As Queen Elizabeth’s youngest of four children, Prince Edward was always destined for fame, if not the throne. His birth in 1964, 16 years after Prince Charles, thrust him into the spotlight, and some scandals in his youth kept him there.
However, in recent years, Prince Edward hasn’t been in the spotlight quite as much. After all, who can compete with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle occupying headlines every month?
But there are few royals quite as fascinating as Prince Edward. Keep reading to learn the truth behind one of the most surprising members of the Royal Family.
He caused a scandal when he left the Royal Marines
Many members of the Royal Family have served in the military, including Prince William and Prince Harry. Prince Edward served, but only briefly, and he left service for a very unconventional reason.
Like his older brothers Prince Charles and Prince Andrew, Prince Edward joined the Royal Marines in his youth. But the 22-year-old prince felt like he didn’t fit in due to his fame. He only stayed in the Marines for four months, causing a royal scandal in January 1987. After that, he left to pursue his true passion: show business!
As Vanity Fair reports, Edward took a very humble role as a production assistant for the Really Useful Group. In this capacity, he worked with a true theatre legend: Andrew Lloyd Webber!
He’s responsible for a royal reality TV disaster
You know the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” This is basically the perfect description of Prince Edward’s infamous reality TV show experience.
In 1987, at just 23 years old and fancying a career in television, he organized and appeared on a reality TV game show with other royals and celebrities like John Travolta and Sheena Easton. The charity competition included antics like throwing fake hams at each other and dressing up as giant vegetables. As The Guardian points out, Edward described It’s a Royal Knockout as “the most extraordinary day in my life” even though most critics and audiences thought the whole event was cringeworthy.
In fact, Edward’s love of this television appearance was a likely motivator for him to start a TV production company, Ardent Productions, in 1993. It produced an indulgent 1996 documentary called Edward on Edward, featuring Prince Edward dishing on his great-uncle Edward VIII, who famously abdicated the throne. But Ardent Productions was not a success, losing money almost every year, and shut down in 2009.
He met Neil Armstrong as a child
As you might expect, Prince Edward had many unique opportunities as a child thanks to his famous parentage. And this son of Queen Elizabeth got to do something most people could only dream of: he met legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong!
In October 1969, Queen Elizabeth once arranged a meeting between the five-year-old prince and Armstrong, months after his historic landing on the moon. At the time, young Edward told Armstrong that he wanted to be an astronaut too.
Sadly, that never happened. But Edward found another way to hang out around the “stars” as he got older!
He requested to be an earl instead of a duke because of a movie
If you know much about the Royal Family and its titles, you might have noticed something a little odd. And that’s the fact that Prince Edward is an earl instead of a duke.
In terms of royal titles, Edward was a prince from the moment he was born. But when children of the monarch get married, they get a new title. “Duke” is the most important title, and Edward had the right to be called Duke once he got married. After all, his older brothers Charles and Andrew are the Duke of Cornwall and the Duke of York, respectively.
In 1999, when Edward got married, the Queen was ready to give him the title of Duke of Cambridge. However, Edward actually requested a different title instead: the Earl of Wessex. This is a strange choice considering that Wessex is not a current region in the U.K.
So, what was Edward’s reason for wanting that title? One of his favorite movies is Shakespeare In Love, and it has a character called the Earl of Wessex, played by Colin Firth.
He proposed with an extravagant engagement ring
For better or for worse, all eyes are on members of the Royal Family when they fall in love. Because of this, there is always the expectation for people like Prince Edward to go the extra mile when it comes to romance.
And that’s what happened when he proposed to public relations executive Sophie Rhys-Jones in January 1999. To do so, Edward offered her a fancy ring made by Garrard & Co., a company that has been crafting jewelry for royalty since the 18th century. The ring is made of 18-carat white gold and features a two-carat oval diamond nestled between two 0.4 carat trillion-shape diamonds. Oh, and the ring cost an estimated £110,000!
Edward and Sophie would go on to have two children: Lady Louise Windsor, born in 2003, and James, Viscount Severn, born in 2007.
He has the most unusual royal pet
At this point, we expect royalty to have pets. Nobody blinks an eye when a prince has a pet cat or dog. So, it’s unsurprising that Edward and his wife and children own two dogs.
But Edward took things to the next level when he revealed he also has a pet tortoise! This information came out as part of a video interview in June 2020 with students at the U.K.’s Orpheus Centre. And in that interview, Edward admitted that the tortoise “basically runs the house.”
He may run the house, but we imagine he “runs” it very slowly.
He cracked Prince Philip up with a pole dancing story
Normally, royal manners and protocol keep the Royal Family from discussing embarrassing matters in public. But this didn’t keep Prince Edward from cracking Prince Philip up with a story about pole dancing in 2016!
This happened during the 60th anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh Award. This award is a registered charity that helps young people aged 14–24 complete challenges of the mind and body. This particular ceremony was meant to honor those who had earned the Gold Award.
Edward was there as well as his mother Queen Elizabeth and his father Prince Philip. But when he got up to give a speech, Edward told a story about a young girl who told him she wanted to learn pole dancing in pursuit of the award, “although her parents were not at all keen about the idea.”
Edward admitted, “I know exceedingly little about pole dancing,” but after considering the amount of physical fitness it must require, told the girl “to go for it; isn’t that what the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is all about?” When Edward recounted this story for everyone at the ceremony, it really seemed to crack Prince Philip up the most!