Inside King Charles' Relationship With Prince Edward

When we ponder the institution that is the royal family, it's easy to think of a structured system — spanning hundreds of years and countless subjects — rather than an intricate, familial bond. While we all know that King Charles III is the eldest son of the late Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, it seems as though he spent more of his time waiting to be king — and serving on behalf of the crown — than he did being the doting son of a loving mother. Further still, such a royal like Prince Harry — who decided to put family first and leave the duties of being a senior royal behind — has been the subject of much public ire due to his controversial choice. Any royal watcher and fan of the family can easily tell you who is related to who in what capacity, who is in line to the throne, and who is the child of which royal, but examining the structure and royal relation to one another aside, do the royals behave like a family?

It's a question that has plagued even the most royally familiar among us, and no two royals are a better example of a family in the line of service than Charles and his youngest brother, Prince Edward. Charles has been groomed to be king since he was toddling around the castle, whereas Edward is down at the No. 13 spot. Here's everything we know about the two brothers' bond.

Charles was groomed to be king, whereas Edward experienced a more normal upbringing

It may be challenging to summon sympathy for a man who lives in not one but multiple castles, but it's been rather well-documented that King Charles III had anything but a laid-back childhood. As a toddler, he was first in line for the British throne and was thrust into the spotlight. Time further notes the difficult relationship he shared with his father, the ire he faced while a student at boarding school, and the loneliness that encapsulated his life as a young boy. While Charles is now known for his high profile affair, his war with ballpoint pens, and his royal specifications (of which the list is very long), he was once a child who was groomed from the very start to be king.

On the other hand, Prince Edward, the youngest of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip's children, sits a comfortable distance from the throne. It was documented well that Elizabeth shared a more motherly tone — and far more time — with her two youngest children than her two eldest, and royal expert Christopher Andersen believes that the stark contrast has led to jealousy amid Charles and Edward's relationship.

"Charles harbors varying degrees of resentment toward all three of his siblings — Anne, Andrew, and Edward — for the affection and attention lavished on them by their parents and denied him from the very beginning," he told the Daily Beast.

Charles and Edward's relationship was severely strained in the early 2000s

Unlike King Charles III, Prince Edward's royal life has come with far fewer pressures, and as such, he explored his various passions throughout his young life. In 1993, he started his own film production company, Ardent Productions, and while he had intentions for its success, it started to plummet with time. The production company, surprisingly, was at the center of one of Charles and Edward's biggest arguments, all coming to a head in September 2001. As royal expert Robert Jobson recounted in "William And Kate: The Love Story," Prince William was starting his first year of school at St. Andrew's University in Scotland, and a small team from Ardent Productions was spotted in the small town trying to capture the young prince in his day-to-day life. According to Jobson, the company was in dire straits, and trying to get the young prince on tape was a last-ditch effort to keep the company standing.

"William was furious. He felt his uncle's company's actions had threatened to undermine the carefully nurtured relationship between St James' Palace and the media, and in turn that it would threaten the entente cordiale between him and the press," Jobson detailed. "When the story emerged, Prince Charles understandably went ballistic. He berated his youngest sibling ... Relations between the brothers plummeted to an all-time low as St James' Palace publicly criticized Edward for his idiocy and the behavior of his production company."

Charles and Edward's wives enjoyed different relationships with the queen

Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, shared one-on-one time with the late Queen Elizabeth II, and they all enjoyed each other's company. Of the queen's four children, Edward was the only one to enter a rather stable marriage: He and Sophie married a little bit later in life, had a relatively low-key royal wedding, two kids, and showed a united front throughout their marriage. Elizabeth's three other children all engaged in adultery and divorced their first spouses, clearly going against the Church of England and the queen's preferences. As such, Sophie's 2016 admission that they shared a rather close relationship with Elizabeth wasn't all that surprising, given the context. "We do see quite a lot of her," Sophie said to Sky News (via Us Weekly). "We're over there most weekends riding."

