How well do you know Queen Elizabeth II’s three sons and only daughter? Royal enthusiasts (or devoted viewers of Netflix’s "The Crown") will be aware that Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward have led very colorful public lives, pretty much since the moment they were born.
Firstborn Prince Charles often made international headlines over several decades thanks to his first marriage, his divorce, and his subsequent second marriage. According to Vanity Fair, Princess Anne also made headlines thanks to her wild side during her youth, as well as her quite public divorce in ’90s. You surely also remember that Prince Andrew caused quite the scandal in 2019 when he was linked to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. According to a Channel 4 report, the two men attended the same parties and events at least 10 times over several years. But what about Prince Edward, the queen’s youngest child?
Although Edward was definitely involved in some faux pas when he was younger, the prince hasn’t really dominated newspaper headlines the way his siblings have. He has, however, led a pretty interesting life.
Prince Edward was born 16 years after his oldest brother
If you think Prince Edward looks way younger than Prince Charles, that’s because he is. He’s some 16 years younger than his oldest sibling, born several years into Queen Elizabeth’s reign. According to Britannica, Prince Edward was born on March 10, 1964. Biography revealed that he was born at Windsor Castle in London, and "was christened as Edward Antony Richard Louis" a few months later.
His mother is known to shake things up at times, and she certainly did this while giving birth to her youngest child. According to Irish Independent, fathers generally would not join the mother in the delivery room as per royal tradition. However, in the book "My Husband and I: The Inside Story of 70 Years of Royal Marriage," Ingrid Seward revealed that the queen’s husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, was actually the first royal father in modern history to witness the birth of his child.
"The Queen, by then aged 37, had asked him to be there; she’d been keenly reading women’s magazines that stressed the importance of involving fathers in childbirth and had become fascinated by the idea," Seward shared (via Irish Independent).
Prince Edward had a pretty unique childhood
Though most of us mere commoners might cherish normal childhood memories like meeting Santa at the local shopping mall around Christmastime, spending summer days playing outdoors with friends from school, and begging mom to make mac and cheese for dinner for the third night in a row, the childhood memories Prince Edward reminisces about are vastly different. You know, like that time he met his idol at the age of 5.
According to The Sunday Post, young Prince Edward was given this chance when the palace arranged for him to meet Neil Armstrong — the very first person to land on the moon. The prince reportedly told Armstrong he wanted to one day become an astronaut too.
Other unique childhood experiences include being presented to the public on the balcony at Buckingham Palace at three months old, learning how to ride a pony (named Valkyrie) at just 2 years old, and being taught privately at Buckingham Palace by a governess for the first few years of his schooling. What a princely life he led during his formative years!
Prince Edward graduated from Jesus College
After a couple of years of private tutoring, the queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, enrolled at a brick-and-mortar school. He started out at Gibbs School in Kensington, which was known as a "pre-preparatory school" according to Biography. A few years later, he was enrolled at Heatherdown Preparatory School. Around five years after this, he commenced his education at the school his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, attended in his youth: Gordonstoun School, which is located in Scotland. Here, the prince reportedly excelled thanks to his sporting skills and extracurricular activities. He was even elected as the school’s Head Boy, according to The Sunday Post.
Upon completing his A-Levels, Edward travelled all the way to New Zealand for six months at the Collegiate School in Wanganui. As it turns out, even princes sometimes need a semester abroad! Though Edward was a student, he also worked as a tutor and drama class supervisor, according to Biography. The Sunday Post revealed that even though the prince’s final marks weren’t spectacular, he received admittance to Jesus College, Cambridge for his higher studies. He graduated in 1986.
Prince Edward was briefly a Royal Marine
After completing his higher studies, Prince Edward dutifully joined the Royal Marines, according to the royal family’s website. There, he spent time as a university cadet. After three years, however, he left the military. It turns out the queen’s youngest child had his sights set on a much more glamorous career: show business.
According to Los Angeles Times, Prince Edward, unlike his big brothers, did not like military life and all it entailed. Believe it or not, Prince Edward resigned from the Marines — allegedly after an argument with his father — to build a career in theater. He ended up working with none other than Andrew Lloyd Webber. According to Vanity Fair, the prince took a role as a production assistant at Really Useful Group, which was owned by Webber, during his foray into musical theater.
"It is the very lowest rung," company director Bridget Hayward said of the prince’s job when speaking to the Los Angeles Times in 1988. Edward reportedly connected with Webber after working with him on a production for the queen’s birthday celebrations.
Prince Edward owned a television production company at one time
After working for Really Useful Group for a few years, Prince Edward joined another theater troupe, Theatre Division. Sadly, this job was short-lived. According to The Guardian, the company shut down the next year due to unsustainable debts amounting to £600,000.
