Kate Middleton nearly did not become the Duchess of Cambridge with the title reserved for another popular royal

The Earl of Wessex had an unusual inspiration for his and his wife's titles

Kate Middleton and Sophie Wessex
(Image credit: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images/Future)

The titles of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were given to Prince William (opens in new tab) and Kate Middleton (opens in new tab) on their wedding day in 2011 (opens in new tab), but they were originally reserved for another royal couple until a bout of inspiration from an unlikely source influenced a change.

  • The titles of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were originally meant to be given to Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex, and Sophie Wessex on their wedding day in 1999, but the Prince asked the Queen for a different title, according to a palace courtier.
  • The courtier claims the inspiration for the new title came after Prince Edward watched the film Shakespeare in Love, which had a character called the Earl of Wessex.
  • In other royal news (opens in new tab), Kate Middleton's morning parenting hack that helps keep her in shape (opens in new tab).

Sophie Wessex may not be as popular or well known as Kate Middleton, but she is often referred to as the royal family's secret weapon thanks to her down-to-earth nature and hard working approach to royal duty. Her popularity has blossomed since she and her husband, the late Queen's youngest son Prince Edward, stepped in for an ailing Queen before her death in September 2022. Due to her unwavering loyalty to The Firm, many royal fans were surprised to learn that the royal was not awarded the coveted title of 'Duchess' ahead of marrying Prince Edward.

Unlike his older brother, Prince Andrew, and his two nephews, Prince William and Prince Harry, Edward was not gifted a dukedom at the time of his wedding in 1999 and it was instead announced that he would therefore be known as the Earl of Wessex. This meant Sophie became the Countess of Wessex, not a duchess.

Nearly a decade after their wedding, it was revealed by a palace courtier that Sophie nearly did end up with a duchess title though - the one Kate Middleton was later awarded on her wedding day.

Kate Middleton and Sophie Wessex

(Image credit: Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

According to a palace courtier, the title of Duke of Cambridge, which was eventually given to Prince William, was originally reserved for Prince Edward. If this plan went ahead, Sophie would have become the Duchess of Cambridge on her wedding day.

In a surprising twist, the title change was actually Edward's idea. The palace courtier explained to The Telegraph in 2010, "Prince Edward was going to be the Duke of Cambridge, but he watched the film Shakespeare in Love, which had a character called the Earl of Wessex. He liked the sound of it and asked the Queen if he could have that instead."

Kate Middleton and Sophie Wessex

(Image credit: Yui Mok - Pool/Getty Images)

There is still time for Edward and Sophie to become a duke and a duchess, with the power to grant these titles now resting in the hands of Edward's eldest brother, King Charles III.  

According to The Mirror, it is intended that Edward be given the title of Duke of Edinburgh to honour his late father Prince Philip.  This would mean Sophie would become the Duchess of Edinburgh, a title last held by the Queen from her wedding in 1947 until her accession to the throne in 1952. 

Speaking to The Telegraph, Sophie recalled the moment Philip told her and Edward he would like them to take on the title. She said, “We sat there slightly stunned. He literally came straight in and said, ‘Right. I’d like it very much if you would consider that’.”

Upon Prince Phillip's death, King Charles inherited the title of Duke of Edinburgh as he was his eldest son. Now that he has taken to the throne as King, the Dukedom of Edinburgh has merged with the Crown, meaning it is free to be awarded to another royal couple.

While The Mirror report that the late Queen and Prince Philip wished for Edward and Sophie to take on the titles of Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, it will be up to Charles to decide who will inherit it.

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Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse
Royal News and Entertainment writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is royal news and entertainment writer for Goodto.com. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.