After graduating in 1986, Edward joined the
Royal Marines, who had reportedly sponsored his tuition at Cambridge on condition of future service. He had signed up to join the Royal Marines in September 1983. In January 1987, he dropped out of the commando course having completed one-third of the 12-month training. Media reported that Prince Philip, who was the
Captain General Royal Marines, was displeased, but Prince Edward later said that his father had not put undue pressure on him to change his mind. Others stated that Philip was the most sympathetic family member toward his son's decision. Buckingham Palace said that Prince Edward's decision came after "much consideration" and that he was leaving with great regret "but has concluded that he does not wish to make the service his long-term career".
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
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 £1,500,000 for its selected charities.
In 1993, Edward founded 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 (Edward's elder brother Charles) 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.
Sophie Rhys-Jones for the first time in 1987 when he was dating her friend. They met again at a promotion shoot for the Prince Edward Summer Challenge to raise money for charity in 1993, and the two began their relationship soon afterwards. In December 1993 and amid growing speculation about whether they were planning to marry, Edward wrote a letter to newspaper editors, in which he denied any wedding plans and asked the media to respect their privacy. Edward proposed to Sophie on holiday in the Bahamas in December 1998 and their engagement was announced on 6 January 1999. Edward proposed to Sophie with an
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.
The Earl of Wessex assumed many duties from his father, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, as Prince Philip reduced his commitments before retiring from royal duties. Prince Edward opened the
1990 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand and the
1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia and became vice-patron of
Commonwealth Games Federation in 2006, picking up his father's ceremonial duties who had served as president. He has also taken over his father's role in the
Duke of Edinburgh's Award (DofE) scheme, attending Gold Award ceremonies around the world.
In September 2007, the Earl visited Israel in his capacity as Chairman 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. 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. He has been a trustee of the DofE since 1988 and of the International Award since 2006. Edward later went on to become Chair of trustees of the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award in 2015, and was named patron of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award in 2023. He has promoted the charity's 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 Chairman of the DofE's international council and in 1999 founded the International Special Projects Group "to provide a capital fund to broaden the reach of the Award". In 2018, Edward, as patron of the Tennis and Rackets Association, played on all 50 real tennis courts around the world and raised over £2 million for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme.
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 and Forfar. 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 royal burgh since the Queen granted Prince Edward the additional title
Earl of Forfar in March 2019. The Earl was presented with 'Earl of Forfar'
tartan, which was designed by Forfar's Strathmore Woollen Company to celebrate their new titles. In 2020, he took over the patronage of
London Youth from his father who had held the position for 73 years.
In February 2022, Edward was appointed President of the
Royal Windsor Horse Show, a position previously held by his father
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. In the following month, he visited Kenya to oversee the progress of
the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award in the country. In April 2022, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and Forfar toured Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda to mark the
Queen's Platinum Jubilee. Their planned visit to Grenada was postponed after talks with the
island's government and
governor-general, and the couple expressed their hopes to visit the country on a later date. In 2022 and in recognition of his role as patron of the Production Guild, the Earl of Wessex Award was created as part of the Guild's inaugural Talent Showcase to recognise UK film and TV organisations who have created "a successful way of inspiring local talent or skills, widening access or being more inclusive." After he was created
Duke of Edinburgh on his 59th birthday, Edward and Sophie visited
Edinburgh to meet with members of the Ukrainian and Eastern European communities in the city, some of whom were displaced following the
Russian invasion of Ukraine. Edward became patron of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award upon being raised to the dukedom.
Until his marriage, Edward was known as "His Royal Highness The Prince Edward". Royal commentators conjectured that former royal dukedoms such as
Sussex might be granted to him. Instead, on 19 June 1999, he became "His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex". He was the first prince since the
Tudors to be created an
earl (thus reserving future advancement to a dukedom).The Sunday Telegraph reported that he was drawn to the
earldom of Wessex after watching the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love, in which a minor character with that title was played by
Colin Firth. Edward was also granted the subsidiary title of
Viscount Severn. Buckingham Palace announced the intention that Edward would eventually be created
Duke of Edinburgh, a title then held by his father, Prince Philip, once it had
merged in the Crown upon the death of both his parents.
On his 59th birthday, 10 March 2023, Edward was created Duke of Edinburgh, thus becoming "His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh". His
ducal title is not hereditary, so will become extinct on his death.
In 1994, the
Independent Royalist Party of Estonia, aspiring to make Estonia a monarchy, sent a letter to Queen Elizabeth II requesting permission to crown Prince Edward as King of Estonia. The letter had called Edward a "young British prince much admired by Estonians", adding the party "would be most honoured if you would accept this rare request". But Buckingham Palace declined the offer, saying that it was "a charming idea but a rather unlikely one".
Coronet of a son of the Sovereign Proper, thereon a Lion statant gardant Or crowned of the Same 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; over all a Label Argent, charged on the centre point with a Tudor Rose.
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.
Royal Standard of the United Kingdom labelled for difference as in his Arms. The Royal Standard in Scotland labelled for difference as in his Arms. The
Royal Arms of Canada defaced with a blue
Roundel surrounded by a Wreath of Gold Maple Leaves within which is a depiction of an "E" surmounted by a Royal Coronet, and above the Roundel is a white Label of three points, the centre one charged with a Tudor Rose.
As with the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom, the first and fourth quarterings are the arms of England, the second of Scotland and the third of Ireland.
Ancestors of Prince Edward, Duke of Edinburgh
^"Appointments to the Order of the Garter 2006" (Press release). Official website of the Royal Family. 23 April 2006.
Archived from the original on 12 March 2017. Retrieved 11 March 2017. The Queen has also been graciously pleased to appoint His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex, KCVO, to be a Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.
^"The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex". Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges. Office of the Governor General of Canada: Canadian Heraldic Authority.
Archived from the original on 24 November 2020. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
^Paget, Gerald (1977). The Lineage and Ancestry of H.R.H. Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (2 vols). Edinburgh: Charles Skilton.
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1 Not a British prince by birth, but created
Prince Consort. 2 Not a British prince by birth, but created a Prince of the United Kingdom. Princes whose titles were removed and eligible people who do not use the title are shown in italics.