In 1987, the prince was involved in the filming and broadcasting of a reality TV game show featuring various members of the royal family as well as international celebrities. Though it was widely ridiculed and considered a "public relations disaster," Prince Edward considered it the "the most extraordinary day in [his] life." This perhaps explains why he decided to form a television production company after the demise of his theater career.
The prince went by plain ol’ Edward Windsor when he formed Ardent Productions. The independent production company worked on several projects, including "Edward on Edward," a documentary in which Prince Edward explores the controversial life and abdication of his uncle Edward VIII. However, the company and its productions did not have a great reputation. "They’re a sad joke in the industry, really," an industry rival told The Guardian. The company folded nine years after its inception.
This is what Prince Edward gave his future wife when proposing to her
Prince Edward’s most prominent relationship is the one that he shares with his wife, Sophie Rhys-Jones. The pair met under surprisingly normal circumstances, as far as first royal meetings go. According to The Sunday Post, the lovebirds first locked eyes at a Real Tennis Challenge event organized by the prince. Rhys-Jones reportedly handled the public relations work for the event.
The pair dated for six years before they announced their engagement in January 1999, according to Express. "The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are delighted to announce the engagement of their youngest son, Prince Edward, to Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones," the royal engagement announcement read.
When proposing to his beloved, Edward presented Sophie a fabulous diamond ring that was worth £110,000 at the time. The bling was designed by Garrard & Co (known as Asprey Garrard at the time), a company that’s been producing royal jewels since the 1700s. The ring boasted a "two-carat central oval diamond which is flanked between two small heart-shaped jewels." It’s definitely a ring that would be hard to turn down.
Prince Edward married Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999
Six months after the pair announced their engagement, Prince Edward and his bride wed on June 19, 1999, according to Britannica. The pair was determined to ensure their wedding was an intimate family affair, and it sort of was — as far as royal weddings go, anyway.
According to The Sunday Post, the wedding was held at St George’s Chapel, on the Windsor Castle grounds. Britannica reported that the event was attended by royals, but was viewed on TV by about 200 million people worldwide. This day was a rare happy day for the family, amidst the recent aftermath of Princess Diana’s death and the failed marriages of the youngest prince’s older siblings.
The Sunday Post revealed that Queen Elizabeth presented the new bride with a gorgeous tiara to wear on the day. It featured stunning jewels from the senior royal’s private jewel collection, and was designed by former Crown Jeweller David Thomas. Sophie Rhys-Jones reportedly presented her groom with a pocket watch made of 18-carat gold.
This is why Prince Edward isn’t a duke
Traditionally, most male children of the sovereign of Britain are given the title of duke once they marry. According to Royal Central, Prince Edward was instead given the title of earl, which reportedly caused some confusion and unrest for onlookers.
British royal titles can seem a little confusing, but they make a lot of sense when considered in order. According to Royal Central, the reigning sovereign’s male children are always given the title "His Royal Highness The Prince" followed by their first name. They receive an additional title after getting married. Of these titles, duke is the highest honor, followed by prince, earl, viscount, and baron.
The queen wasn’t throwing any shade on her youngest son by bestowing him with the title of earl; Interestingly, it appears Prince Edward actually requested the title Earl of Wessex. According to the site, it was inspired by the character of Earl of Wessex in Prince’s favorite film, Shakespeare in Love.
As CBS News reported, upon Prince Philip’s death, Prince Charles inherited his father’s title of Duke of Edinburgh, but Prince Edward may inherit the title one day after Charles become king.
Prince Edward decided to leave the entertainment world to focus on his royal duties
Prince Edward bid farewell to his career in the entertainment industry in 2002 and devoted himself to his work as a royal. In a statement (via the Independent), the royal said that he and his wife, Sophie, were "required more than ever to support the Queen and to help my family shoulder some of the increasing responsibilities and workload into the future." Sophie also stepped down from her position as executive director of R-JH Public Relations. In exchange for the loss of their salaries, Queen Elizabeth is rumored to have paid the couple a one-time sum of £250,000.
Prince Edward’s departure from the industry may not have been entirely because of his dedication to his family, though. The Guardian noted that his company, Ardent Productions, simply wasn’t very successful; the company lost millions in its nine-year run, according to The Telegraph.
Per the royal family’s official website, Prince Edward’s many tasks include work with The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, "which helps young people to develop skills for life and work"; overseeing his youth fund, The Earl and Countess of Wessex Trust; and supporting several charities as well as arts and athletic organizations.
Prince Edward and his wife have two children
These days, Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones, the Countess of Wessex, are sometimes seen in the company of their two darling children. Though life is peachy now, the couple reportedly struggled to conceive.
