The King has conferred the title of Duke of Edinburgh on his youngest brother to mark his 59th birthday today.
Unusually, however, the title, previously held by his father, Prince Philip, will only remain with him for his lifetime and on his death revert to the Crown.
This raise in royal status for Sophie, 57, is a touching tribute to the late Queen’s daughter-in-law who lovingly called her ‘mama’.
Queen Elizabeth II’s title of Duchess of Edinburgh passing to Sophie gives her a front-and-centre role as one of a reduced number of working royals, as King Charles begins to slim down the monarchy.
Sophie the Countess of Wessex has now been elevated to become Duchess of Edinburgh – as it’s been announced her husband Prince Edward has taken his late father’s title as Duke of Edinburgh
This raise in royal status for Sophie, 57, is a touching tribute to the late Queen’s daughter-in-law who lovingly called her ‘mama’
Sophie’s previous rank as Countess of Wessex, meant she was of an equal rank with her husband Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex.
However their new titles of Duke and Duchess are of a higher rank, elevating them in status to just below the monarch.
Duchesses are also referred to as Her Royal Highness.
Meanwhile the title of the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh is one of the most senior in the Royal Family.
The move is a touching and lasting connection between the late Queen and her much-loved daughter-in-law, Sophie.
She was been noted as the late monarch’s ‘favourite’ family member and closest confidante.
She was reportedly encouraged by the monarch to fill the gap left by Prince Harry and Meghan following Megxit at the start of 2020.
Experts previously noted the Countess being in the spotlight is what Prince Philip ‘would have wanted’ and helped to ‘keep his memory alive.’
At a service for her mother-in-law near Balmoral the Countess of Wessex was seen teary-eyed while kneeling to admire tributes – showing the depth of their relationship which had progressed to the point where the she was said to be treated as a ‘second daughter’ by the Queen.
Experts previously noted the Countess being in the spotlight is what Prince Philip ‘would have wanted’ and helped to ‘keep his memory alive’
The Queen cared for Sophie in 2005 after her mother, Mary Rhys-Jones, 77, died from stomach cancer in 2005.
As Prince Edward’s and Sophie’s house, Bagshot Park, is only a short trip from Windsor it meant the Queen’s youngest son and his family to regularly visit.
How the different titles are ranked
Walking their dogs together was a favourite past-time of the pair. They also shared a love of military history, spending hours poring over ancient documents in the Royal Archives at Windsor, where Sophie and her mother-in-law indulged in their shared hobby, researching military history.
Even if she was unable to see the Queen in person – Sophie would always make sure to call ‘mama’ every day – and she was the first royal to speak about Prince Philip’s death.
Along with Kate, the Princess of Wales, and Princess Anne, Sophie is just one of few female senior royals who will be guiding the Crown into its next era.
The PR guru from Oxford has won plaudits for her choice of work on preventable blindness and the issue of sexual violence in war, the Daily Mail reported on Monday.
She has also become a source of advice for the new Princess of Wales, who sees that Sophie admires the way she balances her royal duties with motherhood.
The new Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh will be in the city later today as they attend a reception to mark the first year of the conflict in Ukraine.
The ancient and prestigious title of Duke of Edinburgh was given to Prince Philip by Queen Elizabeth when they married in 1947.
Edward was exceptionally close to his father and his later years took on much of his work with the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme.
When he and Sophie married in 1999 it was announced that the dukedom would pass to Edward after Philip’s death.
That was two years ago, however, and there has been much to-ing and fro-ing behind the scenes on the issue ever since.
The issue for Buckingham Palace was that Edward is now 13th in line to the throne and will only slide further down the order of succession over the years when the Prince and Princess of Wales’ children grow up and go on to have families of their own.
The mother-of-two has long been hailed the ‘secret weapon’ of the royal family, and is ‘down to earth’ (pictured, with Lady Louise and James, Viscount Severn)
Sophie and Edward have particularly stepped up since Harry and Meghan’s acrimonious departure in 2019
There was concern that the most senior titles associated with a nation of the United Kingdom would be passed on to an ever more junior branch of the family line.
So when Philip died in April 2021, Buckingham Palace announced that the title had reverted to the monarch – and that continued to be the case when Queen Elizabeth died last September.
At one point courtiers discussed the King keeping the title permanently but many felt that it would be wrong not to honour Prince Philip’s wishes and thank Edward for the ceaseless work he has done on behalf of the monarchy in recent years.
He and his wife have particularly stepped up since Harry and Meghan’s acrimonious departure in 2019.
The Mail understands that after Edward’s eventual death that the Duke of Edinburgh title will most likely be given to one of William and Kate’s children, most likely Prince Louis, when they are older.
Sources stressed that the timing of the announcement had nothing to do with developments this week regarding the titles of Harry and Meghan’s children, Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet, as such announcements are normally made on a member of the Royal Family’s birthday.
This is indeed true, although it is likely that the issue of the Sussex children had to be sorted first so as not to offended the notoriously prickly duke and duchess.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said today: ‘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.’