Prince Edward followed in his elder brothers’ footsteps when he joined the military shortly after leaving Cambridge University with his BA in History in 1986. Tuition for his studies at the prestigious institution had been paid by the Royal Marines on condition of the royal serving after his degree and he duly enlisted to undergo the 12-month training period. But after only a third of the training, the future Earl of Wessex dropped out, sparking accusations of cowardice and mocking labels from the international press.
Speaking to Channel 5 documentary ‘Edward&Sophie: The Reluctant Royals?’, former royal press secretary Dickie Arbiter said: “The newspapers were up in arms.
“They called him all sorts of things, they called him a weakling, they called him a coward. It was pretty nasty.”
Narrator Glynis Barber added: “He just felt he was going along on a railway line and suddenly, the rails weren’t there anymore.
“Prince Edward was at a crossroad. He needed to find a role for himself.
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“And was naturally drawn back to the theatre, the one thing he really loved.”
Edward had long expressed an interest in the performing arts, often joining theatre productions both as actor and as handyman.
Ms Barber continued: “The problems was he had no training or qualifications in the entertainment industry.
“But Edward had an idea, and one that would haunt him for years.
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“He roped his siblings into helping him launch his career through a televised event with a theatrical twist. A royal version of the popular BBC programme ‘It’s a knockout.”
The Duke and Duchess of York as well as Princess Anne joined the youngest royal in a competitive televised charity event, with each of them leading a team and representing a different charity.
Prince Edward later questioned the press about their opinion on the show but was left facing nervous laughter as journalists had not been able to see the event as they had been forced to remain in the press tent.
The performance was later branded a “disaster”, with several royal insiders suggesting the Queen and Prince Philip had been opposed to the show.
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A friend of Her Majesty told author Ben Pimlott: “‘It was a terrible mistake,’ says one of the Monarch’s friends. ‘She was against it. But one of her faults is that she can’t say no.’
“‘There was not a single courtier,’ one recalls, ‘who did not think it was a mistake.’
“Their advice was confounded by youthful enthusiasm and the Queen’s maternal indulgence.”
Prince Edward continued to seek to establish himself in the entertainment business, working as a production assistant for musical composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
He later launched a production company, Ardent Productions, which focused on the creation and documentaries but he was later forced to step down after allegedly breaking an agreement Prince Charles had reached with broadcasters about Prince William’s privacy while at university.