According to The Sunday Post, the couple decided to turn to IVF. Though Rhys-Jones became pregnant in late 2001, the pregnancy was ectopic and thus not able to be carried to full term. She became pregnant again in 2003 with the pair’s oldest child, Lady Louise Windsor, and gave birth prematurely. Sophie also suffered placental abruption during the birth and reportedly almost did not make it, but luckily she pulled through. According to Biography, little Lady Louise also needed to be hospitalized three years later due to a congenital eye disorder. In 2007, the family welcomed another child, a boy they named James and whose title is Viscount Severn.
Prince Edward’s wife is known to be a favorite of the queen
Imagine being close friends with the Queen of England. This scenario is very much a reality for Sophie Rhys-Jones, according to theDaily Mail. "She is trusted and relied on by the Queen in a way I couldn’t say applied to the Duchess of Cambridge or the Duchess of Cornwall," a royal aide shared with the publication. "She is like another daughter to Her Majesty, they are that close."
The Countess of Wessex was "the second lady in the land to the Queen" for many years after her marriage to the queen’s youngest son, but was bumped down to third and then fourth when Camilla Parker-Bowles and Kate Middleton entered the family in 2005 and 2011, respectively. However, this doesn’t seem to have affected Sophie’s relationship with Queen Elizabeth at all.
On the contrary, the Daily Mail reported that their bond may have gotten stronger. A palace aide revealed to the publication that the queen speaks to her daughter-in-law just like she spoke to her sister Princess Margaret before her passing. The queen is also a mother figure in Sophie’s life, as her own mother sadly passed away in 2005.
Prince Edward was thought to be his father’s favorite child
Though parents often claim to not have a favorite child, many have admitted that they do, indeed, have a favorite of sorts. According to Express, this may also be true within the royal family. Indeed, Prince Edward was thought to be his father’s fave. This claim was backed up by the fact that Prince Edward’s portrait was the only one that hung in his father’s study.
Perhaps this was also why Prince Phillip seemed to want Prince Edward and his wife to oversee his royal duties after he took a step back from public life.
It appears that the public like Edward and Sophie, too. "Edward has moulded into a quiet and efficient figure who does not seek attention or acquire headlines. He and Sophie are liked for being dutiful and uncomplaining," a royal source revealed to Express.
Prince Edward proudly supports a variety of charities and organizations
Though Prince Edward supports many charities and organizations, he is particularly committed to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program. The program, the royal family website explained, "helps young people to develop skills for life and work." It was set up by his father Prince Phillip back in 1956. Edward completed the program and was presented a Gold Award in 1986. Now that he is older and committed to his royal duties, he acts as the "Chairman of the Trustees of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation." The organization celebrated its 60th birthday in 2016, and an impressive 2.5 million youths are reported to have received awards for their involvement in the program. The prince also supports several art and sporting organizations.
Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones are quite charitable as a couple too. Just before their wedding, the pair established The Wessex Youth Trust, which focused on assisting charities that work with Britain’s youth. Though the organization was rebranded as The Earl and Countess of Wessex Trust in 2019, their goals and initiatives remain much the same.
Prince Edward and his family live in Surrey with this surprising pet
Though many of the royals live right in London and close to the queen, Prince Edward and his family choose to call a beautiful castle in idyllic Bagshot Park, Surrey their home. According to Express, the prince and his wife, Sophie Rhys-Jones, as well as their two children, Lady Louise Windsor and James Viscount Severn, isolated in their home like much of the world in spring 2020.
Both the prince and Sophie began working remotely from the beautiful Surrey estate. Just like the rest of us commoners all over the world, they were forced to switch to video and phone calls instead of attending physical meetings and events, and even lead a remote Q&A session for Orpheus Centre pupils. The pair reportedly also busied themselves with local voluntary work during this time.
This time at home has also meant spending more time with the family pets. In addition to having two dogs, Edward revealed in a video interview that his family also has a more uncommon household pet: a tortoise. He admitted that it "basically runs the house."
Prince Edward said the death of his father, Prince Philip, was ‘a dreadful shock’
Like the rest of the royal family, Prince Edward was devastated when his father, Prince Philip, died. Two days after his father’s death he told the press that his father’s death came as "a dreadful shock" and that he and his family were "still trying to come to terms with" the loss (via Hello!).
The Independent noted that Prince Philip had a close bond with Edward, and the tribute he paid to his father after his death reflects that. "He had a unique ability to make a lasting impression in a remarkably short time," said Prince Edward in a post on the royal family’s Instagram account. "I, like all my family, have a lifetime of lasting impressions, inspiration, shared passions and love."
Prince Edward told ITV News (via Newsweek) that his father was "brilliant" and "had a wonderful sense of humor," and praised the strong relationship between his parents. The royal added that he would remember his father not only for all of the work he did as a royal but for the wonderful job he did "as my father and husband to my mother."