The King has conferred the title of Duke of Edinburgh on his youngest brother, Prince Edward, to mark his 59th birthday today.
Unusually, however, the title, previously held by his father, Prince Philip, will only remain with him for his lifetime and on his death revert to the Crown.
His wife, Sophie, currently the Countess of Wessex, will become the Duchess of Edinburgh.
Their son James, Viscount Severn, 15, will from today be known as Earl of Wessex – his father’s previous title.
Under the ancient rules of primogeniture, none of the changes will affect the couple’s student daughter Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor, however.
King Charles, then Prince Charles, with Prince Edward at Ascot Racecourse on June 15, 2021
Edward and Sophie with Philip at a DofE Award garden party at Buckingham Palace in 2016
Prince Edward and Sophie with their children Louise and James, pictured in Bristol in 2019
The Buckingham Palace website has been updated this morning to list Prince Edward as ‘The Duke of Edinburgh’ in the order of succession. He is 13th in line to the throne
The ancient and prestigious title of Duke of Edinburgh was given to Prince Philip by Queen Elizabeth when they married in 1947.
New titles for royals
- Prince Edward – Duke of Edinburgh
- Sophie – Duchess of Edinburgh
- James, Viscount Severn – Earl of Wessex
- Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor – no change
Edward was exceptionally close to his father and his later years took on much of his work with the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme.
When he and Sophie married in 1999 it was announced that the dukedom would pass to Edward after Philip’s death.
That was two years ago, however, and there has been much to-ing and fro-ing behind the scenes on the issue ever since.
The issue for Buckingham Palace was that Edward is now 13th in line to the throne and will only slide further down the order of succession over the years when the Prince and Princess of Wales’ children grow up and go on to have families of their own.
There was concern that the most senior titles associated with a nation of the United Kingdom would be passed on to an ever more junior branch of the family line.
So when Philip died in April 2021, Buckingham Palace announced that the title had reverted to the monarch – and that continued to be the case when Queen Elizabeth died last September.
The Queen and Philip with Charles, Andrew, Anne and Edward at Clarence House in 2007
Prince Edward with Prince Philip on the Buckingham Palace balcony in London in 2005
Prince Edward and Prince Philip together at Harry and Meghan’s wedding in Windsor in 2018
At one point courtiers discussed the King keeping the title permanently but many felt that it would be wrong not to honour Prince Philip’s wishes and thank Edward for the ceaseless work he has done on behalf of the monarchy in recent years.
History of the Dukedom
The Dukedom has previously been created four times for members of the Royal Family as follows:
- 1726 – Prince Frederick, eldest son of King George II
- 1764 – Prince William, brother of King George III, as part of the joint title, The Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh
- 1866 – Prince Alfred, second son of Queen Victoria
- 1947 – Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II
He and his wife have particularly stepped up since Harry and Meghan’s acrimonious departure in 2019.
The Mail understands that after Edward’s eventual death that the Duke of Edinburgh title will most likely be given to one of William and Kate’s children, most likely Prince Louis, when they are older.
Sources stressed that the timing of the announcement had nothing to do with developments this week regarding the titles of Harry and Meghan’s children, Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet, as such announcements are normally made on a member of the Royal Family’s birthday.
This is indeed true, although it is likely that the issue of the Sussex children had to be sorted first so as not to offended the notoriously prickly duke and duchess.
Like other members of the Royal Family, Edward had a number of titles conferred on him when he married. His other Scottish title is the Earl of Forfar.
He will remain Earl of Forfar, although will use his more senior title of Edinburgh.
His son James will become The Earl of Wessex and Forfar when Edward dies and the now non hereditary title of Edinburgh reverts to the Crown again.
The new Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh will be in the city later today as they attend a reception to mark the first year of the conflict in Ukraine.
Queen Elizabeth II and her son Prince Edward at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 1995
Edward and Sophie in Gibraltar in June 2022 (left) and Edward in Newton Abbot in May 2022
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said today: ‘His Majesty The King has been pleased to confer the Dukedom of Edinburgh upon The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Forfar, on the occasion of His Royal Highness’s 59th birthday.
‘The title will be held by Prince Edward for His Royal Highness’s lifetime.
‘The Dukedom was last created for Prince Philip in 1947, upon his marriage to Princess Elizabeth, who held the title of Duchess of Edinburgh before acceding to the throne in 1952.
‘The new Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh are proud to continue Prince Philip’s legacy of promoting opportunities for young people of all backgrounds to reach their full potential.’