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Duke of Edinburgh: What does Prince Edward’s title change mean for him and Sophie?

Prince Edward has been announced as the Duke of Edinburgh, a title that previously belonged to his late father, Prince Philip.

King Charles III conferred the title on the former Earl of Wessex in celebration of Edward’s 59th birthday on Friday (10 March). Doing so also honours the wishes of their late parents, Queen Elizabeth II and Philip.

But, while it was long expected that the dukedom would be passed to Edward after Philip’s death, the King was reportedly reluctant to give the title to his youngest brother.

Buckingham Palace said in a statement today that Charles was “pleased to confer the Dukedom of Edinburgh upon the Prince Edward”, adding that the title will be held for Edward’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 statement continued.

“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.”

However, it has taken the King six months since he ascended the throne to confer the title to Edward. He became the new monarch after Queen Elizabeth II died in September 2022.

Here’s everything you need to know about what the title change will mean for Edward and his family.

What are Prince Edward and Sophie’s new titles?

Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie, were given the titles of Earl and Countess of Wessex when they married in 1999.

Prince Edward and Sophie pose with their children Lady Louise and James as they take part in the Great British Beach Clean on September 20, 2020 (Getty Images)
Prince Edward and Sophie pose with their children Lady Louise and James as they take part in the Great British Beach Clean on September 20, 2020 (Getty Images)

They will know be known and the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh.

Edward’s old title has been passed down to his 15-year-old son, James. James was previously the Viscount Severn, but is now the new Earl of Wessex.

The couple also have a daughter, Lady Louise. She will remain as such.

The Succession page on the royal family’s website has been updated to reflect the title change.

Why has it taken six months for King Charles III to give the title?

It was reported in 2021 that Charles was reluctant to hand their father’s title to his youngest brother.

After Philip’s death that year, the Duke of Edinburgh title was inherited by Charles, who was previously the Prince of Wales.

When Queen Elizabeth II died in September 2022, Charles acceded the throne and became King. The Duke of Edinburgh title was then reverted to the Crown.

It was the late Queen and Philip’s wish that Edward should inherit his father’s title when the time came. In 1999, Buckingham Palace said in a statement: “The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales have also agreed that the 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.”

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Sophie, Countess of Wessex attend the Duke of Edinburgh Award's 60th Anniversary Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on May 16, 2016 (Getty Images)
Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Sophie, Countess of Wessex attend the Duke of Edinburgh Award's 60th Anniversary Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on May 16, 2016 (Getty Images)

But a source close to Charles told The Times in 2021, when Charles held the title: “The prince is the Duke of Edinburgh as it stands, and it is up to him what happens to the title. It will not go to Edward.”

Last year, it was also reported that the King was in favour of a slimmed-down monarchy, which would have included Edward not inheriting the title.

A source told the Daily Mail: “The King wants to slim down the monarchy [so] it wouldn’t make sense to make the Earl the Duke of Edinburgh

“It’s a hereditary title which would then be passed on to the Earl and Countess of Wessex’s son, James, Viscount Severn.”

It appeared that Edward knew about his eldest brother’s reluctance. During an interview with the BBC to mark what would have been their father’s 100th birthday, he was asked: “You will be the next Duke of Edinburgh, when the Prince of Wales becomes king, that is quite something to take on?”

Edward answered: “It was fine in theory, ages ago when it was sort of a pipe dream of my father’s… and of course it will depend on whether or not the Prince of Wales, when he becomes king, whether he’ll do that, so we’ll wait and see. So yes, it will be quite a challenge taking that on.”

Will Prince Edward’s son inherit the title when he dies?

No. The dukedom will not pass to James when Edward dies – paving the way instead for one of the Prince and Princess of Wales’ children to potentially be given the title in the future. The most likely candidate is their youngest son, Prince Louis, as their eldest, Prince George, will be heir apparent when William becomes king.

Prince Edward and Sophie pose with their children Lady Louise and James as they take part in the Great British Beach Clean on September 20, 2020 (Getty Images)
Prince Edward and Sophie pose with their children Lady Louise and James as they take part in the Great British Beach Clean on September 20, 2020 (Getty Images)

James will become the Earl of Wessex and Forfar when the title of the Duke of Edinburgh reverts to the Crown, the Palace said.

Edward will also remain for his lifetime the Earl of Forfar, another of his titles, but will use the Duke of Edinburgh because it is the more senior Scottish title.