Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Wessex, Gordonstoun, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Louis of Batenberg, Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, Prince William, Queen Elizabeth II, Sophie Rhys-Jones, St. George's Chapel, Tony Blair, Windsor Castle
HRH The Earl of Wessex
Today I would like to feature the Earl of Wessex. He is the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh. There is a lot about him that I can relate to. We are very close in age. I just turned 49 on Monday and he will be 49 this coming March. Both of our parents were about the same age too. My mother was born a year before the queen and my father was just 5 months older than the duke of Edinburgh.
I have said on this blog that I am a traditionalist when it comes to monarchy and to the most part I am. The Earl of Wessex represents a good mixture of both tradition and progressive attitudes when it comes to being a Prince of the United Kingdom. For the most part I am supportive of the non traditional paths that he has chosen although there are a couple of places where I disagree with those choices.
He was raised by a governess in the traditional style of his elder siblings. His very early education was at Buckingham Palace under tutors but by age of seven, Edward went to Gibbs School before attending, Heatherdown Preparatory School, near Ascot. After his stint there he followed in the footsteps of his father and elder brother, the Prince of Wales, and attended Gordonstoun in the north of Scotland. Edward spent his gap year abroad as a house tutor and junior master at the Wanganui Collegiate School in New Zealand. He attended college at Cambridge despite not having grades that were traditionally acceptable at the college. This created a bit of controversy at the time.
After graduating from Cambridge with a Master of Arts degree Prince Edward followed the very long line of tradition for British princes and joined the Royal Marines to train as an officer cadet. This did not last long. In January of 1987 the prince resigned after completing one third of the 12 month basic training course. Instead of the military Edward thereafter became more involved in theatre work. This was a big break from tradition. His father had been in the military, serving in the navy during World War II. The Duke of Edinburgh’s maternal grandfather, Prince Louis of Battenberg (Louis Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven) rose to the rank of Admiral and then First Sea lord in the British Navy. His son, Edward’s great-uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma, Last Viceroy of India, Admiral of the Fleet, also held the position of First Sea Lord. Many British monarchs themselves saw active duty in military service. Both he future William IV and George V saw active duty in the British Navy. I applaud Edward for bucking this tradition.
Edward worked for some major theater companies such as Andre Lloyd Webber’s productions until he formed his own film company, Ardent Productions, under the name of Edward Windsor. The company specialized in documentaries. In 2001 Edward’s company filmed his nephew, Prince William, while he was at St Andrews, University. The anger Prince William feeling it was an invasion of privacy. Edward gas since stepped down from the company which had reported financial losses and stepped down from the company although he still maintains contact as a non-executive director.
In 1993 at a tennis match Edward met his future wife, Sophie Rhys-Jones. The 1990s were a terrible time for marriages in the British royal family. All of Edward’s siblings, the Prince of Wales, The Princess Royal and the Duke of York were all divorced at some point in the 1990s. Edward and Sophie dated for many years and kept a low profile not wanting to make the same mistakes that his siblings had made.
Edward and sophie were married at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle on June 19th 1999. Compared to his siblings this wedding was very low-key and not as ostentatious. Edward and Sophie did not want their wedding to be turned into a state occasion. This decision lead to there being no ceremonial state or military involvement. This also meant that Prime Minister Tony Blair and other politicians did not have to be invited. Rather than formal court dress or military uniforms, the couple requested that guests attend wearing formal wear.
To keep these blog posts to a digestible level I will stop here. Next week in the feature on royal princes’ and princesses I will examine Edward and Sophie’s children which will allow me to discuss how Edward has broken with tradition in these matters.