DAN WOOTTON: Don't betray your father's memory, Charles

Don’t betray your father’s memory, Charles: Dutiful Prince Edward and his loyal wife Sophie deserve so much better than to be denied the title they were promised on their wedding day, writes DAN WOOTTON

In an undoubtedly trying and torrid 18 months for the British monarchy, no members of the Royal Family have seen their reputation enhanced more than Prince Edward and his wife.

Sophie Wessex provided the humanity the public was looking for immediately after Prince Philip’s death, assuring us within hours of his passing, with tears in her eyes, that the ‘Queen has been amazing’.

In the days that followed, it became obvious to the world just how close Edward and Sophie have become to Her Majesty.

And what’s even more lovely is that they hadn’t felt the need to shout about it to further their own PR for many years, understanding their role has tended to be in the background

To underline how key it’s been to getting the monarch through one of the most difficult periods of her life, the affection was on display again earlier this month at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. The Queen beamed watching Edward and Sophie’s daughter Lady Louise, her youngest granddaughter, compete in the carriage that once belonged to her husband.

DAN WOOTTON: Sources close to Charles have let it be known he doesn’t plan to hand down Prince Philip’s Duke of Edinburgh title to his youngest brother as was always promised

Solid as a rock and low-key to a fault, the Wessexes finally had their long-awaited moment in the royal spotlight.

Once the also-rans of the family and pushed to the sidelines, the public have realised just how much Edward and Sophie have to offer.

DAN WOOTTON (pictured): Solid as a rock and low-key to a fault, the Wessexes finally had their long-awaited moment in the royal spotlight

Especially compared to the ongoing nightmare that is Prince Andrew and Fergie – likely forever exiled because of his shameful dealings over his friendship with disgraced paedophile Jeffrey Epstein – or the Californian egomaniacs Prince Harry and Meghan who now seem determined to inflict maximum damage on the monarchy.

But it seems Prince Charles – isolated in deep grief, thinking hard about the future of the Royal Family and rocked by polls showing the British public overwhelmingly don’t want his wife Camilla to become Queen – hasn’t particularly enjoyed the emergence of this humble new royal force.

Intent on pursuing his plan for a seriously slimmed-down monarchy following the Queen’s death, sources close to Charles have let it be known he doesn’t plan to hand down Prince Philip’s Duke of Edinburgh title to his youngest brother, as was always promised.

To describe such a move as a devastating and cruel blow to Edward would be an understatement.

But at the weekend the story emerged publicly for the first time, with a source close to Prince Charles quoted in The Sunday Times as saying: ‘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.’

The Earl of Wessex, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Countess of Wessex at the Duke of Edinburgh Award garden party, at Buckingham Palace

Ooof. Battle lines drawn.

Such a move would be Charles breaking the wishes of his father who wanted Edward to keep the Dukedom going and continue the brilliant work of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme which he is expected to take over as patron.

And a breach of a public promise given in writing on Edward’s wedding day when a statement read: ‘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.’

Sophie revealed last month that Philip had personally made the request following their engagement, saying: ‘We sat there slightly stunned.’

Given that it goes against her husband’s express wishes, 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.

Charles doesn’t particularly like Edward and Sophie. They’ve never had a natural bond since two seismic fallouts 20 years ago.

First, Edward had to issue a grovelling apology and abandon his TV career after it emerged his production company had been filming a young Prince William.

The same year Sophie was caught up in a News of the World sting by the notorious ‘Fake Sheik’ that saw her unwittingly cast doubt on whether Charles and Camilla could marry.

She said: ‘It’s a very difficult situation. On the one hand there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be accepted because he’s divorced and she’s divorced, but then again you’ve got issues of the monarch being the head of the Church. I think it’s hard, especially while Queen Elizabeth is alive, the Queen Mother.’

Prince Charles and his five-year-old brother Prince Edward at Sandringham House, Norfolk, in 1969

Both incidents culminated in Edward and Sophie quitting private business to focus on a life of royal duty.

The Queen has long moved on – she is no doubt proud that Edward is her only child not to seek a divorce – and Charles should be the same.

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.

Edward and Sophie represent the type of hardworking and loyal royal currently in short supply.

You know; the type who show up to the opening of a community centre on a rainy Saturday morning without much fuss.

Their marriage is solid. Their family is strong. Their work ethic is undeniable.

So why not embrace an asset, rather than heaping more pressure on Camilla, Prince William and Kate whose workload is already sizeable?

Remember, outside of the Queen only seven core royals now work full-time: Charles, Camilla, Anne, Edward, Sophie, William and Kate.

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.

Prince Philip deserves more than that after seven decades of faithful royal duty.

Unless, as the Daily Mail’s Richard Kay reported today, Charles is considering passing the title instead to William’s youngest son Prince Louis.

That decision would further cement the future power of the monarchy amongst Charles and William.

But there is no reason to alienate Edward and Sophie so significantly, given the dearth of royals available to take on the growing number of engagements and patronages that have been left in the wake of Philip’s retirement, Andrew’s axing, and Harry and Meghan’s transatlantic strop.

Edward deserves to become The Duke of Edinburgh, continue his father’s good work and give the public a moral royal we can be proud of.

Prince Charles should put his personal reservations to one side and do the right thing.

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