While Sophie enjoyed a close relationship with the queen, Camilla, Queen Consort — now a senior royal — did not. Before her time in the palace, she was seen as the other woman in Charles' marriage to the late Diana Spencer, with even the queen passing judgment after a few martinis. In Tom Bower's book "Rebel King: The Making of a Monarch," the expert details that the queen told Charles that "she would not condone his adultery, nor forgive Camilla for not leaving Charles alone to allow his marriage to recover." She even called Camilla "that wicked woman." Yikes.

One source reports the temperature between the royals brothers as ice cold

It's hard to imagine that a king could ever be jealous or harbor ill will toward someone else, let alone a family member. But for King Charles III and his younger brother, Prince Edward, time reportedly has not been kind to their relationship. In 2021, a source told the Daily Beast of the brothers that they "barely know each other" despite having lived in the same royal system. This is not only in part thanks to the distance cast between them after the 2001 film debacle, as previously mentioned, but royal author Penny Junor attributes the icy temperature to Charles' perspective as a whole.

Not only has Edward enjoyed a much more normal life with far fewer expectations, but Junor assesses that Charles has always "struggled" with those in the royal family who enjoy more public popularity than him, an attitude extending to Edward, the late Diana Spencer, and even his own sons.

"Charles is a man who grew up being a star in his own firmament and it's very hard to let someone else in on that stage to share the limelight," Junor explained to the Daily Beast. "He found it very difficult with Diana, and he found it difficult when his sons started to become stars in their own right. He was an older man, they were younger and more photogenic with beautiful wives — and of course that is threatening."

Edward replaced Prince Harry's presence as a senior royal under King Charles

When we pondered the monarchy's future just a few short years ago, it seemed as though the "fab four" — Prince William and Princess Catherine, and Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex — had it in the bag. But as we know, Harry and Meghan are no longer working royals and instead are enjoying their lives in California. As such, William has taken on a very high-profile position, and surprisingly, so has Prince Edward. It may not have been King Charles III's first choice to essentially have his youngest brother step into the limelight in such a big way, but as his reign gets underway, Charles has officially made Edward a "counsellor of state," alongside Camilla, Queen Consort, and Princess Anne.

Charles had to make a formal request to essentially replace Harry as a senior royal and counsellor of state with Edward, the BBC details, as Harry can no longer represent the king or the monarchy as he is not a "working royal." The only other option was Prince Andrew, and he was stripped of his military titles and pretty much all public support over the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. As such, the king had to go to the House of Lords to formally ask for Edward to step into Harry's shoes, requesting the Counsellors of State Bill to be introduced.

Edward is a member of Charles' 'slimmed down' monarchy

If you've watched Season 5 of "The Crown" then you know that slimming down the monarchy has been something that King Charles III has been discussing for decades. Not only is the British royal family one of the biggest in size and spending in comparison to other European counterparts, but royal fatigue has grown with time. As such, Charles has often spoken publicly about slimming down the number of working royals, and while we haven't seen his plan go into action yet, he's only been on the throne for about two months as of publication — time will certainly tell. Surprisingly, given the distance within their relationship, Prince Edward will likely be kept as a senior royal even when said slimming down takes effect, royal commentator Kinsey Schofield explained to Insider.

"We saw our first glimpse of the new firm over the Christmas holiday 2020," Schofield explained, pointing to a photograph of the late Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles and Queen Camilla, Prince Edward and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, Princess Anne, and Prince William and Princess Catherine of Wales.

"While these are all individuals that will be out in the future representing the crown, I think Charles will try to draw attention to himself, Camilla, and the Cambridge family as the future of the monarchy," Schofield explained. It looks like Edward is also a part of the short list.

Charles and Edward don't see eye to eye on this element of royal life

As far as royals go, Prince Edward has certainly cast himself aside as one of the most normal among his family members. When he's not on the job, he and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, keep a pretty low profile and have even been successful at keeping their kids out of the spotlight. As such, he and King Charles III may not see eye to eye when it comes to the spoils of royal life, royal expert Tom Bower asserted to the Daily Beast. He reckons that Charles' untampered jealousy towards Edward — which apparently is one of the worst kept secrets in Britain — should've been nipped in the bud ages ago, asserting that their differences in perspective and way of life shouldn't have been allowed to become such a public issue.

