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Saturday, 2 March, 2002, 18:30 GMT
Wessex business conflict timeline
Earl and Countess of Wessex
It has been a tough year for Edward and Sophie
The Earl and Countess of Wessex have announced they are to step back from their businesses after a year of battling accusations of a conflict of interests with their royal roles.

BBC News Online looks back over a turbulent 12 months.


31 March 2001: The Earl and Countess of Wessex go on a high-profile five-day trip to Bahrain and Qatar to promote British trade.

1 April 2001: The Mail on Sunday runs a front page story claiming the Countess made a series of indiscreet, and often rude, references to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, the Queen Mother, Tony and Cherie Blair, and William Hague during a conversation with a News of the World reporter posing as an Arab sheikh.

The News of the World, meanwhile, runs an interview with the Countess in which she discusses her husband's sexuality.

The newspaper secures the interview by agreeing not to run its fake sheikh's damaging revelations.

Buckingham Palace defends the countess, claiming the comments quoted in the Mail on Sunday story were "selective, distorted and in several cases, flatly untrue".

7 April 2001: The News of the World publishes the full transcripts of the "Sophie tapes" which reveal that the countess called the Prime Minister "President Blair", said William Hague looked like a puppet, and described the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles as "number one on the top 10 unpopular people".

8 April 2001: The countess steps down as chairman of her public relations company but says she will continue in business.

8 July 2001: New guidelines aimed at ensuring working royals do not exploit their status to profit in business are unveiled by Buckingham Palace.

The updated advice is agreed by the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales.

It enables royals with to continue working but within a stricter remit.

A Buckingham Palace statement says: "It is entirely in tune with today's world that members of the Royal Family should be allowed to pursue careers, including in business, if that is what they wish to do."

26 September 2001: Prince Edward admits a camera crew which tried to film Prince William at St Andrews University was working for his company Ardent Productions.

St James's Palace says the intrusion, which comes just two days after the19-year-old arrived in the Scottish town, is "disappointing".

22 October 2001: Prince Edward says he will stop making TV programmes about the Royal Family following the row.

6 December 2001: The countess suffers an ectopic pregnancy.

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


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