Will Prince Charles Deny Brother Prince Edward the Duke of Edinburgh Title He Expects?
Prince Charles will be able to hand out the title of his late father Prince Philip when he is King — and he may ignore Edward, who was expected to receive it
Charles inherited Prince Philip's Duke of Edinburgh title when his father died in April.
When Charles becomes King, the title will merge with the Crown. Then the new monarch can decide whether to bestow it on his brother or another member of the family — or hold it in abeyance for a time in the future.
It had been thought that it would almost automatically go to Edward. At the time of his wedding to Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999, a statement from Buckingham Palace said that the couple would be titled the Earl and Countess of Wessex. It also noted, "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 now held by the Prince Philip eventually reverts to the Crown."
The story about the possible change of plan was first reported by The Sunday Times, which quoted a friend of Charles saying, "It is up to him what happens to the title. It will not go to Edward."
Another source added, "Edinburgh won't go to [the Wessexes] as far as the prince is concerned."
A spokesperson for Charles tells PEOPLE, "All stories of this nature are speculation and no final decisions have been taken. It would be inappropriate and disrespectful to the Queen to comment on matters of accession and we will be maintaining our long-standing policy of not doing so."
Buckingham Palace declined to comment.
Edward, 57, and Sophie, 56, are close to the Queen, 95, and have been championing Philip's Duke of Edinburgh Award, with Edward serving as a trustee of the youth organization. They have also become more prominent family members publicly both since Philip's death in April and since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped away from their roles as working royals.
The Earl and Countess of Wessex have taken part in a number of interviews, including one with the Daily Telegraph in which Sophie recalled Philip coming to see them a couple of days after their engagement. "We sat there slightly stunned," she shared. "He literally came straight in and said: 'Right. I'd like it very much if you would consider that.'"
And Edward pointed out that the title arguably should have been reserved for the slightly older Prince Andrew, but the Queen gave him the royal title of Duke of York title on his wedding day.
"It's a very bittersweet role to take on because the only way the title can come to me is after both my parents have actually passed away," Edward said. "It has to go back to the Crown first. My father was very keen that the title should continue, but he didn't quite move quickly enough with Andrew, so it was us who he eventually had the conversation with. It was a lovely idea; a lovely thought."