Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex

Prince Edward
Earl of Wessex (more)
Prince Edward aged 50
The Earl in Belfast, February 2015
BornPrince Edward
(1964-03-10) 10 March 1964 (age 57)
Buckingham Palace, London
(m. 1999)
Edward Antony Richard Louis Mountbatten-Windsor[a]
FatherPrince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
MotherElizabeth II

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex KG, GCVO, CD, ADC (Edward Antony Richard Louis; born 10 March 1964)[2] is the youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. At birth, he was third in line of succession to the British throne; he is currently 13th in line.

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 in New Zealand. He graduated from Jesus College at the University of Cambridge in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts in History. Following a brief stint in the Royal Marines, Edward worked as a theatre production assistant at the Really Useful Theatre Company before assisting in television producing, and later formed his own company, Ardent Productions.

The Earl stepped down from the company in 2002 to begin full-time duties as a working member of the royal family, and undertakes 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.[3] 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.

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

Early life and education

Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward – at the opening of the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Alberta

Edward was born on 10 March 1964, at Buckingham Palace, London,[4] as the third son, and the fourth and youngest child of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. He was christened on 2 May 1964 in the private chapel at Windsor Castle[5] by the Dean of Windsor, Robin Woods.[b]

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. 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 and two D-grades at A-level,[7] 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.[8][9]

Upon his return to Britain, Edward studied at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he read History. His admission to Cambridge caused some controversy.[10] Edward graduated in 1986 with a BA (lower second class honours).[11]


Royal Marines

Upon leaving university in 1986, Prince Edward joined the Royal Marines, who had reportedly sponsored his tuition at Cambridge University on condition of future service.[12] In January 1987, Edward dropped out of the gruelling commando course after having completed one-third of the 12-month training. Media reported that the move prompted a berating from Prince Philip, who was the Captain General Royal Marines at that time and "reduced his son to prolonged tears",[13] while others stated that Philip was the most sympathetic family member toward his son's decision.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16] The programme raised over £1,000,000 for its selected charities.

Ardent Productions

In 1993, Edward formed the television production company Ardent Productions.[17] Ardent was involved in the production of a number of documentaries and dramas,[18] but Edward was accused in the media of using his royal connections for financial gain,[19] 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".[20]

Ardent's productions were better received in the United States[21] and a documentary Edward made about his great uncle, Edward VIII (the late Duke of Windsor) in 1996, sold well worldwide.[18][22] Nonetheless, the company reported losses every year it operated, with the exception of one when Edward did not draw a salary.[17] 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;[23] William's father, Charles, Prince of Wales, was reportedly angered by the incident.[24] In March 2002, Edward announced that he would step down as production director and joint managing director of Ardent[17] 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.[25]

Marriage and children

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

Edward met Sophie Rhys-Jones, then a public relations executive with her own firm, in 1994.[26] 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.[27]

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),[28][29] breaking from a tradition whereby sons of the sovereign were created royal dukes. However, on the wishes of the Queen, he will be made Duke of Edinburgh (the title held by Edward's father, Prince Philip, between 1947 and his death in 2021) after that dukedom reverts to the Crown, upon the death of the Queen. His children are styled as the children of an Earl, rather than as prince/ss and royal highness.[2][30][31]

He and his wife have two children: Lady Louise Windsor, born 8 November 2003, and James, Viscount Severn, born 17 December 2007. They were born at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey. They reside at Bagshot Park in Surrey. While their country residence is Bagshot Park, their office and official London residence is based at Buckingham Palace.[32]


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.[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]

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.[48]

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.[49] 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.[50] Edward later went on to become the chair of the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award,[51] and has promoted its work on different occasions.[52][53][54][55] 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".[56] 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".[57]

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.[58] 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.[59] 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,[60] addressing Senate and Assembly of Barbados jointly,[61] and a visit to sites affected by the volcanic eruptions in Montserrat.

In 2013, the couple visited South Africa.[62] The Queen appointed the Earl of Wessex as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for 2014.[63][64] 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.[65] 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.[66] 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.[67] 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.[68] In February 2018, the Earl and Countess toured Sri Lanka, participating in the 70th Independence Day celebrations in Colombo.[69][70] 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.[71][72]

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. 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.[73]

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.[74] 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.[75][76][77]

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

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[78]
  • in Scotland: 10 March 2019 – present: His Royal Highness The Earl of Forfar[79][80]

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.[81][c]

On his marriage in 1999, the prince was ennobled in keeping with tradition, however he was the first prince since the Tudors to be made an earl rather than a duke (while reserving the rank of duke for the future).[82] 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.[83] 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.[79][80][84]


The Earl at the Order of the Garter procession


Military appointments

Honorary military appointments
Canada Canada
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Civic appointments

Academic appointments

Honorary degrees


Coat of arms of the Earl of Wessex
Coat of Arms of Edward, Earl of Wessex.svg
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.
Royal Standard of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.svg The Royal Standard of the United Kingdom labelled for difference as in his arms. (In Scotland: Royal Standard of Prince Edward, Earl of Forfar.svg)
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

Flag of the Earl of Wessex for use 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.[98][99]


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).[6]
  3. ^ The Earl of Wessex would not automatically succeed his father, as titles are passed to the eldest son; hence, his eldest brother, the Prince of Wales, succeeded their father to become the 2nd Duke of Edinburgh. Once the Prince of Wales succeeds to the throne, the titles he has inherited from his father will merge with the Crown, and he will be free to re-create the Dukedom of Edinburgh.


