Prince Charles, who was famously resentful that Princess Diana outshone him, is now said to be annoyed at the increasingly high profile of his brother Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie Wessex. This irritation might go some way to explaining his reported decision not to honor his late father Prince Philip’s wishes to give Edward the title Duke of Edinburgh.
Also forming part of Charles’ decision to deny Edward the dukedom, which Philip promised him, according to the seasoned Daily Mail social scribe Richard Kay, is childhood sibling rivalry, which he alleges goes back to Philip’s preferential treatment of Edward when they were boys. Edward was said to have benefited from a relaxed and loving father-son relationship with Philip, who read him stories and helped build models with him as a kid, Kay says. Charles was famously treated very harshly by his father and said as much when telling his life story to his official biographer, Jonathan Dimbleby.
In an attempt to explain the difference in the way Philip treated the two boys, Kay quotes a bizarre bit of reasoning from an anonymous palace aide who is described as saying: “Put yourself in [Philip’s] shoes… You have been consort and then [Charles] comes along and is suddenly the heir. It was probably human nature to transfer your affection to the youngest, who in the scheme of things will inherit nothing. It was why he wished Edward to have his title.”
The astonishing article by the usually well-briefed Kay doesn’t just stop at suggesting that Windsor family dysfunction is so extreme that Charles was the object of jealousy by his own father; it then goes on to suggest that following Edward and Sophie’s prominent role in the aftermath of Philip’s death, including a series of interviews in which they discussed the challenges of taking on his legacy, there is “Wessex fatigue” among “some” members of the royal family.
The Mail quotes a source, described as “close” to Camilla, archly saying: “It has been noted that they are often described as ‘indispensable,’” while another source, described as part of Charles’ circle, tells Kay that the title decision “is not a done deal.”
The ruthless decision by Charles to deny Edward the dukedom of Edinburgh is completely in line with his vision of a smaller royal family. Kay says that the Edinburgh title would be inherited by Edward’s son, Viscount Severn, on his death, if it passed to Edward. The implication is that this could create the expectation of royal privileges for the young man, who, Kay says, “is being raised to expect a life outside the royal family.”
Charles’ intention to downsize and modernize the monarchy is well-known, of course, but this shifting of the goalposts goes back on a long-held and explicit public commitment by the royals to make Edward the Duke of Edinburgh.
When he married Sophie, back in 1999, Buckingham Palace said: “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.”
However this weekend The Sunday Times was briefed that the title had now in fact passed to Charles, who will not use it. The Sunday Times quoted a source saying bluntly: “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.”
As The Daily Beast reported in this weekend’s Royalist newsletter, Edward equivocated diplomatically when asked after Philip’s death if he would become Duke of Edinburgh, telling the BBC: “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.”
One can only admire Edward’s restraint. It seems a bitter reward for Edward and Sophie, that, having been requested to take on more high profile roles by the palace, they now stand to be punished by Charles for potentially outshining him.