"I find it bizarre that a 72-year-old man could be jealous of his younger brother, who does not have any public status whatsoever, who doesn't offer a challenge, who is not political," Bower told the Daily Beast after recounting a "baffling" story of Charles demanding his own bedroom set be carted to a friend's home during a weekend getaway, pointing to the stark differences between the brothers. "Edward is a harmless soul, which makes it even more baffling why this has suddenly arisen. It's actually symbolic of the palace in disarray. I find it unseemly and distasteful — and the palace should have stopped it."

Charles and Edward were united in grief in 2022

eyeDespite their well-documented strife and differing ways of life, King Charles III and Prince Edward were brought together in grief when Queen Elizabeth II — the longest-reigning monarch in British history — died on September 8, 2022. As noted by ET, both brothers, as well as their wives, traveled to Balmoral Castle in Scotland to be by the queen's side when she died. Sadly, only Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort, made it in time to say goodbye to the beloved monarch. Edward and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, arrived in Scotland shortly after she died along with Prince William, and Prince Harry arrived soon after that. Despite years — if not decades — of distance and public scandal, the royal family united as just that, a family, when the storied monarch passed. To say that it marked the end of an era is an understatement.

"As a family, we have grown up learning to share our parents, especially our beloved mama, with the Nation, her Realms and the Commonwealth," Edward stated on the royal family's Instagram account shortly after the queen's passing. "While it has been lovely to have spent time saying our own farewell privately at Balmoral, it is now time to allow others to be able to say their farewell."

Edward is playing a key role in King Charles' reign

Though they haven't always aligned, King Charles III and Prince Edward have both lived their lives in service of the crown, and it's a mutual dedication that carries on to this day. Now that Charles is the reigning monarch of the Commonwealth countries and Great Britain, he is utilizing the members of his family to work on behalf of the crown — Edward, certainly, is one of them. It may be a bit surprising given their strained and often distant relationship, but Edward and Charles are working together to ensure the future of the monarchy. Their sister, Princess Anne, is also a key figure, as are Prince William and Princess Catherine of Wales. In fact, Edward now has the ability to stand in for the king during official engagements, representing the monarchy and Great Britain as a whole.

As detailed by the royal website, Edward is now the benefactor of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, and in addition to representing the monarchy, works to support the young people of the Commonwealth and promote educational advances in all areas of life. The award was specifically created by Prince Philip in 1956. About 500,000 young people now participate in educational pursuits thanks to the duke's efforts.

Charles does not agree with Edward's stance toward Prince Andrew

Even though they're royal, members of The Firm still deal with familial complexities — however, their struggles are often much more impactful and play out on the international stage. Of course, one of the most eyebrow-raising conflicts came due to Prince Andrew's relationship with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. After retreating from royal life, Andrew was stripped of his military titles and has rarely been seen in public, but even such associations and troubling allegations against him haven't stopped Prince Edward from maintaining a brotherly connection. King Charles III, meanwhile, has made his intentions to cut Andrew from public life completely transparent — it is yet another area where the brothers do not line up.

For instance, despite Charles' feelings on the matter, Edward, Andrew, and Princess Anne all enjoyed each other's company at a gathering just days before Charles' 74th birthday. The get-together did not include the king, and a source told the Daily Mail, "Anne and Edward had been privately concerned about Andrew and wanted to check on him. But Charles's view is that he should not be in the public eye."

Edward wasn't quelled, however, and in March 2023, the Express noted he was spotted riding horseback with Andrew. The two were all smiles as they enjoyed each other's company.

