A Closer Look At Prince Edward's Relationship With Prince William

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The members of the British royal family have dominated the headlines for decades, but the news of Queen Elizabeth II's death thrust a spotlight on the firm that even its members couldn't prepare for. Everything — from the vigils held in the late queen's honor to what the royals said to each other to how they interacted in front of the cameras — was picked apart, as watchers were craving answers to the royal family's biggest questions.

Of course, Prince William and Prince Harry's ongoing feud — and their high-profile Windsor walkabout — presented more questions than answers. Many dissected the brothers' interaction, body language, and the icy temperature between Catherine, Princess of Wales, and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex. And while the sons of King Charles III and Diana Spencer reunited and presented as much of a unified front as possible, it became clear to almost everyone watching that they wouldn't see eye-to-eye for long.

But William's tense relationship with Harry isn't the only familial bond worse for wear. As it turns out, William and his uncle, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, have butted heads on more than one occasion. Some uncle/nephew relationships are more akin to a father/son bond — creating a unique dynamic between the elder and younger family members — but Edward and William's relationship is distant, if not tense. We're taking a closer look at the dynamic shared between the two royals and what exactly happened to their relationship over time.

Prince Edward's relationship with William and his mother was distant from the beginning

To get the full picture of Prince Edward's relationship with Prince William, we must go back to the beginning. As noted by E! News, Edward was only 17 years old when his older brother, the now King Charles III, married Diana Spencer. Initially taken by the young prince, Diana was said to have found Edward adorable, but the friendly impression wasn't shared. Ingrid Seward, a storied royal biographer, asserted that Edward found Diana to be "fine" but found more of a connection with Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew's then-wife.

"He actually used to sometimes have lunch with Fergie, who would drive from the palace and meet him here and take him out to lunch because they were very close at one time," Seward said. "They were very close at one time. He liked her and she liked him and she was young and fun and she was interested in what he did."

Not only was there distance between Edward and Diana, but the queen's youngest son took a very awkward stance in the wake of Diana's death. As noted in the Channel 5 documentary "Paxman on the Queen's Children," Edward was asked to visit the book of condolences made in Diana's honor and talk to mourners — he initially refused. "He said 'no I'm not going to go, I'm going to go with my brother this afternoon,'" Dickie Arbiter asserted about Edward's behavior at the time.

Edward made a stunning decision about William during his 1999 wedding

Royal weddings genuinely feel like the decade's events, and Prince Edward's 1999 wedding to Sophie, Countess of Wessex, was no exception. And while the happy couple celebrated their nuptials (Edward and Sophie are the only royal couple — of Queen Elizabeth's four children — not to get divorced, FYI), Edward had a very odd fight to pick with Prince William.

As noted by Express, an "unearthed report" revealed that Edward had photos of William — attending his wedding — altered, as he didn't think his nephew appeared joyful enough. Sir Geoffrey Shakerley, the photographer of the big day in question, admitted that Edward thought William "was not looking his best" and requested to have the young prince's face digitally altered in the wedding's aftermath.

"Prince Edward said he didn't think Prince William looked absolutely his best, so digitally we were able to put in another picture of Prince William from one of the other shots where he is smiling and laughing," Shakerley said, with The Guardian's Vikram Dodd noting that William showed an "apparent scowl" in the real photographs. While Shakerley's assistant, Robert Simpson, asserted that William was "jubilant" throughout the wedding and the day as a whole, the young prince had apparently "glanced down" as a photograph was being taken, resulting in the "scowl"-like facial expression. Either way, Edward's request was undoubtedly an odd one and a move we haven't witnessed in the royal family often.

Things soured between William and Edward when the young prince was at university

While Diana Spencer's death in 1997 and Prince Edward's wedding in 1999 proved to be a bit tense for him and his nephew, Prince William, their relationship took a turn for the worse in 2001. For a time, Edward had aspirations to make it in the film industry, establishing his own production company, Ardent. But the venture was unsuccessful, and Edward decided to film a then-young William while a student at St. Andrews in a last-ditch effort to save the company. As it turned out, William had strict privacy agreements in place at the university so he could enjoy life as a student without the scrutiny of cameras, paparazzi, and the press. But it was at the hands of his uncle that his quiet life as a student was disrupted.

"The program was understood to be keeping Ardent afloat. Desperate times seem to have called for desperate measures for Prince Edward," Robert Jobson wrote in his 2006 book "William's Princess." Of the move on Edward's part, William was said to be "furious," Jobson further asserted.

