|Earldom of Wessex|
|Creation date||19 June 1999|
|Monarch||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Peerage||Peerage of the United Kingdom|
|Present holder||The Prince Edward|
|Heir apparent||James Mountbatten-Windsor, Viscount Severn|
|Remainder to||the 1st Earl's heirs male of the body lawfully begotten.|
|Subsidiary titles||Earl of Forfar (title of the Earl of Wessex when in Scotland) Viscount Severn|
The title Earl of Wessex has been created twice in British history: once in the pre-Conquest Anglo-Saxon nobility of England, and once in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. In the 6th century AD the region of Wessex (the lands of the West Saxons), in the south and southwest of present-day England, became one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (one of the components of the so-called Heptarchy); in the tenth century the increasing power of the Kingdom of the West Saxons led to a united Kingdom of England.
Wessex was one of the four earldoms of Anglo-Danish England. In this period, the earldom of Wessex covered the lands of the old kingdom of Wessex, covering the counties of the south of England, and extending west to the Welsh border.
During the reign of King Cnut, the earldom was conferred on Godwin at some time after 1020. Thereafter, Godwin rose to become, in King Edward's time, the most powerful man in the kingdom. Upon Godwin's death in 1053, the earldom passed to his son, who later became King Harold II and died at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
|Godwin, Earl of Wessex
House of Godwin
also: Earl of Kent (1020)
|Born probably in
Sussex, Godwin's father was probably Wulfnoth Cild, who was a thegn of Sussex
|15 April 1053|
Winchester, Hampshire, England
House of Godwin
also: Earl of East Anglia (1052);
King of England (1066)
Son of Godwin of Wessex
and Gytha Thorkelsdóttir
|(1) Edith Swannesha
|14 October 1066|
Died in the Battle of Hastings
aged about 44
|Upon Godwin's death, the earldom passed to his son, who later became King Harold II and died at the Battle of Hastings in 1066; the title became extinct on his death.|
In 1999, Queen Elizabeth II's youngest son, Prince Edward, married Sophie Rhys-Jones. Younger sons of the monarch have customarily been given dukedoms at the time of their marriage, and experts had suggested the former royal dukedoms of Cambridge and Sussex as the most likely to be granted to Prince Edward. Instead, the Palace announced that Prince Edward would eventually be given the title Duke of Edinburgh, which was at the time held by his father. This was unlikely to happen by direct inheritance, as Prince Edward is the youngest of Prince Philip's three sons. Rather, the title is expected to be newly created for Prince Edward after it "eventually reverts to the crown" after "both the death of the first Duke of Edinburgh, which took place in 2021, and the succession of the current Duke, the Prince of Wales' succession as King."
In the meantime, in keeping with the tradition of a monarch's son receiving a title upon marriage, but preserving the rank of duke for the future, Prince Edward became the first British prince in centuries to be specifically created an earl, rather than a duke. His wife Sophie became The Countess of Wessex. The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported that he was drawn to the historic title of Earl of Wessex after watching the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love, in which a character with the title 'Lord Wessex' is played by Colin Firth.
The current Earl of Wessex is also Viscount Severn. This subsidiary title is used as a courtesy title by the Earl's son and heir to his title, James, who was born on 17 December 2007. It recognises the Countess's Welsh ancestry.
House of Windsor
also: Earl of Forfar (2019), Viscount Severn (1999)
|10 March 1964
Buckingham Palace, London
son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
|19 June 1999
| – |
now 58 years, 93 days old