Royals: Sophie Wessex plants a rose for Prince Philip

Prince Edward is the new Duke of Edinburgh, Buckingham Palace has announced. In celebration of his 59th birthday, King Charles III granted his younger brother the title their late father held for more than 70 years. It is understood that Prince Philip, who died in April 2021, and who was given the title on the morning of his wedding to Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II, wanted his youngest son to take on the title. Having launched The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, Philip’s work and legacy as Prince Consort became synonymous with his dukedom.

But the title predates Philip, and while he is remembered for his dedication to the monarchy and support of his wife, the previous Dukes of Edinburgh faced misfortune and tragedy. Here, looks back at the Dukes of Edinburgh of the past and how, until Prince Philip, the title was cursed by catastrophe.

Hated son

When King George VI bestowed the Duke of Edinburgh title on his son-in-law in November 1947, Philip became the first royal to take on the dukedom in 47 years.

Before him, three others were styled as such — Prince Frederik, Prince George, later George III, and Prince Alfred — all of whom suffered a series of unfortunate events.

The son of King George II and Queen Caroline, Prince Frederick was the first to hold the title. His grandfather, King George I, created the dukedom in 1726 and bestowed it on his grandson.

Frederick grew up in Hanover and did not move to England until 1728, arriving as a young man and heir to the throne, as his father had become King only the year before.

After years of separation, Frederick’s relationship with his parents was strained, with George II barely able to talk to his eldest son. Though the root of the antipathy has never been truly established, their mutual hatred was a well-known national scandal.

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Prince Frederick Of Wales

Prince Frederick Of Wales (Image: Getty)

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Queen Caroline once described Frederick as “the greatest ass and the greatest liar and the greatest canaille [commoner] and the greatest beast in the whole world”, adding she “heartily” wished he were “out of it”.

On a separate occasion, she said: “I wish the ground would open this moment and sink the monster to the lowest hole in hell.”

In 1737, when Caroline was on her deathbed, George refused to let Frederick say goodbye to his mother. The Queen, however, was seemingly thankful.

She said: “At last I shall have one comfort in having my eyes eternally closed, I shall never have to see that monster again.”

Despite receiving £50,000 (more than £8.5million in today’s money) a year from his father, Frederick was not satisfied with his income. He demanded more money and, upon his father’s refusal, unsuccessfully appealed against the King to parliament for a larger allowance.

King George II and Queen Caroline

King George II (R) and Queen Caroline (Image: Getty Images)

At the time, having been banished from the King’s court, Frederick was running his own rival court, manoeuvering against Sir Robert Walpole, chief minister to his father and widely regarded as Britain’s first Prime Minister.

He later became a devoted family man, sharing nine children with his wife, Princess Augusta, one of whom was the future King George III.

His political ambitions were unfulfilled when Frederick died in 1751, at the age of 44. His death has been recorded as one of the most unusual in British history, with some sources claiming he died after being hit with a cricket ball, causing an abscess to burst.

Confined to his bed, moments before his death, Frederick reportedly uttered the words, “Je sens la mort”, French for “I smell death”.

He predeceased his father, making him the most recent Prince of Wales to have not become monarch.

King George III of England

King George III was King from 1760 – 1820 (Image: Getty)

Secluded Sovereign 

After Frederik’s death, his son became the second-ever Duke of Edinburgh. Prince George, the second child of Frederik and Augusta, also became heir apparent and later the Prince of Wales.

George only held the dukedom for nine years before his grandfather’s death in 1760 saw him accede to the throne.

Unlike his father and grandfather, who grew up in Germany, George was born and brought up in Britain and expressed his love for his country by telling Parliament in his accession speech: “I glory in the name of Britain.”

He is most commonly associated with Britain’s best-known military defeat in the American War of Independence. But historian Andrew Roberts argued in his bestselling biography of the King that he was maligned.

Throughout his reign, George founded the Royal Academy, bought Buckingham Palace and gave royal assent to the 1807 Act that made the slave trade illegal.

The final years of his life, however, dissented into tragedy. For decades, George had suffered from ill health, and in 1810, following the death of his daughter Amelia, his mental health deteriorated.

His son, the Prince of Wales (later George IV) acted as regent for the remainder of George’s life. By the end of 1811, the King had become permanently insane and lived in seclusion at Windsor Castle until his death in 1820.

The Duke of Edinburgh ceased to exist until 1866, 46 years later, when a new monarch recreated the title.

Secluded Sovereign 

After Frederik’s death, his son became the second-ever Duke of Edinburgh. Prince George, the second child of Frederik and Augusta, also became heir apparent and later the Prince of Wales.

George only held the dukedom for nine years before his grandfather’s death in 176- saw him accede to the throne.

His Majesty King George Iii Returning From Hunting

George III spent the final years of his life secluded in Windsor Castle (Image: Getty)

Devastating loss

The next royal to be honoured with the dukedom was Prince Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria and Albert, Prince Consort.