King Charles finally bestowed a key title on his brother

When Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones got married in 1999, Edward's parents — Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh — made it known that when Philip passed, Edward would inherit the Duke of Edinburgh title. Titles are, of course, a very big deal within the royal family and the Duke of Edinburgh designation is one of the most coveted, as it comes with hereditary importance and a dukedom to oversee. After both Philip and Elizabeth passed, however, King Charles III held onto the title for himself, appearing to keep it hostage until he decided to finally give it to his younger brother. What ensued during the king's months of hesitancy was incredible tension between the siblings and judgment from the Commonwealth, as it was the late queen's wish that Edward be bestowed the dukedom.

Christopher Andersen gave a blunt estimation of the brothers' title feud, telling the Daily Beast, "Denying the Duke of Edinburgh title to Edward just makes [Charles] look small, petulant, and more than a little vindictive." The king must've been paying attention to the criticism and calls to finally relinquish the title, because on March 10, 2023, Edward was finally named the Duke of Edinburgh – which just so happened to be his 59th birthday. The title of the Duchess of Edinburgh was also given to Sophie, formally the Countess of Wessex, and the couple traveled to Scotland shortly thereafter to celebrate.

Charles may have been forced into giving Edward a specific distinction

So why did King Charles III finally release the Duke of Edinburgh title from his firm grip? Before giving the designation to Prince Edward, Charles was technically the Duke of Edinburgh — in addition to being king and holding about a million other titles and important designations — so what forced his hand? According to royal expert Richard Eden, it may have been the ongoing tension between Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, and The Firm that made Charles budge. The king's desire to display a unified monarchy is key in his redefining of The Firm.

Sharing his thoughts on the Mail+ Palace Confidential program, Eden said that Charles had been going back and forth on his decision to bestow the title to Edward — for reasons that royal watchers can only assume stemmed from hesitancy, a smidge of jealousy perhaps, and an ever-changing public relationship with the royals — but one key aspect of Harry and Meghan's dynamic with the monarchy changed everything.

"But then, when Harry and Meghan started using the prince and princess titles for their children, ... King Charles could hardly justify not giving Prince Edward the title he'd been promised by their parents," Eden estimated, highlighting the press release that named Archie and Lilibet prince and princess respectively. "It was a big deal and I really think that was behind it."

Edward will likely not be able to pass on the title given to him by Charles

If you're confused by royal titles, you're certainly not alone. Some designations are hereditary; Prince William and Prince Harry, for example, were automatically given their prince titles because they were the sons of the direct heir to the throne at the time of birth. Diana Spencer, meanwhile, was bestowed the Princess of Wales title when she married but had to drop the HRH title when she and King Charles III got divorced. It's all very complex, but what you should know is that some titles can be passed down between generations, while others have to be bestowed by the monarch. The Duke of Edinburgh title is — you guessed it — bestowed, meaning that Prince Edward had to be given the designation by the king and will not be able to pass it down to his son, James, who is now the Earl of Wessex.

So, when Edward passes, the Duke of Edinburgh designation and dukedom will go back to whoever is the reigning monarch at the time. Timing and realistic predictions would have us think that the monarch will likely be Prince William, who is now the direct heir to the throne. It will then be up to him — or whoever is the reigning monarch — to pass the Duke of Edinburgh title onto another member of the royal family.

Despite their age difference, Charles and Edward were close growing up

From all appearances, King Charles III may seem closest to his sister, Princess Anne. And yes, it's long been said that he and his youngest brother, Prince Edward, haven't always gotten along. But growing up, Charles and Edward did hang out. Though the gap between the two men is around 16 years, the king and his brother appeared to have been close during their younger years. Their childhood photos show a teenage Charles spending time with Edward, playing games like bagatelle with his younger brother. There's also snapshots of the future king driving a go-kart with Edward riding along and having a good time. Edward has also been pictured watching his oldest brother play polo back when the prince was still too young to play himself. 

In 1976, the two brothers (and the rest of the family) attended the Olympic Games in Montreal. In a few of the photos of the royal family's trip to the Olympics, Queen Elizabeth's eldest son and youngest son look to be in the middle of a conversation, smiling from ear to ear.

