King Charles has conferred the title of Duke of Edinburgh – the title enjoyed by his late father Prince Philip – on his youngest brother, the Earl of Wessex, honouring the wishes of the Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.
The title, which was presented to the earl on his 59th birthday, will be held for the lifetime of Prince Edward and means his son, James, who holds the title of Viscount Severn, now becomes Earl of Wessex.
A similar change in titles was announced earlier this week when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex began using the titles Prince and Princess for their children Archie and Lilibet, who are sixth and seventh in line to the throne respectively.
So what does the title actually mean and who else is affected?
What does the title mean?
The title does not include any land ownership and does not produce any revenue for the title holder, but is regarded as an honorary title.
Edward was promised his late father’s title more than 20 years ago when he married Sophie Rhys-Jones in June 1999. He was made Earl of Wessex by the Queen and Buckingham Palace announced he would also become Duke of Edinburgh.
A palace statement said: “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.”
The new Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh will arrive in Edinburgh later today, to attend a reception to mark the first year anniversary of the war in Ukraine.
Does it affect anyone else?
The change means Sophie, the former Countess of Wessex, will be the new Duchess of Edinburgh while their 15-year-old son James will become the new Earl of Wessex. Earlier this week, a similar change in titles was announced when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex began using the titles Prince and Princess for their children Archie and Lilibet.
When Philip died the title went to his eldest son, Charles, and when Charles became King, the title returned to the crown. Charles was then able to confer it on whom he chose, though it has long been thought it would go to Edward.
What about Edward’s son?
While the dukedom was traditionally a hereditary title, it will not automatically be given to James when he dies. Instead, it will revert to the crown, according to the Palace.
Buckingham Palace previously said Edward would eventually become the Duke of Edinburgh once both Philip and the Queen pass away. At the time, a spokesperson for the palace: “The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince of Wales have also agreed that the Prince Edward should be given the dukedom of Edinburgh in due course when the present title now held by Prince Philip eventually reverts to the Crown.”
The Earldom of Forfar, another of Edward’s titles, will also remain with the new Duke of Edinburgh for his lifetime. The Dukedom of Edinburgh is the more senior of the two Scottish titles, so it assumed this is what Edward will use.
James will become the Earl of Wessex and Forfar when the title of the Duke of Edinburgh eventually reverts once more to the crown.
What is the history of the title?
The dukedom stretches back to the 18th century, and has been bestowed four times for members of the royal family. in 1726 for Prince Frederick, the eldest son of King George II, was made Duke of Edinburgh.
In 1764, the title was created for Prince William, brother of King George III, jointly with the dukedom of Gloucester, and in 1866 for Queen Victoria’s second son Prince Alfred, before Prince Philip was given the title in 1947 as the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.