"[William] felt his uncle's company's actions had threatened to undermine the carefully nurtured relationship between St. James's Palace and the media, and in turn that it would threaten the entente cordiale between him and the press," Jobson described of the stunt. "When the story emerged, Prince Charles understandably went ballistic."

The camera crew mess up put a wedge between Edward and Charles

To know anything about the royal family is to know that King Charles III and his younger brother, Prince Edward, have seldom seen eye-to-eye. Reports of jealousy and malice between the two have plagued headlines for decades, and Edward's production stunt at Prince William's university certainly didn't help. As noted by Robert Jobson in his 2006 book, "William's Princess," Charles blew his lid when Edward came onto the campus of St. Andrews with a camera crew, and the now-monarch made it clear that his younger brother needed to choose — his company or his family.

"[Charles] berated his youngest sibling, furiously demanding from the queen that Edward be made to choose once and for all between his public duties and his television production company — itself many believed little more than a vanity project dependent on Edward's title for what little success it had," Jobson wrote. The royal biographer further explained that Charles and Edward's relationship "plummeted to an all-time low," and the now-king even publicly criticized his brother — something that royal family members seldom do.

"In unusually blunt terms, a spokeswoman for Prince Charles said that he was: 'Disappointed, very much so.' Other officials more believably told me that Charles was in a rage about it," Jobson explained the shocking turn of events. "The word 'incandescent' was used and I learned that Prince Charles tore into his brother in a telephone conversation."

Edward's film company unraveled after the incident with William

Given the blatant disregard for Prince William's privacy at St. Andrews — and King Charles III's furious response — Prince Edward's production company started to unravel. As Robert Jobson concluded in his 2006 book, "William's Princess," Edward's television ventures already suffered from "little support from the royal family," and the incident at St. Andrews involving a then-very young William was the final straw.

"Only the Duke of Edinburgh, who [doted] on his youngest child, had agreed to be interviewed on-camera as a personal favor. But not even he could condone it now," Jobson wrote of the St. Andrews aftermath. Talk about tension.

The incident involving William occurred in 2001, as aforementioned, and by 2002, Edward's production company was finished. The Guardian's Andy Beckett wrote an extensive piece about what happened to Ardent — Edward's production company attempt — and asserted that the company was "an industry laughing stock" that demanded zero respect from the British film world. "They're a sad joke in the industry, really," an anonymous competitor told Beckett of Edward's attempt. "As time has gone on, their incompetence has become more and more obvious." We can imagine that things weren't peachy between William and Edward after all this.

Edward gave his unfiltered opinion about William and Kate's life in the royal family

They say that time heals all wounds, and while Prince Edward and Prince William's relationship went through the wringer, they appeared to warm up to each other with time. As William introduced Catherine, Princess of Wales, to the royal family all those years ago, Edward revealed that they loved her from the start and felt confident in her abilities to navigate royal life.

"Catherine is doing very well. She has taken to royal life like a duck to water. She's very gracious, and the family is very proud of her," the Earl of Wessex said in 2012, per Express. Edward's praise didn't come without a spot of hesitation, however. "It was never going to be easy for Catherine as the whole world is watching her every move," Edward cautioned about his nephew's new bride. "She's dealt with it very well, though. I think Catherine can only grow in confidence now her first official engagements are out of the way."

The father of two went on to share that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were "very protective" of the young couple, revealing that while William grew up with an overly-enthused press, Catherine had much to get used to. "I think William and Harry, as well as my brother, have tried their best to make her transition into public life as gentle as possible," Edward concluded.

William and Edward united in grief during this royal tragedy

No matter the tense dynamic or distant relationships plaguing the royal family, the firm members put aside their differences amid Queen Elizabeth II's final hours. On September 8, it was announced that the queen's health had taken a turn for the worse, prompting the royal family members to rush to Balmoral Castle in Scotland, where the queen was residing at the time. While then-Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles were already in the country, the queen's extended family traveled to be by her side. Yahoo! noted Prince William, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, traveled to Scotland's Aberdeen Airport and embarked on the hour-long drive from the tarmac to the estate.

Photographed all together, William was in the driver's seat, accompanied by his aunt and two uncles. While they made it in time to see the queen before her passing, Queen Elizabeth did succumb to old age and passed at 96 years old.

Things quickly changed for the royal family. Charles immediately became king in the moments following his mother's death, and William became the direct heir to the British throne. And while Edward and William haven't seen eye-to-eye in the past, they were united — at least during their shared car ride — in grief amid the queen's death.

