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Sunday, 3 March, 2002, 09:01 GMT
New roles for Edward and Sophie
Sophie and Edward
The couple want to support the Queen in Jubilee year
Buckingham Palace officials are to consider how best to employ the Earl and Countess of Wessex, following the couple's decision to give up their business careers.

The Palace has refused to comment on reports that the Queen is to pay Edward and Sophie 250,000 as compensation for becoming full-time royals.

But the couple are expected to receive extra handouts on top of the 141,000 they already receive from the Queen's private funds.

BBC deputy royal correspondent Peter Hunt says their decision to dedicate more time to the monarchy in 2002 is an astute move.

In the Golden Jubilee year, royals are going to be in demand for the celebrations across the UK, he says.

Struggle

A spokeswoman for the couple said they would focus on charity work. They are now expected to extend the list of charities they support.

Over the next few months the Palace is expected to start considering good causes for Sophie Wessex to champion.

Prince Edward is likely to increase the number of organisations he supports.

The couple have in the past been accused of using their connections to further their business interests.

The Queen and Sophie
The couple will receive money from the Queen
Our correspondent says Prince Edward has struggled in other jobs and could find better fortune in the role he was born to perform.

Prince Edward has said he and his wife would fulfil current obligations with their separate companies before leaving.

Production company Ardent Productions said it fully endorsed the prince's decision to step down as director of production and joint managing director.

RJH Public Relations said the countess would stop drawing a salary and reduce her controlling share interest to that of a minority shareholder.

She is also expected to give up her duties as an executive director to become a non-executive director.

'Private matter'

Prince Edward has a personal fortune estimated at 9m, but that is said to be unlikely to cover the couple's costs.

Their 50-bedroom mansion at Bagshot Park in Surrey is roughly three times the size of the Prince of Wales's Highgrove estate and is the largest residence owned by one of the Queen's children.

Some of the costs of running the estate have been recouped by basing Ardent in a converted stable block in the grounds.

But the reported 50,000 a year rent and Prince Edward's 65,000 salary will go when he severs his ties with the firm.

A spokeswoman for the couple insisted the couple's finances were a private matter.

"The earl and countess are not being funded by the public, by the taxpayer, so how they support themselves is a matter for them," she said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Matt Gardner
"The accusations of cashing in on their royal status will stop"
Dickie Arbiter, former palace press officer
"It probably is the right decision"
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