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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
Edward's turbulent media career
Earl and Countess of Wessex
The couple have met controversy over their businesses
Prince Edward is once again at the centre of an embarrassing row over the business interests of minor royals after a film crew from his production company allegedly attempted to film his nephew at university.

Prince Charles was said to be "incandescent with rage" that a camera crew apparently ignored an agreement that his son Prince William should be allowed to pursue his studies at St Andrew's University without press intrusion.

Prince William and Prince Charles
Prince William wants to be an "ordinary" student
But the surprising twist that the crew were said to be working on a programme for Ardent Productions - a company run by the young Prince's uncle, the Earl of Wessex- may be one embarrassment too many.

Ardent has denied that it was trying to film the prince and says it had permission to be on the campus.

But this is not the first time that Prince Charles has reportedly fallen out with his younger brother by 15 years over his business interests.

Business debate

The debate on how best to ensure that minor royals do not exploit their status to profit in business took centrestage following indiscreet comments by the Earl's wife, the Countess of Wessex.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex
Sophie resigned from her PR post as chairman
Sophie resigned from her post as chairwoman of her public relations company RJ-H in April following her comments to an undercover News of the World reporter.

She had made frank comments about public figures and talked about her dual role as a Royal and a businesswoman.

In the aftermath of this debacle, Prince Charles and the Princess Royal were believed to have thought that Prince Edward should devote his energies to charity work while his wife should sever her public relations links.

But Prince Philip insisted that the couple should be allowed to keep earning, to help pay for the 250,000 annual upkeep of their Surrey home, Bagshot Park.

Prince Edward and his company are doing the Royal Family considerable damage and unless they can sort themselves out they will bring themselves into further disrepute

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker
Buckingham Palace decided that Royals, including the Earl and Countess of Wessex, could continue their professional careers but separately from official royal engagements and with stricter safeguards.

And it said that their businesses must ensure employees do not exploit royal connections.

But the royal pair have found it difficult to avoid criticism for a possible conflict of interests in their roles, by virtue of their chosen media careers in television production and public relations.

When Prince Edward set up Ardent Productions eight years ago he predicted it would be a success and said there would be no cashing in on Royal connections.

But by 1999 Ardent had lost 1.7 million, and only this year did it succeed in recording a pre-tax profit of 30,000.

Royal documentaries

Many of the 37-year-old's productions have had a very royal theme - including the documentaries, Crown and Country charting British history through monuments, Edward on Edward, about the life of his uncle Edward VII, and a documentary on the restoration of Windsor Castle after the 1992 fire.

The Queen's youngest son has long had an uncomfortable relationship with the British media.

Two years ago he went on the offensive when he told The New York Times: "They hate anyone who succeeds."

In contrast he said he found Hollywood a "breath of fresh air" and said that "America is where the money is."

School plays

As a young boy, Edward showed his theatrical leanings early on.

Prince Edward aged 13
The young prince showed an early talent for theatrics
At Gordonstoun boys' public school, in north Scotland, he took part in school plays.

And it was a media career which he was ultimately to pursue.

While still a student at Cambridge University he joined the Royal Marines but he resigned his commission three years later.

And it was then that he was asked to write and narrate two television programmes on the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme.

One of his first television appearances was "It's a Royal Knockout" in which he persuaded Princess Anne and the Duchess of York to take part in the game show.

West End composer Andrew Lloyd Webber then offered Edward a job as a production assistant in his Really Useful Company.

Later Prince Edward's first attempt to set himself up in business failed.

In 1990 he and a number of colleagues set up their own theatre company, but Edward found himself unemployed after the company collapsed.

But in 1993 he set up his production company which has only now reported its first profits eight years on.

As joint managing director of Ardent Productions Ltd, Prince Edward is now embroiled in further criticism for his film crew's actions at St Andrews.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, has gone as far as saying that "Prince Edward and his company are doing the Royal Family considerable damage and unless they can sort themselves out they will bring themselves into further disrepute."

It remains to be seen what further fall out the latest controversy will have over Prince Edward's future business interests.

See also:

27 Sep 01 | Scotland
Edward's firm denies media breach
24 Sep 01 | Scotland
Student prince starts university
21 Sep 01 | Scotland
No food at the inn for prince
31 Jan 01 | Scotland
William 'guards' request more cash
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