LONDON — Who will become the next Duke of Edinburgh?
It’s a question that has returned to prominence after the death of Britain’s Prince Philip, who died April 9, just two months before his 100th birthday. The rank of duke is the top title in the British roll of peerage and one that Philip held for more than seven decades. The Duke of Edinburgh title was created in 1726 by King George I, and given to Prince Frederick.
King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II, bestowed the title on his son-in-law Philip ahead of his wedding to then-Princess Elizabeth in 1947. When Elizabeth became queen in 1953, Philip did not become king because that title is given only to males who inherit the throne.
When the title was granted to Philip, a letters patent was issued by the king, stating that the title would one day be inherited by the duke’s eldest son, Prince Charles — also next in line to the British throne.
In 1957, Philip was made a prince by the queen, who declared that he be known as “His Royal Highness the Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh.”
“These peerages are hereditary and on the death of His Royal Highness have passed to his eldest son, HRH The Prince of Wales,” a tribute to the duke on the College of Arms website reads, which is why Charles inherited the title on the day his father died.
Despite the hereditary rules, Prince Edward was promised the title on his wedding day in 1999, with Buckingham Palace announcing at the time that he would one day inherit the title, despite being the youngest child of Philip and Elizabeth. To date, Edward is the only one of the monarch’s four children not to hold a dukedom. He is referred to as the Earl of Wessex — a title he is said to have chosen for himself when he married Sophie Rhys-Jones, who became the Countess of Wessex.
For years, Edward has worked closely with his father on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program, which was founded in 1956 and is designed to help young people achieve in life by teaching physical activities to participants age 14 to 25 and enrolling them in volunteer work, regardless of their background or ability. According to the royal family, the initiative now operates in more than 140 countries and has “helped to transform the lives of millions” by equipping future generations with necessary skills to live happy, healthy and successful adult lives.
Despite being promised the title by his parents, and supporting the Duke of Edinburgh’s charity, Edward is unlikely to be granted the title officially until after the queen’s death, when his elder brother Charles becomes king. When a royal becomes a monarch, other titles they hold merge with the crown, leaving room for them to be regranted.
So for now, the title sits with Charles, until he is in a position to bestow it to his younger brother.