In honour of The Earl of Wessex’s 50th birthday today, Royal Central has compiled a list of 20 facts about The Queen’s youngest child.
1. Edward’s full title is ‘HRH The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Viscount Severn’. The title of Earl of Wessex was given to him by his mother, The Queen, on his wedding day. The last person to hold the title ‘Earl of Wessex’ was Harold II, who died at the Battle of Hastings, 1066!
2. Prince Edward met his future wife, Sophie Rhys-Jones at a tennis event in 1993. Sophie had to stand in for sports personality, Sue Barker, and pose for promotional photos with Edward for the event, leading to the start of their relationship.
3. Edward shares his birthday with a number of celebrities, including: Emeli Sande, Sepp Blatter and Tudor aristocrat and uncle to Anne Boleyn, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk. March 10th is also the day the Princess Lilian, Duchess of Halland (of the Swedish Royal Family) died in 2013.
4. Edward and Sophie’s wedding was at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. The couple wanted an intimate affair, so chose a smaller venue. Edward asked his brothers to be his Supporters (or ‘Best Men’), and guests wore evening attire, without hats, as requested.
5. The Queen’s youngest child spent time at Gordonstoun boarding school, Scotland, following in the footsteps of his father and two brothers. Edward excelled at drama and completed his A-levels in History, English Literature and Economic and Political Studies.
6. The newly-turned 50-year-old completed his Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award in his last year of school, 1986. Duke of Edinburgh is the world’s leading achievement award for those aged 14 to 24, and offers the chance to ‘develop skills for life and work, fulfil their potential and have a brighter future.’ Having taken part in the scheme and seeing the benefits of it, Edward has become an International Trustee and Chairman of the International Council for his father’s youth award. Just last week, The Earl visited Jamaica with his wife to promote the Award, and the couple travelled to South Africa last year for the same purpose.
7. After the passing of both his parents, it is intended that Prince Edward will be granted the title of Duke of Edinburgh. This will enable him to carry on the work for the eponymous award.
8. Edward proposed to Sophie after 6 years of dating. Wed in 1999, the couple have been married 15 years. The 8th-in-line is the only child of The Queen to not have ever divorced.
9. In 1982, before attending Jesus College, Cambridge, Edward spent time in New Zealand on a gap year. He was a house tutor at the Collegiate School in Wanganui, and also assisted with the Duke of Edinburgh award and drama classes, before going on to read History at university.
10. Prince Edward pursued a career in theatrical production, stemming from his love of drama at school. He worked for Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Really Useful Theatre Company at one point, managing The Phantom of the Opera, amongst other plays.
11. The young Royal’s passion saw him set up his own production company – Argent – in 1993. Here he wrote, and narrated, two films about The Duke of Edinburgh Award in 1987, and even produced a documentary on the restoration of Windsor Castle after the fire in 1992, and another on his great-uncle, Edward VIII.
12. After dissolving his production company, Edward dedicated himself to Royal duties to support The Queen in her Golden Jubilee year, 2002, and The Earl and Countess of Wessex both became full-time Royals. His work is little reported, often in favour of younger and more senior Royals, but don’t be deceived: Edward is very hard-working and last year undertook 245 engagements. He ranked the third busiest, only after The Princess Royal and The Prince of Wales.
13. In 2003, The Earl welcomed his first child with wife Sophie. The Lady Louise Alice Elizabeth Mary was born prematurely, and the birth made Sophie very ill. The couple’s second child, James Alexander Philip Theo, Viscount Severn, arrived in 2007.
14. Prince Edward started training as an Officer Cadet in the Royal Marines in 1986. He didn’t take to military life and left the Marines in January 1987.
15. Despite not having a military career, the father-of-2 has numerous honorary military appointments in the UK and the Commonwealth. This includes: Colonel of the London Regiment; Royal Honorary Colonel of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry; Royal Colonel, 2nd Battalion The Rifles; Honorary Deputy Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and Colonel-in-Chief, Prince Edward Island Regiment.
16. At university, His Royal Highness learnt to play Royal, or Real, Tennis. Henry VIII popularised the game in the 1530s, and remained popular until lawn tennis (the kind played at Wimbledon) emerged in the mid-19th century. It is played indoors, over a larger area and with a heavier, less bouncy ball. The rules are similar, but with a few contrasts, such as players can use the walls for shots, and a double-bounce does not mean ‘out’. Edward continues to play today when he has the time.
17. In January, Prince Edward was appointed Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. This means he will sit in the General Scottish Assembly on behalf of The Queen. For one week in May, Edward will rank just behind his parents, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, and will be styled as ‘His Grace’ instead of ‘His Royal Highness’.
18. Edward holds 4 degrees: his BA in History from Cambridge, and 2 honorary degrees. The University of Victoria awarded The Earl of Wessex a degree in 1994 and the University of Prince Edward Island did the same in 2007. As Chancellor of the University of Bath, he holds an honorary doctorate in Law.
19. The Earl is the Chancellor of the University of Bath; this sees him hand out degrees at graduation ceremonies and represent the University. Last year, he presented Paralympian swimmer, Ellie Simmonds with an honorary degree, the first duty he performed as Chancellor.
20. Edward lives with his family at the historic Bagshot Park in Surrey. It is only a few miles away from Windsor, where Her Majesty and Prince Philip spend most weekends; the Wessex children have often been seen riding with their grandmother, The Queen, in the grounds at Windsor.