Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex

The Earl and Countess of Wessex on their wedding day
The Earl and Countess of Wessex on their wedding day
British Royal Family

The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, (Edward Antony Richard Louis Mountbatten-Windsor), styled HRH The Earl of Wessex (born March 10, 1964), is a member of the British Royal Family, the youngest child and third son of Queen Elizabeth II. He has held the title of Earl of Wessex since 1999. The Earl of Wessex is currently seventh in the line of succession.

The Earl of Wessex is mostly famous for his television production and presenting career, and his brief service with the Royal Marines.

Early life

Edward was born on 10 March 1964 at Buckingham Palace, London. His mother is the current reigning British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, the elder daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. His father is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg.

He was baptised in the Private Chapel at Windsor Castle on 2 May 1964 by Robert Woods, Dean of Windsor. His godparents were: Prince Richard of Gloucester (now the Duke of Gloucester), Prince Louise of Hesse and by Rhine, The Earl of Snowdon, The Duchess of Kent (for whom The Dowager Duchess of Kent stood proxy) and Princess George of Hanover.

As a child of the reigning monarch, he was styled His Royal Highness The Prince Edward from birth.


Prince Edward, like other royal children at that time, was educated by a private governess until the age of seven. Afterwards he attended Gibbs School, a pre-preparatory school, in Kensington, West London. In 1972, he went to Heatherdown Preparatory School near Ascot, Berkshire. Following in the footsteps of his father and brothers he attended Gordonstoun School in Scotland, and was appointed head boy in his last term.

Like his brother, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward spent a "gap year" abroad, spending two terms at the Collegiate School, Wanganui, New Zealand, as a house tutor/junior master during September 1982.

Returning to England, Prince Edward enrolled at Jesus College, University of Cambridge reading history. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1986.

This makes Prince Edward only the third of four members of the Royal Family in history to have obtained a university degree:

  1. Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester (first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II through their grandfather, King George V);
  2. Charles, Prince of Wales (first child of Queen Elizabeth II);
  3. Prince Edward; and
  4. Prince William of Wales (Prince Charles' first child and Prince Edward's own nephew).


On leaving university, Prince Edward joined the Royal Marines to train as an officer. But Marines proved to be too demanding for the Prince, and he resigned his commission in January 1987, before graduation. This led to strong public criticism of the Prince for being "too weak".

After leaving the Marines, Prince Edward became more involved in theatre, an activity he had enjoyed extensively at school and university. In the late 1980s, he worked for two theatrical production companies, including Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Theatre Company. During his time at Lloyd Webber's company he worked on such plays as Phantom of the Opera, Starlight Express and Cats.

Prince Edward's first foray into the world of television production was the widely-ridiculed It's a Royal Knockout television programme in June 1987, in which teams sponsored by himself and other members of the Royal family competed for charity.

In 1993, Prince Edward formed the Ardent Television production company, under the name Edward Windsor. Ardent was heavily involved in the production of documentaries and dramas, particularly on the royal families of Europe. With exclusive access to the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, Prince Edward had plenty of material for his work. However, he was accused in the media of using his royal connections for personal and business gain, particularly given the financial problems of Ardent since its founding (it reported losses in all years of existence except one). The most embarrassing moment came when it was reported that a television crew from Ardent was found to be filming the Prince's nephew, HRH Prince William of Wales, during his stay at university in St Andrews in breach of an agreement between the royals and the media.

In 2002, the Prince announced he would step down as director of production and joint managing director of Ardent to concentrate on his public duties, and to support the Queen during her Golden Jubilee year.


Styles of
HRH the Earl of Wessex
Reference style His Royal Highness
Spoken style Your Royal Highness
Alternative style Sir

On January 9, 1999, the Prince announced his engagement to his eleventh cousin once removed, Sophie Rhys-Jones, a public relations manager with her own PR firm. Their wedding took place on June 19, 1999 at St. George's Chapel, Windsor. This was a break with the recent tradition of holding large formal royal weddings at Westminster Abbey. The marriage quieted, but did not entirely eliminate, rumours that the Prince was homosexual.

On his wedding day, the Queen conferred the titles of Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn on Prince Edward. This was a break with tradition whereby the sons of a sovereign were usually created a Duke. The title of Wessex was unusual. The last person known as "Earl of Wessex" was Harold Godwinson, prior to his accession to the English throne in 1066. Edward is styled HRH The Earl of Wessex, with Sophie taking the style HRH The Countess of Wessex.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex have one child: Princess Louise of Wessex, known as Lady Louise Windsor (born November 8, 2003).

The Earl and Countess of Wessex have requested that their children be styled as children of an earl. However, the necessary letters patent have not been issued, thus they will still be technically styled HRH Prince(sse)s of Wessex. Although the first born male of the couple could use the Earl's courtesy title of Viscount Severn, subsequent males and females would be styled the Honourable or Lady, respectively.

Royal duties

The Earl of Wessex (on the right) inspects the Royal Wessex Yeomanry
The Earl of Wessex (on the right) inspects the Royal Wessex Yeomanry

The Earl and Countess of Wessex carry out a full schedule of royal duties on behalf of the Queen, receiving civil list monies from the Queen of £141,000 per annum.

The Earl has in recent years succeeded many of the roles of his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, who is reducing some of his roles due to age. The Earl replaced him as President of the Commonwealth Games Federation (since 2006 its Vice-Patron), and opened the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia. He has also taken over the Duke's role in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

His other appointments reflect his interests in sport and the arts.

Dukedom of Edinburgh

It was announced at the time of his wedding that the Earl of Wessex would eventually receive the title Duke of Edinburgh. However, he will not inherit the title from his father. Like any normal dukedom, the present Dukedom of Edinburgh passes to the heirs-male of the first Duke. So, his eldest son the Prince of Wales will inherit the title. There are several possibilities as to what will happen to the Dukedom.

If the current Duke of Edinburgh predeceases the Queen, then the Prince of Wales will become Duke of Edinburgh, and when the Queen dies, the title will merge with the crown, becoming available for the Earl.

If the Queen predeceased the Duke of Edinburgh, when the Duke of Edinburgh dies, the Dukedom will merge with the crown, becoming available for the Earl.

Some more unlikely possibilities could be that Prince William of Wales has a daughter, then he and his father die, making the daughter heiress-presumptive to the Crown. When the Queen dies, the daughter would inherit the Crown, but when the Duke of Edinburgh dies, Prince Henry of Wales would inherit the Dukedom, with it being inherited by his descendants.

Or, the Earl could attain the Dukedom if the Prince of Wales, his sons, and the Duke of York all predeceased him.

However, the Sovereign as Fount of Honour reserves the right to issue Letters-Patent at any time altering this line of succession, and indeed, the aforementioned announcement indicates that previous to or upon the demise of the present Duke of Edinburgh, Letters-Patent will be devised to bestow the Dukedom directly to the Earl of Wessex. In any case, there is nothing to suggest that the Dukedom of Edinburgh as possessed by The Prince Philip is ipso facto hereditary in the manner of other hereditary peerages.

Titles and honours

Standard of The Earl of Wessex (in Scotland)
Standard of The Earl of Wessex (in Scotland)



Military Career

Honorary military appointments


Preceded by:
HRH Princess Eugenie of York
Line of succession to the British throne Succeeded by:
Lady Louise Windsor
Preceded by:
New Creation
Earl of Wessex Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Prince Andrew, Duke of York
United Kingdom order of precedence
Succeeded by:
Prince William of Wales

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