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The One Promise the Queen Made That Prince Charles Could Break, Sources Say

"I suspect the Queen won't be happy either with such a blatant U-turn," one royal expert said.

It's been said for months that when Prince Charles becomes King, there will be a lot of changes at the Palace. The Prince of Wales' plans for a slimmed-down monarchy are no secret, according to insiders. In an interview with talkRADIO in April, royal biographer Angela Levin said: "Prince Charles has wanted for a very long time to cut the monarchy down to save costs and to make people be worth the money that they got from the taxpayer." As the Daily Mail reported around the same time, Charles' vision for a downsized version of  "The Firm" could include just hismself, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, Duchess Catherine, and their children—Prince GeorgePrincess Charlotte, and Prince Louis—as senior royals. In that case, other members of the family may be encouraged to take on more traditional jobs to help support themselves and the shift could even mean a loss of their titles, patronages, and possibly even their security except at royal events (as was the case with Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice in 2011). But even before Charles becomes King, insiders say the Princes of Wales is causing tension within the family and could ultimately break a long-held promise that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip made decades ago. Read on to find out how Charles is rocking the boat.

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Charles could break the Queen and Prince Philip's promise of giving Prince Edward the Duke of Edinburgh title.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex attend Royals Ascot 2021 at Ascot Racecourse on June 15, 2021 in Ascot, England.
Samir Hussein/WireImage via Getty Images

When Prince Edward married Sophie, Countess of Wessex, in 1999, the Palace issued a statement which promised Edward the title of Duke of Edinburgh: "The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales have also agreed that the 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." In the meantime, Edward was granted the title of Earl of Wessex and his bride, Countess of Wessex (which he chose) on their wedding day.

Philip wanted Edward to be the next Duke of Edinburgh after his death and to continue the work of the Duke of Edinburgh Award as its patron. But recent reports suggest Charles is not currently planning on giving it to him. An insider close to the Prince of Wales recently told The Sunday Times: 'The Prince 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."

There is no royal rule that says Charles has to give Edward the title, but the Earl of Wessex is the only one of the Queen's three sons not to hold a dukedom. If he denies Edward the title, Charles would be going against the expressed written wishes of his mother and father. In a July 14 report in the Daily Mail, royal expert Dan Wootton wrote that Her Majesty would be very unhappy if Charles does not accede to Philip's promise. "I suspect the Queen won't be happy either with such a blatant U-turn and, while she respects that Charles must reshape the monarchy following her death, she should be listened to."

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Edward and Sophie's fanbase has grown over the last year and a half, especially since Prince Philip's death.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex attend Royal Ascot 2021 at Ascot Racecourse on June 16, 2021 in Ascot, England.
Samir Hussein/WireImage via Getty Images

The Wessexes have taken on a more high-profile role since Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan's departure and have emerged as key players over the course of the past 18 months. Over the years, Edward and Sophie have become extremely close to the Queen, which was clearly evident following Philip's death. Days after the Duke of Edinburgh died, Sophie and Edward with their daughter, Lady Louise Windsor, attended a Sunday service at the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Royal Lodge in Windsor, where the earl thanked the crowd for coming to offer their condolences and called his father's death "a dreadful shock." Sophie also spoke movingly about her father-in-law, tearfully revealing details of his final moments. "It was so gentle," she said. "Just like someone took him by the hand and off he went."

The British public have been charmed and uplifted by the Wessexes' down-to-earth manner. During Edward's June interview with CNN, on what would have been his father's 100th birthday, he spoke about the duke's legacy (including the Duke of Edinburgh Award) and sounded genuinely touched when reporter Max Foster inquired about how the Queen was holding up. "Thank you for asking," the earl said, before noting that his mother was doing "remarkably well," but added that there were likely more difficult times ahead. These appearances—and an in-depth feature in The Telegraph—have made the Wessexes much more popular, making the issue of whether Edward receives the title of Duke of Edinburgh top of mind with royal watchers in the U.K.

Insiders say Charles' alleged decision to withhold the title from Edward is due, in part, to sibling rivalry and jealousy.

The royal family at Buckingham Palace, London, 1972. Left to right: Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Edward and Prince Charles.
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Prince Charles has allegedly become resentful over the high profile and rising popularity of his brother and sister-in-law. Some royal experts say that his personal feelings may be one reason that the Prince of Wales is reportedly not going to honor his mother and late father's wishes in regards to the Duke of Edinburgh title.

Richard Kay, a well-connected chronicler of the royals and longtime friend of Princess Diana, wrote in the Daily Mail on July 13 that Charles' decision to withhold the title from his youngest brother may stem from an old sibling rivalry as well as jealousy within the ranks. Philip was reportedly much closer to Edward than Charles, while he was notoriously hard on the Prince of Wales, as Charles once told biographer Jonathan Dimbleby. Kay wrote that since Edward and Sophie became the public face of the Royal Family in the aftermath of Philip's death, there is "Wessex fatigue" among "some" members of the royal family.

The royal expert explained that if Edward were to receive the Duke of Edinburgh title, it would ultimately be inherited by Edward's son, James, Viscount Severn, despite "being raised to expect a life outside the royal family." He also reported that Charles is considering passing the title to William's youngest son, Prince Louis, and in doing so, would keep the title firmly in his and the Duke of Cambridge's hands.

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Edward, at least publicly, refuses to be caught up in the fray.

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex visits Forfar Golf Club to mark the 150th anniversary of the club on June 28, 2021 in Forfar, Scotland.
Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage via Getty Images

When asked by the BBC after Philip's death if he would inherit the title of Duke of Edinburgh, Edward diplomatically told the outlet: "It was fine in theory, ages ago when it was sort of a pipe dream of my father's… and 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."

But royal watchers, like Wootton, have been clear about what they think of Edward potentially being deprived of the title. "Denying Edward the Duke of Edinburgh title he has waited to inherit since before his marriage feels too brutal and reeks to me of cutting off your nose to spite your face," Wootton wrote in the Daily Mail. "Edward and Sophie represent the type of hardworking and loyal royal currently in short supply. Charles must also consider his father's legacy. If Edward is not made Duke of Edinburgh and Charles keeps the title as King, it essentially disappears in public life."

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Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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