He was created the Duke of Edinburgh during his mother’s Birthday Honours on May 24, 1866.

Just years earlier, in 1862, he had been chosen to succeed King Otto of Greece on his abdication. However, the plan was thwarted by the British Government, largely because his mother was staunchly opposed.

Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh

Prince Alfred was the econd son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (Image: Getty)

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Nearing the age of 20, Alfred had been serving in the Royal Navy for six years and was eventually appointed to the command of the frigate HMS Galatea.

He became the first royal to visit Australia when he sailed to the country as commander of his own ship, arriving for a five-month tour and receiving a warm welcome from his future subjects.

However, the Duke had a close call during a visit to Sydney in 1868, when he was attacked by a man with a revolver. Alfred was shot just to the right of his spine. For two weeks, he was tended to by nurses, trained by Florence Nightingale, who brought him back to full health.

His would-be assassin, Irish-born Henry O’Farrell, was subsequently tried and executed.

Though unhappily married to his Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna, the daughter of Tsar Alexander II, the couple produced five children who survived into adulthood.

His eldest son, also called Alfred, was suffering from syphilis and depression, having been involved in a scandal involving his mistress.

During his parents’ 25th wedding anniversary celebrations in 1899, the young Prince shot himself and, despite initially recovering, died two weeks later. His father was devastated.

Eighteen months later, the elder Prince Alfred met his own end after a battle with throat cancer.

His death was said to heaped further misery on his mother after her decades-long mourning following her husband Prince Albert’s demise in 1861, and the loss of two of her other children. Victoria died just six months later, in January 1901.

Queen Victoria & Family

Queen Victoria and her family in mourning (Image: Getty)

Elizabeth’s ‘strength and stay’ 

Forty-seven years later, the Duke of Edinburgh title was created for a third time when Prince Philip married Princess Elizabeth and was given the title by her father, King George VI.

Born on the Greek Island of Corfu on June 10, 1921, to Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg, Philip was sixth in line to the Greek throne.

Following the forced abdication of his uncle, King Constantine I, after Greece’s defeat in a war with Turkey, Philip and his family fled.

The following years were marked by tragedy and loneliness, and the family grew fractured. Princess Alice was confined to a sanatorium in Switzerland, Prince Andrew had forged a new life in the south of France, and Philip’s sisters had settled in Germany.

Duke Of Edinburgh Presents Medals At The Royal Society Of Edinburgh

Philip was the Queen’s loyal consort for over 70 years (Image: Getty)

The Prince later commented: “It’s simply what happened. The family broke up. My mother was ill, my sisters were married, my father was in the south of France. I just had to get on with it. You do. One does.”

Philip grew up in the UK. Having completed his education, he joined the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, where he proved a brilliant cadet and graduated top of his class. It was there that Philip had his first meaningful encounter with the future Queen.

While Philip served during World War Two, he kept in contact with the young Princess Elizabeth. And in 1947, the couple married, becoming the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh.

Just five years later, George VI died and Elizabeth inherited the throne. The Duke became the Queen’s consort, and his primary function was to support his wife.

Future Queen Marries

Philip became the Duke of Edinburgh when he and Elizabeth married (Image: Getty)

Philip became a driving force in modernising the monarchy, notably encouraging the televised element of the Coronation Service at Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953.

But one of his most enduring legacies is the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, founded in 1956 at the urging of his former headmaster, Kurt Hahn. Participants aged 14-25 earn awards by carrying out voluntary work, practising sports, learning skills and undertaking an expedition.

Now, his legacy is upheld by his youngest son, Prince Edward, who worked closely with the Duke on the award scheme.

When Philip died in April 2021, his eldest son succeeded in his hereditary titles. Then, upon Charles’s accession to the throne in September, the peerages merged into the Crown and ceased to exist.

But on March 10, 2023, King Charles created the Duke of Edinburgh title for a fourth time to bestow it on his brother Edward, fulfilling the long-held wish of their late father.

Anwar Hussein Collection

Prince Edward will continue his father’s legacy (Image: Getty)

Unlike the late Queen’s other sons, Edward did not receive a dukedom upon his marriage. Instead, he and his wife Sophie became the Earl and Countess of Wessex. It was with the promise that he would later be elevated up the House of Windsor hierarchy.

As Buckingham Palace announced in a statement on their wedding day on June 19, 1999: “The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales have also agreed that Prince Edward should be given the Dukedom of Edinburgh in due course when the present title held now by Prince Philip eventually reverts to the Crown.”

Despite this, Edward never thought inheriting the title was definite, telling the BBC in an interview to mark what would have been Philip’s 100th birthday in June 2021 that the idea was “a pipe dream of my father’s”.

He said: “Of course, it will depend on whether or not the Prince of Wales, when he becomes king, whether he’ll do that, so we’ll wait and see. So yes, it will be quite a challenge taking that on.”

Now, the Earl of Wessex will hold the title for his lifetime.

*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.