Prince Edward reportedly had issues with King Charles' first wife, Princess Diana

The late Princess Diana may have easily won over the British public upon her marriage to King Charles III (then Prince Charles), but her relationship with the royal family was far more complicated. This was also the case when it came to her ex-husband's youngest brother, Prince Edward. Sure, it may have been easy to assume that the Duke of Edinburgh and the former Princess of Wales got along well since they have known each other for most of their lives; Diana's grandmother worked as a lady-in-waiting to Charles' grandmother, so she ended up playing with the royal kids. However, it seems the two royals ended up at odds with each other after Diana became a member of the royal family.

In particular, Prince Edward reportedly took issue with how much Princess Diana wanted to modernize the monarchy so that it would be a more relevant institution. Moreover, the prince also sensed that there were problems ahead long before King Charles and his first wife even decided to get a divorce. "The faster Diana spun her glamorous web, the further Edward distanced himself from her," royal expert Ingrid Seward wrote in "Prince Edward: A Biography."

Under Charles' reign, Edward's Trooping the Colour role changed

As intended, King Charles III ascended the British throne following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in 2022. As for Prince Edward, he has also taken on a significant role as one of the remaining senior working royals in The Firm following the departure of Charles' son, Prince Harry, and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. Since then, the king has also bestowed new titles and patronages to his youngest brother.

Among the Duke of Edinburgh's newest titles is the Colonel of the London Guards, an army reserve battalion that was only formed in 2022. In honor of this title, Prince Edward also got to join the Trooping the Colour 2023 on horseback, a first for the prince who has taken part in the event throughout his life. Typically, Prince Edward would join the Trooping the Colour riding a coach with his family while King Charles and Princess Anne rode horseback. But because of his new military title, the prince got to participate alongside his two older siblings and nephew Prince William.

Charles gets along well with Edward's wife, Sophie

Since Sophie, the Duchess of Edinburgh, married Prince Edward and joined his family, she has gone on to become one of The Firm's most recognizable senior members. Over the years, the duchess has also developed a good relationship with several members of the royal family, particularly with Prince William's wife, Catherine, the Princess of Wales. Reports also claimed that Sophie was particularly close to her late mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II, especially following the death of the queen's husband, Prince Philip. "Sophie Wessex has emerged as the Queen's unlikely 'rock' as the monarch adjusts to life without Prince Philip," royal commentator Duncan Larcombe once told The Sun. "Prince Edward's wife has — according to sources — made it her personal mission to ensure Her Majesty is fully supported by the family."

At the same time, Sophie has also become quite close with brother-in-law King Charles III over the years. Time and time again, the two royals have been seen enjoying each other's company, whether it's at the Royal Ascot races or the Commonwealth service at Westminster Abbey. It is even believed that Sophie had an easier time forming a bond with King Charles compared to Prince Philip. "Sophie tended to be playful but also slightly distanced from her father-in-law but with Charles here she looks tactile, warm, and supportive," Body language expert Judi James told Express.

Edward has reportedly been reaching out to Charles' estranged son, Prince Harry

After Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, left the UK and made a number of damning claims against the British royal family, the state of King Charles' relationship with his youngest son has been on the rocks. Even when Prince Harry briefly returned to London to attend his father's coronation, it is believed that the father and son haven't had much communication with each other since. The Duke of Sussex has also been at odds with other members of his family (particularly his brother, Prince William) following his Oprah Winfrey interview, Netflix documentary with Meghan, and the release of his memoir, "Spare."

As it turns out, however, Prince Edward has reportedly been extending an olive branch to his nephew despite everything that has happened. While the Duke of Edinburgh and his wife, Sophie, the Duchess of Edinburgh, didn't have a strong bond with Harry and Meghan in the past, the couples have since connected. Some even speculate that this may even help Prince Harry get back to his father's good graces. "There has been no evidence that Harry and Meghan and Edward and Sophie have specifically fallen out," royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams pointed out during a 2023 interview with Express. "Were the Sussexes to connect with them, they have, unlike Princess Eugenie, real influence, who knows what the result might be!"