On 20 November 1947, Prince Philip married Britain’s future queen, Princess Elizabeth, in London’s glorious Westminster Abbey. Shortly before the royal wedding, the Greek-Danish groom was granted a trio of British titles by his father-in-law, George VI – a marvellous wedding gift! Prince Philip was made Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich, cementing his position among the nation’s elite.
Duke of Edinburgh is the most significant of the titles, as dukes occupy the highest rank in the British peerage (above marquises, earls, viscounts and barons). Moreover, a royal duke is the cream of the crop!
The newlyweds’ first official meeting had taken place in 1939, when they were teenagers. The location was Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth (the beautiful Devon harbour town that’s home to our exclusive Seated Titles), where Prince Philip was an outstanding cadet. He and Princess Elizabeth became good friends; love blossomed in their twenties. When the royal couple embarked on married life, five years before Princess Elizabeth came to the throne, they were styled as the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh.
An Earldom for the Queen’s Youngest Son
Now fast forward to 19 June 1999: on that date, the Queen and Prince Philip’s youngest child, Prince Edward, married Sophie Rhys-Jones at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. As Tatler magazine remarked, the wedding service was ‘relatively simple’ by royal standards yet still attracted 200 million TV viewers.
The lack of pomp and ceremony isn’t the only way Prince Edward’s wedding day broke with tradition. It’s something of a royal custom for the monarch’s sons and grandsons to be made dukes when they marry. For example, Prince Edward’s brother, Prince Andrew, received the elite title Duke of York in 1986, while the Queen’s eldest grandson, Prince William, has been known as the Duke of Cambridge since 2011. Prince Edward, however, took an unconventional path.
On their wedding day, he and his wife became the Earl and Countess of Wessex. There’s no doubt Prince Edward is satisfied with his earldom; indeed he chose it himself, as Royal Central notes. But you may well be wondering why he didn’t receive the more senior title of Duke.
Expected to Inherit His Father’s Title
The royal announcement that accompanied Prince Edward’s marriage sheds light on the title issue:
‘The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales have […] agreed that Prince Edward should be given the Dukedom of Edinburgh in due course, when the present title held now by Prince Philip eventually reverts to the Crown.’
In other words, the Queen, Prince Philip and their eldest child, Prince Charles, felt in 1999 that it would be fitting for Prince Edward to assume the title Duke of Edinburgh after his father’s death. He was, in effect, a duke-in-waiting.
Has Prince Charles Changed His Mind?
Prince Edward seems a highly suitable candidate for the Duke of Edinburgh title. He’s a trustee of Prince Philip’s brainchild, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme for young people, and is tipped to become its patron. His wife is one of the Queen’s confidantes and praised Prince Philip as a ‘fantastic life partner for her’.
However, recent news reports suggest Prince Edward may not inherit the Edinburgh dukedom after all.
When Prince Philip died in April, the title Duke of Edinburgh automatically passed to Prince Charles. It’ll remain his until he becomes king. He can then choose whether or not to bestow it on his brother.
According to Tatler, a royal insider claims Prince Charles has decided the title ‘will not go to Edward’. The reasons for this apparent change of heart are unclear, but if the insider is correct, the future of the Edinburgh dukedom is now less certain. It may still go to Prince Edward if Prince Charles ultimately reverts to the original plan. It may go to another member of the Royal Family instead. It may be left dormant.
Prince Charles will have the final say. Prince Edward can only wait and see (and perhaps cross his fingers). Let’s hope the Duke of Edinburgh title lives on.
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