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Friday, June 11, 1999 Published at 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK

The prince with a difference

Edward takes a keen interest in youth arts programmes

Prince Edward, the third and youngest son of the Queen and his father's favourite son, made a surprise entrance into the world.

Royal Wedding
He arrived on 10 March 1964, a week before he was due. Because of his size, 5lb, 7oz at birth, the Royal Family had expected a girl. The Queen had considered only female names.

As Prince Edward was the baby of the family. His brother, Andrew, took full advantage of his younger sibling's position, bullying him mercilessly.

[ image: Aged seven, with his mother, Queen Elizabeth II]
Aged seven, with his mother, Queen Elizabeth II
In her book, Royal Children, Ingrid Seward writes: "Andrew bullied everybody and would constantly swipe his younger brother. If he saw Edward going for a particular cake, Andrew would try and grab it first."

Of the young Edward, Ms Seward says: "He was a sweet child, whose delicate good looks and permanently flushed cheeks endeared him to the Palace staff."

Media babe

Prince Edward showed early signs of an interest in the media and listened to the radio avidly. He carried an old-fashioned Roberts set around with him and was especially happy when his favourite band, Abba, came on the radio.

He was often seen with his head buried in a book, reading everything from popular classics to detective thrillers. He also liked the French cartoon books, Asterix - in French.

But Prince Edward continued to live in the shadow of his elder brother, Andrew, during their early schooldays.

[ image: Prince Edward enjoys sports and regularly appeared at Badminton horse trials]
Prince Edward enjoys sports and regularly appeared at Badminton horse trials
Taught by a governess at Buckingham Palace, it was Andrew who would throw the tantrums and remonstrate vociferously. Edward was more likely to show his anger by simply turning red in the face and falling silent.

But at Gordonstoun, the notoriously rigorous boys' public school in north Scotland, he outshone Andrew, becoming head boy and excelling in sport and drama.

He passed nine O-Levels and three A-Levels at grade C and two Ds. Despite his results, and amid much controversy, the prince was given a place at Cambridge to read history.

Career dilemma

Prince Edward's main interest at university was the theatre and he enthusiastically took part in many dramatic productions.

But a career in drama was problematic. Prince Edward had signed on with the Royal Marines who were sponsoring him through university on condition he served with them for five years afterwards.

He dutifully entered the Royal Marines after university but resigned his commission three years later. In total, he served less than four months.

[ image: At university, Prince Edward loved amateur dramatics]
At university, Prince Edward loved amateur dramatics
Reports said the Duke of Edinburgh, Captain General of the Marines, was displeased. Prince Edward said later that his father had not put undue pressure on him to change his mind.

Unsteady times

Still keen to pursue his love of acting and performing, he began presenting a television programme on the Duke of Edinburgh's Award.

In June 1987, he organised the infamous royal version of the popular television competition programme, It's a Knockout, with teams comprising the younger members of the royals dressed in medieval costume.

Despite raising around 1m for charity, the event was felt to have demeaned the Royal Family.

Undeterred by bad publicity, in January 1988, Prince Edward went to work for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful theatre company, as a production assistant. He turned up for work as Edward Windsor and was not excluded from such tasks as making the tea.

During this time, his public duties were confined to turning out for the arts, sport and the Duke of Edinburgh's Award.

Finding ground

In 1990, Prince Edward and a number of colleagues decided to go it alone and set up their own theatre company, but it collapsed and Edward found himself unemployed.

[ image: After the marines, Prince Edward entered broadcasting]
After the marines, Prince Edward entered broadcasting
His father suggested accountancy or management training, but in 1993 the prince went ahead and set up his own television company, called Ardent Productions.

One of its first programmes was about real tennis, a personal interest of Prince Edward's. Another venture called Annie's Bar, a soap opera based on the House of Commons, ran for only 6 episodes.

The company has since clinched singled deals worth up to 2m with US networks but reports say its debts are in the region of 1m.

But while Prince Edward's professional life was taking form, so did his personal affairs. He was linked to various young women, from model Romy Adlinton and television personality Ulrika Jonsson to chorus girl Ruthie Henshall, with whom he had a three-year relationship.

In his thirties, the prince's apparent reluctance to marry and settle down fuelled speculation on the nature of his sexuality. The rumours were vehemently quashed by several of his past girlfriends.

[ image: Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones courted openly for nearly five years]
Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones courted openly for nearly five years
The backdrop of divorce in the family and the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, was often thought to have delayed his decision to marry long-standing girlfriend, Sophie Rhys-Jones.

Prince Edward always maintained both publicly and to his family that he would marry only if and when it suited him.

And when finally that day arrived, the prince could not have seemed more comfortable and happier: "We are the very best of friends and that's essential and it also helps that we happen to love each other very much."

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