  1. ^ "The Royal Family name". Official website of the British monarchy. Archived from the original on 15 February 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2009.
  2. ^ a b "TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex". Official website of the British monarchy. Buckingham Palace. Archived from the original on 8 March 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2008.
  3. ^ "The Earl of Wessex". The Royal Family. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  4. ^ "No. 43268". The London Gazette. 11 March 1964. p. 2255.
  5. ^ "Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex". The House of Windsor. English Monarchs. Retrieved 7 January 2009. He was baptised on 2 May 1964, at the private chapel at Windsor Castle by the Dean of Windsor and was given the names Edward Anthony Richard Louis.
  6. ^ "Yvonne's Royalty Home Page: Royal Christenings". Archived from the original on 6 August 2011. Retrieved 31 December 2010.
  7. ^ "The family qualifications". The Daily Telegraph. London. 16 October 2006.
  8. ^ "Wanganui Collegiate School [Summary]". Heritage New Zealand. Archived from the original on 30 January 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  9. ^ Butterworth, Hugh Montagu; Cooksey [ed.], Jon (2011). Blood and Iron: Letters from the Western Front. Casement. p. 218. ISBN 9781848844919.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  10. ^ "The prince with a difference". BBC News. 11 June 1999.
  11. ^ Waston, Jeremy (3 December 2010). "William enjoys a degree of success". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 3 December 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  12. ^ "Commando Life Losing Appeal for Prince?". The New York Times. 12 January 1987. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  13. ^ "Edward Goes His Own Way". People. 26 January 1987. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  14. ^ Seward, Ingrid (2017). "Chapter 9: Watching the Family Grow". My Husband and I: The Inside Story of 70 Years of the Royal Marriage. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1471159589.
  15. ^ "Prince Edward Joins the Theater at 'Lowest Rung'". LA Times. 19 January 1988. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  16. ^ Ben Pimlott "Polishing Their Image", extract from The Queen, HarperCollins (1996) reprinted on the PBS Frontline webpage
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  30. ^ Whitaker's Almanack 2010, page 46 'Peers of the Blood Royal'
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  35. ^ "The 2018 Real Tennis Challenge Formal Dinner". Hobart Real Tennis Club. Archived from the original on 26 February 2019. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
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  37. ^ "The Battle for Britain: May vs Sturgeon, in pictures". The Daily Telegraph. 13 March 2017. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
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  42. ^ Barr, Rachel. "Prince Edward visits Croydon for London Mozart Players' anniversary concert". South West Londoner. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
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  45. ^ "A Prince of England meets the Queen of the Nile". Northern Ballet. 30 September 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  46. ^ "Prince takes up the baton as festival patron". The Times. 12 July 2017. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  47. ^ Earl of Wessex attends concert with Julian Lloyd Webber at Birmingham Conservatoire • The Crown Chronicles
  48. ^ "The Duke of Edinburgh's Award". Royal family. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  49. ^ Lefkovits, Etgar (4 September 2007). "Prince Edward to arrive today; 1st royal visit in decade". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
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  51. ^ "HRH The Duke of Edinburgh". The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award. 4 May 2017. Archived from the original on 20 August 2018. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  52. ^ Barry, Sion (29 September 2016). "The Earl of Wessex on why the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme is good for business". Wales Online. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  53. ^ "Prince Edward speaks at Duke of Edinburgh's International Award ceremony". CBC News. 22 June 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  54. ^ Schelzig, Erik (23 May 2013). "Prince Edward visits Tennessee to promote Duke of Edinburgh's Award". The Daily Times. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
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  57. ^ "The Earl and Countess of Wessex to Visit Jamaica [March 2014]". Jamaica Information Service. 2014. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  58. ^ Green, Erica (21 June 2011). "Prince Edward presents city's youth a royal challenge". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on 28 February 2020. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
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  60. ^ "Royals to begin Caribbean tour bypasses Dominica". The Dominican. 16 February 2012. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
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  63. ^ The Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Government, 2014.
  64. ^ "No. 27354". The Edinburgh Gazette. 17 January 2014. p. 65.
  65. ^ "BADMINTON: Scotland Patron, HRH The Earl of Wessex honoured with BWF President's Medal". Badminton Scotland. November 2015. Retrieved 26 May 2018.[permanent dead link][dead link]
  66. ^ "Prince Edward to visit Ghana". 20 May 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  67. ^ "Youth, Community and Service; Visit by HRH Prince Edward to Chile". 22 September 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  68. ^ a b "Edward & Sophie attend Sultan of Brunei's Golden Jubilee celebrations". Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  69. ^ "The Earl and Countess of Wessex commemorate Sri Lanka's 70th Anniversary of Independence". Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  70. ^ Foreign invitees to Independence Day Anniversary celebrations call on President
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  72. ^ Hutchinson, Samantha (6 April 2018). "Prince Edward arrives in Melbourne for Duke of Edinburgh International Awards ceremony". The Weekend Australian. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  73. ^ "Changes to The Wessex Youth Trust". Archived from the original on 6 July 2019. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
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  77. ^ "Tartan Details - Earl of Forfar, The". Retrieved 31 October 2019.
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  100. ^ Paget, Gerald (1977). The Lineage and Ancestry of H.R.H. Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (2 vols). Edinburgh: Charles Skilton. ISBN 978-0-284-40016-1.

External links

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Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
Born: 10 March 1964
Lines of succession
Preceded by
August Brooksbank
Succession to the British throne
13th 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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