Prince Edward and Sophie’s dream new life as the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh

The couple’s promotion proves you can be welcomed back into The Firm – even after scandal

It was a long time coming. But for the new Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, finally gaining titles that have special meaning to them has been worth the wait.

The couple was promised the titles by the Queen when they married in 1999 – once she and her husband Prince Philip, the then Duke of Edinburgh, were no longer around, of course.

It was expected Edward would be given the dukedom six months ago, after the Queen’s death. But when there was no announcement from the King – who’d officially inherited the title himself after Philip’s death in 2021 because he’s the eldest son – it seemed the pair were being denied the promotion.

However, Charles honoured the wishes of his parents by handing over the titles on Edward’s 59th birthday on March 10, and Edward and Sophie, 58, couldn’t hide their delight when they carried out their first official duties as the duke and duchess in, appropriately, Edinburgh.

A beaming Sophie and Edward got a warm welcome in Scotland.

Edward’s voice became hoarse with excitement as he referred to his wife as the Duchess of Edinburgh in public for the first time as they visited the Scottish capital’s City Chambers.

In a speech, he said, “Thank you very much indeed for welcoming us to Edinburgh today on, indeed, a very special and slightly overwhelming day.”

When the King did not immediately make Edward and Sophie a duke and duchess after ascending to the throne last September, there was speculation he was avoiding passing on the titles because he is trying to slim down the monarchy. A dukedom passed down to Edward’s descendants would add to the number of titled royals who can claim handouts from the royal purse.

However, it’s been announced the Duke of Edinburgh title will not go to Edward’s son James when he dies. Instead, it will be handed back to the crown, where it may be passed on to Prince William’s second son, Prince Louis, or even his daughter Princess Charlotte.

That means James, 15, who has now automatically inherited his father’s previous title of Earl of Wessex, will retain that for the rest of his life. There’s no new title for daughter Lady Louise, 19.

The doting parents with James and Lady Louise.

The fact the King has made his brother a duke is a sign that he considers Edward and Sophie to be important members of the family, and is grateful for their contributions.

Royal commentators say after several blunders in the early years of their marriage, Edward and Sophie have been able to redeem themselves with hard work and dedication.

“Edward and Sophie have both had their problems in the past, but they have shown how to react by knuckling down and getting on with their roles without fanfare,” says royal author Phil Dampier. “Sophie became a favourite of the late Queen, and the King has seen how his brother and wife have become a safe pair of hands. With a slimmed down monarchy, they have an important role to play.”

Edward got off to a shaky start as a senior royal when he disappointed his father by dropping out of the Royal Marines and going to work as a production assistant in the entertainment industry. He came up with the idea for a one-off TV game show called It’s a Royal Knockout in 1987 – featuring himself, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York – which was slammed by critics for being undignified. He also got in trouble in 2001 when his TV production company filmed his nephew William at St Andrew’s University, violating a media agreement to give the prince his privacy.

Not amused: Edward’s game show was deemed “undignified”.

In the same year, Sophie, who worked in PR, got caught in a sting by a journalist posing as a sheikh. She had to apologise and resign from her job after being recorded making embarrassing comments about her brother-in-law Charles and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The couple learned from those experiences and their behaviour since has been exemplary. Edward’s achievements include taking over from his father as the head of the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme, while Sophie has championed causes like preventing blindness and highlighting sexual violence in war.

Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams says the couple are likely to take on more patronages and will be “pivotal” to the future of the royal family.

He says that Edward, in particular, will be proud to be taking over the title of Duke of Edinburgh because of its association with his father. “His work for his father’s famous award scheme is impressive, as is his charitable activity.”

He adds, “Sophie is also a hard worker and a very valuable member of the family. They have done remarkable service to the royal family and this is very much deserved.”

Related stories