It is well-known that The Earl and Countess of Wessex shared an incredibly close bond with The Queen before her death at the age of 96 on September 8.
Prince Edward met Sophie Rhys-Jones during a charity event at the Queen’s Tennis Club in London and the pair announced their engagement six years later on January 6, 1999. Ahead of their wedding, the palace announced that the pair would be styled as The Earl and Countess of Wessex.
The news came as a surprise to the public as it was expected that The Queen’s youngest son would be given a traditional Dukedom like his two elder brothers.
You may wonder why Prince Edward is an Earl while his brothers and nephews are all Dukes. Technically, Prince Edward should have a Dukedom and he is actually the first in his position to become an Earl since Tudor times.
And the unusual title wasn’t a snub from The Queen at all, and it was actually his request to be titled the Earl of Wessex. And the reason for his choice was unexpected.
It later came to light that The Queen had offered Edward the Dukedom of Cambridge (the title which Prince William and Kate were eventually granted when they married in 2011), but he refused it for a very surprising reason.
The Earldom of Wessex had not been in use since the 11th century, however Edward reportedly asked the Queen to be named after a character called Lord Wessex in his favourite film, Shakespeare in Love.
A royal insider told the Telegraph in 2010 why Edward chose that name, explaining: “He liked the sound of it and asked the Queen if he could have that instead.”
When the news came of the surprising title, it was revealed that the Royal Family intended for Edward to be created Duke of Edinburgh upon both the death of his father and accession of elder brother, although suggestions over whether or not this will happen were recently called into question.If the pair are given the title, Sophie will become The Duchess of Edinburgh – a courtesy title which was held by The Queen from her wedding in 1947 until her accession in 1952.
The Countess once recalled the moment she and Prince Edward were told Prince Philip would like them to take on the title in an interview with the Telegraph. She said: “We sat there slightly stunned. He literally came straight in and said, ‘Right. I’d like it very much if you would consider that’.”
The title of Duke of Edinburgh was inherited by King Charles upon the death of Prince Philip as he was his eldest son. Now that The King has succeeded his mother, the Dukedom of Edinburgh has merged with the Crown, meaning it is free to be granted again to another royal couple.
While it is thought that both The Queen and Prince Philip wished for Edward and Sophie to take on the Dukedom, it will be up to King Charles to decide who will inherit it.
Following suggestions that Charles may go against the original plans, a source previously told the Sunday Times : “The prince is the Duke of Edinburgh as it stands, and it is up to him what happens to the title. It will not go to Edward.”
In a previous interview with the BBC, Edward noted how the final decision on the title remains with Charles. He said: “It was fine in theory, ages ago when it was sort of a pipe dream of my father’s …. and of course, it will depend on whether or not the Prince of Wales, when he becomes king, whether he’ll do that, so we’ll wait and see.”