Prince Edward has visited Australia 11 times and never with his family. While his eldest brother, Prince Charles, and his nephew, Prince William, regularly take their children on official overseas’ tours, for Edward, 11th in line to the throne, leaving Lady Louise, 15, and James, Viscount Severn, 11, at home somehow seemed more practical.
“It’s always difficult with school and I know I’m a bit strange that I didn’t travel with my children when they were smaller but what was the point? They weren’t going to be able to appreciate the country and the schedules are so busy, we actually never get much time to see them, so why disrupt their lives for that?”
It’s a very pragmatic approach and totally in keeping with Prince Edward’s head down attitude to royal work. For the Prince, also titled the Earl of Wessex, family and work are separate. He’s fiercely protective of his privacy and has worked hard to keep his children out of the media spotlight. But it’s something the royal admits he may have to change in the future – at least in relation to visiting our shores. “They now ask me, ‘Oh, are you going to Australia, could we come, too?’ ... they’ve now got to the point where they are genuinely interested in the places I’m going to, so one day, hopefully.”
We are settled on the sofas in the refined but comfy living room at Government House, in the heart of Sydney’s lush Royal Botanic Garden. The Prince, who is friendly and gracious, rarely gives interviews but this visit is special and he’s agreed to his first ever chat with The Weekly. He’s here on an exhausting six-day, 25-engagement visit to celebrate 60 years of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.
The Prince’s father, the Duke of Edinburgh, first established his Award in 1956. Just three years after his wife became Queen, Prince Philip had an idea to set up a scheme to bring the sort of outdoor education he’d enjoyed to children from vastly different backgrounds. The Award, which was honed by the Duke and Sir John Hunt, an army officer and the man who led the successful 1953 British ascent of Everest, is about leadership and team work, resilience and a plucky thirst for the great outdoors.
It’s something Prince Edward is extremely proud of. “They devised something that has endured for 60 years without really much change because it changes from within. Young people tell us what to do, as opposed to the other way round, which is really important,” he explains.
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