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Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
|Earl of Wessex (more)|
The Earl in Belfast, February 2015
|Born|| (1964-03-10) 10 March 1964
Buckingham Palace, London, England
( m. 1999)
|Father||Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh|
|Royal family of
the United Kingdom and the
other Commonwealth realms
Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex  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 11th in line.(Edward Antony Richard Louis; born 10 March 1964)
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. His charity work focuses on the arts, athletics, and the development of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, which centers 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
Prince Edward was born on 10 March 1964, at Buckingham Palace, London, 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 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, 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.
Upon his return to Britain, Edward studied 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". Edward graduated in 1986 as BA (lower second class honours).
Upon leaving university in 1986, Prince Edward joined the Royal Marines, who had paid £12,000 towards his tuition at Cambridge University on condition of future service. 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", while others stated that Philip was the most sympathetic family member toward his son's decision.
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. 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. The programme raised over £1,000,000 for its selected charities.
In 1993, Edward formed the television production company Ardent Productions. Ardent was involved in the production of a number of documentaries and dramas, but Edward was accused in the media of using his royal connections for financial gain, 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".
Ardent's productions were better received in the United States and a documentary Edward made about his great uncle, Edward VIII (the late Duke of Windsor) in 1996, sold well worldwide. Nonetheless, the company reported losses every year it operated, with the exception of one when Edward did not draw a salary. 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; William's father, Charles, Prince of Wales, was reportedly angered by the incident. In March 2002, Edward announced that he would step down as production director and joint managing director of Ardent 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.
Marriage and children
Edward met Sophie Rhys-Jones, then a public relations executive with her own firm, in 1994. 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.
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), 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 (after the death of the current Duke and the Queen), and for his children to be styled as the children of an Earl, rather than as prince/ss and royal highness.
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 Frimley. 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.
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. His patronages include: the British Paralympic Association, the International Real Tennis Professionals Association, the Commonwealth Games Federation, BadmintonScotland, the Tennis and Rackets Association, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, London Mozart Players, Haddo House Choral and Operatic Society, Northern Ballet, the Edinburgh International Festival, and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
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.
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. 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. Edward later went on to become the chair of the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award, and has promoted its work on different occasions. 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". 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".
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. 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. 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, addressing Senate and Assembly of Barbados jointly, and a visit to sites affected by the volcanic eruptions in Montserrat.
In 2013, the couple visited South Africa. The Queen appointed the Earl of Wessex as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for 2014. 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. 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. 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. 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. In February 2018, the Earl and Countess toured Sri Lanka, participating in the 70th Independence Day celebrations in Colombo. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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
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.[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 known as an earl rather than a duke (while reserving the rank of duke for the future). 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.
- 6 February 1977: Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal
- 6 February 2002: Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal
- 23 April 2006: Royal Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter (KG)
- 10 March 2011: Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO)
- 6 February 2012: Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
- 9 February 1990: New Zealand Commemorative Medal
- 11 May 2005: Honorary Member of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit (SOM)
- 7 June 2005: Commemorative Medal for the Centennial of Saskatchewan
- 29 October 2015: Canadian Forces' Decoration
- 5 October 2017: Sultan of Brunei Golden Jubilee Medal
- October 1986 – January 1987: Officer Cadet, Royal Marines
- 1 August 2004 – present: Personal Aide-de-Camp to the Queen
- 2002: Colonel-in-Chief of the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment
- 2003: Colonel-in-Chief of the Saskatchewan Dragoons
- 2005: Colonel-in-Chief of the Prince Edward Island Regiment
- 2007: Honorary Deputy Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- 19 August 2003: Royal Honorary Colonel of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry
- 2006: Commodore-in-Chief of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary
- 2007: Royal Colonel of 2nd Battalion, The Rifles
- 2008: Honorary Air Commodore of Royal Air Force Waddington
- 1 May 2011: Royal Honorary Colonel of the London Regiment
- 2008: Liveryman Honoris Causa, Worshipful Company of Haberdashers
- 2008: Liveryman Honoris Causa, Worshipful Company of Gardeners
- 2011: Freeman of the City of London
- 2011: Member, Court of Assistants, Worshipful Company of Haberdashers
- 2011: Member, Court of Assistants, Worshipful Company of Gardeners
- 2013: Master, Worshipful Company of Gardeners
- 2014: Lord High Commissioner, General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
- Honorary degrees
- 1994: Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Victoria
- 2007: Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Prince Edward Island
- 2013: Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Bath
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.
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