Earl of Wessex
|Earldom of Wessex|
|Creation date||19 June 1999|
|Created by||Elizabeth II|
|Peerage||Peerage of the United Kingdom|
|First holder||HRH Prince Edward|
|Present holder||HRH Prince Edward
1st Earl of Wessex
|Heir apparent||James, Viscount Severn|
|Remainder to||the 1st Earl's heirs male of the body lawfully begotten|
|Subsidiary titles||Viscount Severn|
Earl of Wessex is a title that 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. The region of Wessex (the "West Saxons'), in the south and southwest of England, had been one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (the Heptarchy), whose expansion in the tenth century created 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 Edward (the Confessor), the earldom was conferred for the second time on Godwin at some time after 1020. Godwin had been the most powerful man in England next to Edward's father, King Aethelred, who had fought Godwin for control of then Angleterre. At first, King Edward carried on his father's fight against Godwin, defeated and exiled him. Then later realized he needed him to help fight the Norsemen who were constantly invading, and the growing power of the Normans in France. That's when King Edward brought Godwin back and restored his earldom. Thereafter Godwin rose again to become the second most powerful man in the kingdom. King Canute succeeded Edward by conquest, married Edward's queen, a Norman princess, who agreed that her offspring from Canute not Edward should succeed to the monarchy. Godwin's son, Harold, disagreed and won the crown away from Canute's heirs by combat.
Following the Norman conquest in the winter of 1066, King William bestowed the earldom on William FitzOsbern, his most trusted companion. FitzOsbern continued to help William consolidate his new realm until his death in Normandy in 1071.
- Godwin, Earl of Wessex (c. 1001–1053)
- Harold Godwinson (c. 1022–1066) also Earl of East Anglia; ascended to the throne of King of England in January 1066
- William FitzOsbern (c. 1020–1071)
Second creation (current)
In 1999, Queen Elizabeth II's youngest son, Prince Edward, married Sophie Helen 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 succeed to the title Duke of Edinburgh, currently held by his father. 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. In the newspaper, The Sunday Telegraph reported that he was drawn to the historic title Earl of Wessex after watching the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love, in which a character with that title is played by Colin Firth.
The current Earl of Wessex is also Viscount Severn; this title is used as a courtesy title by the Earl's son, who was born on 17 December 2007.
The heir apparent is the present holder's son James, Viscount Severn (b. 2007). The Earl's son is currently the only person in the line of succession to the titles of Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn.
- Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1007: "In this year also was Edric appointed alderman over all the kingdom of the Mercians.", 1017: "This year also was Alderman Edric slain at London".
- Mason p33
- Crouch p100
- Crouch p108
- Richard Eden (12 December 2010). "Royal wedding: Prince William asks the Queen not to make him a duke". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
- David Crouch, The Normans (2002) ISBN 1-85285-387-5
- Emma Mason The House of Godwine (2004) ISBN 1-85285-389-1