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The Edinburghs

New titles, same old work ethic: the year for the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh

In many ways, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh are a bed rock of the Royal Family: the steadfast couple who carries out daily engagements, travels the world, and represents King Charles III at state and ceremonial events.

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This year, they gained new titles: from the Earl and Countess of Wessex to the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh—their long-promised titles coming to fruition in the reign of Edward’s oldest brother.

Their children are now older, with James, Earl of Wessex celebrating his 16th birthday in mid-December; and Lady Louise is currently in her second year of studies at the University of St Andrews.

We covered how Edward and Sophie have slowly but surely moved to the heart of the Royal Family over the past decade, which leads into one of the bigger conversations around the couple this past year: the subject of titles.

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On their wedding day in 1999, they were created the Earl and Countess of Wessex, with the intention that someday they would inherit the titles of Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh upon the demise of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

With Prince Philip’s passing in April 2021, the title was inherited by then-Prince Charles. Upon Queen Elizabeth II’s passing in September 2022, King Charles’s titles reverted to the Crown, making the dukedom of Edinburgh vacant and ready for Edward.

Speculation continued over the autumn of 2022 and into the winter of 2023, but on Edward’s 59th birthday, King Charles announced that he was pleased to confer the dukedom upon Edward, making him and Sophie the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh.

A unique addition to the title announcement was how “the title will be held by Prince Edward for His Royal Highness’s lifetime.” It means that James, Earl of Wessex (an honorary title he earned when his father became Duke of Edinburgh) will never succeed in the dukedom. We looked into James’s life when he inherited the earldom of Wessex. (We also looked into the life of Lady Louise, the only member of her immediate family who didn’t get a title change on 10 March.)

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Edward and Sophie were on a visit to Edinburgh when their new titles were announced, and Edward was notably overcome when speaking about it, telling those gathered at the City Chambers that it was “a very special and a slightly overwhelming day for me and – now – my wife, and duchess.” To honour Sophie, we looked back at all the women who have held the title previously.

Days after Edward became the Duke of Edinburgh, he was officially announced as patron of both the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award—though he’s been carrying out engagements for both for many years, since before Prince Philip’s death.

But whether at home—criss-crossing the United Kingdom on behalf of King Charles III and their patronages; or attending events like the Coronation, Trooping the Colour, Garter Day, and other royal events—or abroad, Edward and Sophie could be counted on to carry out their royal duties.

In February, Sophie traveled to the Netherlands (which we covered here, wondering why the trip wasn’t getting more coverage for the International Commission on Missing Persons. She was in Iraq at the end of May in support of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda; she travelled to Italy to attend the State Funeral of former President Giorgio Napolitano in September.

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In October, she helped support World Sight Day in her role as Global Ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. This saw Sophie in Ethiopia over a week early in the month.

She visited Colombia in support of survivors of gender-based violence in November. During a visit to Canada, Sophie took part in medical engagements while also paying tribute on Remembrance Day and overseeing the Countess of Wessex Cup, which involves several of her military regiments competing for a trophy.

In December, Sophie traveled to Switzerland to attend the Empowering Refugee Voices in Women Peace and Security Initiatives meeting and other engagements.

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At the end of February, Edward and Sophie headed out on their only joint overseas visit this year: to the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas in support of their patronages.

We also covered Edward’s visit to Germany and Czechia in May and his trip to Turkey in September for the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. Edward also travelled to New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Turkey, Bahrain, the United States and Canada on behalf of the International Award.

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Sophie received two major new military appointments: Colonel-in-Chief of both the Royal Irish Regiment and The Queen’s Own Yeomanry; Edward rode in the Trooping the Colour parade for the first time ever in June.

The Duchess expressed deep regret when an elderly woman who was killed when struck by a member of Sophie’s police escort.

In the late spring, at the Coronation concert, Sophie stole the show while Edward was upstaged by Kermit the Frog.

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About author

Jess Ilse is the Assistant Editor at Royal Central. She specialises in the British, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Royal Families and has been following royalty since Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. Jess has provided commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Jess works in communications and her debut novel THE MAJESTIC SISTERS will publish in Fall 2024.