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".[67]

The Earl of Wessex opening a youth centre in Yate in 2011

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.[68] 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.[69] In February and March 2012, the couple visited the Caribbean for the Queen's 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,[70] addressing Senate and Assembly of Barbados jointly,[71] and a visit to sites affected by the volcanic eruptions in Montserrat.

In 2013, the couple visited South Africa.[72] The Queen appointed the Earl of Wessex as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for 2014.[73][74] 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 Høyer.[75] 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.[76] 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.[77] 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.[78] In February 2018, the Earl and Countess toured Sri Lanka, participating in the 70th Independence Day celebrations in Colombo.[79][80] 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.[81][82]

Edward visiting a youth theatre programme in Salisbury, Australia

Twenty years after its inception, the Wessex Youth Trust changed its name to the Earl and Countess of Wessex Charitable Trust, managed by the private office of the Earl and Countess of Wessex and Forfar. The trust will continue to develop sustainable relationships with a range of selected partner charities, and will expand its remit beyond supporting children and young people.[83]

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.[84] The Earl was presented with 'Earl of Forfar' tartan, which was designed by Forfar's Strathmore Woollen Company to celebrate their new titles. 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.[85][86][87] In 2020, he took over the patronage of London Youth from his father who had held the position for 73 years.[88]

In February 2022, Edward was appointed president of the Royal Windsor Horse Show, a position previously held by his father the Duke of Edinburgh.[89] In the following month, he visited Kenya to oversee the progress of The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award in the country.[90] In April 2022, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and Forfar toured Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.[91] Their planned visit to Grenada was postponed after talks with the island's government and governor general, and the couple expressed their hopes to visit the country on a later date.[92]

Titles, styles, honours and arms[edit]

Titles and styles[edit]

Royal monogram
  • 10 March 1964 – 19 June 1999: His Royal Highness The Prince Edward
  • 19 June 1999 – present: His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex[93]
  • in Scotland: 10 March 2019 – present: His Royal Highness The Earl of Forfar[94][95]

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.[96] The title passed to his brother, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, when their father died in April 2021. In July 2021, The Times reported that Charles had decided not to give the title to his brother upon accession,[97] though Clarence House stated that "[a]ll stories of this nature are speculation, no final decisions have been taken" and declined to comment further.[98] When his elder brother became Charles III, on the 2022 death of their mother, Elizabeth II, the title Duke of Edinburgh "merged in the Crown", and ceased to exist.

On his marriage in 1999, the prince was ennobled in keeping with tradition; however, he was the first prince since the Tudors to be created an earl rather than a duke (while reserving the rank of duke for the future).[99] The Sunday Telegraph reported that he was drawn to the Earldom of Wessex after watching the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love, in which a minor character with that title is played by Colin Firth.[100] The prince was also given the subsidiary title of Viscount Severn, which subsequently became the courtesy title of his son and heir.

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.[94][95][101] He has since been referred to as the Earl of Wessex and Forfar, such as at the funeral of his father.[102][103][104]

Honours[edit]

The Earl at the Order of the Garter procession, 2006
Other Commonwealth countries

Military appointments[edit]

Honorary military appointments[edit]
Canada Canada
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Civic appointments[edit]

Academic appointments[edit]

Honorary degrees

Arms[edit]

Coat of arms of the Earl of Wessex
Coat of Arms of Edward, Earl of Wessex.svg
Notes
The Earl's personal coat of arms is that of the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom with a label for difference
Adopted
1983
Coronet
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.
Escutcheon
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
Supporters
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
Motto
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.
Banner
Royal Standard of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.svg The Royal Standard of the United Kingdom labelled for difference as in his arms.
Royal Standard of Prince Edward, Earl of Forfar.svg (in Scotland)
Royal Standard of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex (in Canada).svg (in 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.[123][124])
Symbolism
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.

Ancestry[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Edward does not usually use a family name but when one is needed, it is Mountbatten-Windsor.[1] The middle name Louis is pronounced /ˈli/.

References[edit]

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Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Forfar
Born: 10 March 1964
Lines of succession
Preceded by Succession to the British throne
13th in line
Followed by
Viscount Severn
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Earl of Wessex
1999–present
Incumbent
Heir:
James, Viscount Severn
Earl of Forfar
2019–present
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by Gentlemen
The Earl of Wessex and Forfar
Followed by
Viscount Severn
Academic offices
Preceded by Chancellor of the University of Bath
2013–present
Incumbent