Edward has been all but sidelined in favor of William and his children

We all knew that Queen Elizabeth II's death would shake the world in a very profound way, but the late monarch's passing also marked the end — and beginning — of a new era for the royal family. It's common knowledge among royal watchers that King Charles III has had every intention to slim down the monarchy as much as possible, and it's become clear that Prince Edward is going to take a backseat to Prince William and the Prince of Wales's wife, Catherine, Princess of Wales, and three children.

As noted by The Daily Beast, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip intended for their youngest son, Edward, to adopt the Dukedom of Edinburgh after his father's passing. A matter that the queen, Philip, and Charles were said to agree on, Edward's assumption of the title once belonging to Philip would mark a significant step in his royal life. However, things have changed dramatically since then.

"Prince [Charles] is the Duke of Edinburgh as it stands, and it is up to him what happens to the title. It will not go to Edward," Roya Nikkhah, Sunday Times royal editor said. The Daily Beast added that the now-king has "the absolutely minimum of regard for Edward" and his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex. Richard Kay noted in the Daily Mail that Charles would likely bestow the dukedom of Edinburgh to William's youngest son, Prince Louis.

There is a key difference between William and Edward's roles in the royal family

When it comes to the royal family, normal familial roles and seniority don't apply — instead, everything has to do with the order of succession, designation as a senior royal, and who will one day ascend the throne. Of course, you don't have to be a royal fan to know that titles are everything in a monarchy, and as it happens, there's a critical difference between Prince William and Prince Edward's roles in the firm. 

As of publication, both William and Edward are considered working royals. You may have heard that Princess Anne is Queen Elizabeth's only daughter, alongside the uncle and nephew as a senior royal. She attended a whopping 506 events in 2019 alone, almost exceeding King Charles III and outperforming everyone else.

While William, Edward, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and Anne are all considered working royals, the queen's children and subsequent spouses are not granted the same security protection as the Prince of Wales and his family. All royals are protected during official events and engagements, but William, Catherine, Princess of Wales, and their three children are granted "round-the-clock protection," the Daily Mail has reported. Global Citizen noted that while living at Kensington Palace, William and Catherine's home included "a panic room with an air filtration system, guarding against biological warfare, and an escape tunnel." Edward might be the queen's son, but William is the monarchy's future.

Edward watched on as William led an emotional tribute to the queen

Perhaps one of the most visually compelling pieces of evidence — pointing to the dynamic between Prince Edward and Prince William — came amid the mourning period for Queen Elizabeth II. In a touching ceremony, the queen's six grandchildren stood vigil, guarding her coffin in a rare showing of unity. William and his brother, Prince Harry, guarded the casket on either end, with Princess Eugenie, Beatrice, and Edward's children — Lady Louise and James, Viscount Severn — situated in the middle. Edward and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, were visibly moved throughout the ceremony, The Sun noting that Sophie, in particular, "fought back tears."

"The most human aspect of it I detected was Sophie Countess of Wessex — I think she was crying at one point. She's clearly very proud," royal biographer Phil Dampier told The Sun. Shortly before the vigil, Edward took a moment to thank the public for their unwavering support in the aftermath of the queen's death, admitting that he and the whole family had been "overwhelmed by the tide of emotion" amid the monarch's passing.

William and Edward's futures in the monarchy look very different

While Prince Edward has watched his nephew, Prince William, grow and mature into the direct heir to the throne and a married father of three, their specific bond likely extends further than their royal duties to each other and the crown. The distance between Edward and King Charles III made it difficult for William and Edward to see eye-to-eye. That distance will likely become more apparent with time, as William will one day dictate Edward's place within the royal family. 

As displayed on the royal website, William is the direct heir to the British throne, followed by his three children. As Charles is already in his 70s, William will likely become king in the next decade. Meanwhile, Edward is in the No. 13 spot, a distance from the throne. Will Edward ever be given the Duke of Edinburgh title? Will William keep Edward on as a senior royal when he ascends the throne? Only time will tell.

The dynamic between Edward and William isn't all bad, however. As noted by Vanity Fair, Catherine, Princess of Wales, is said to look up to Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and their roles as parents. Having kept their two children out of the public eye for much of their lives, Edward and Sophie have prepared them to enter the real world while contributing to royal causes. Perhaps the uncle and nephew will bond over the shared responsibility of fatherhood.