Prince Edward talks to CNN about the Sussexes, the queen’s duel and his father’s legacy

London (CNN) – Edward, Earl of Wessex, pokes his head out of the bedroom door at St. James’s Palace and laughs at the many cameras set up for the interview. “Do you have enough?” He laughs.

The queen’s youngest son, 57, appears to be in good spirits on this glorious summer day in London despite the occasion. This Thursday would have been the 100th birthday of Edward’s father, Prince Philip, and he’s marking the date by reflecting on the Duke of Edinburgh’s legacy and his eponymous awards program.

But there is an elephant in the room. Hours before CNN’s exclusive meeting with the Earl, Duke and Duchess of Sussex they were forced to deny a report in the British media that they had not consulted the queen about the use of her child nickname Lilibet for her daughter. new born.

Headlines investigating the relationship between the Sussexes and the rest of the family have been frequent since the couple resigned their roles as working royalty last year and moved to California. Responding to a question about current family tensions, the count says the situation is “very sad.”

Listen, weirdly, we’ve all been there before, we’ve all had excessive intrusion and attention into our lives. And we’ve all handled it slightly differently, and listen, we wish you the best of luck. It’s a very difficult decision, “says Edward.

Harry and Meghan have often talked about the pressures of royal life and constant media scrutiny. In an explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey in March, the Duke said that relentless scrutiny was one of the deciding factors in the family’s move to the United States. In her conversation with Winfrey, the Duchess also revealed that she had contemplated suicide during her first pregnancy and that there had been doubts about the skin color of her unborn child, Archie.

Edward says that he hopes the couple will be happy before returning to the topic of the breakup, suggesting that disagreements happen in all families.

“It’s difficult for everyone, but that’s a family for you,” he says.

For various reasons, it has been a difficult few months for the British royal family, who are still mourning the loss of their patriarch in April. Due to covid-19 measures at the time, funeral arrangements were greatly reduced by actual standards, and the number of attendees was limited to just 30 people.

“It was an experience that many other families have had to go through in the last year or 18 months, and in that sense, it was particularly moving,” says Edward. “There are many, many people who have not been able to express the respect that they would have liked. I think a lot of people would have liked to be there to support the Queen.

The Queen goes on

Following the queen’s lead, as always, high-ranking members of the royal family have returned to their duties and are once again fulfilling a busy schedule of video calls and in-person engagements.

When asked how the 95-year-old monarch is doing after losing her husband for 73 years, Edward responds that she is “really doing very well.”

“I think it was a great partnership, but over the last two weeks life has gotten considerably busier. Things are starting to open up more, there are more activities so strange that fill any particular void, “he said.

“I think there will be other times throughout the year that I think it will get a little more poignant and a little more difficult. But for the moment, thank you very much for asking. I think everyone is in really good shape, and just working too hard. “

“Hard enough” may be an understatement. The monarch, despite her advanced age, has consistently kept a demanding diary in recent years. Even before the coronavirus changed life in the UK last March, it had made 296 commitments between 2019 and 2020.

Unable to do everything herself, the monarch relies on several generations of close family members to complete more than 3,000 engagements both at home and abroad each year.

President Biden and Queen Elizabeth will meet

Edward and his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, are playing an increasingly active role in supporting the Queen after Harry and Meghan’s relocation to California, as well as the removal of Prince Andrew from public service because of their partnership. with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

“Trying to be there as a friendly ear sometimes is absolutely very important,” Edward says.

An important meeting on the queen’s agenda this week is her first face-to-face meeting with US President Joe Biden, who is in Britain for the latest G7 summit. His meeting Sunday will be the first between the two leaders since Biden took office in January, and he will be the 14th commander-in-chief of the United States with whom he will meet.

Edward says the reunion is a “perfect opportunity” for the couple to get to know each other.

“As a family, we all had very close ties to the United States. We spend or used to, not so much now, but we used to spend a lot of time going back and forth, maintaining those bonds, the connections, the heritage… (we’ve) been through a lot together. And that’s what good friendship is all about.

What the couple will discuss is anyone’s guess. The fact that conversations with the monarch remain private at this time “is a bit strange,” says Edward.

“People really respect the fact that this is a genuinely private and off-the-record conversation, so they can really talk about things and get to the heart of things and in a very genuine way, because they know it’s not going to get out of there. . »

Philip and the Duke of Edinburgh Prize

Instead, what royalty has always made sure to defend publicly is their commitment to public service, an area in which Prince Philip was somewhat innovative. Arguably his greatest achievement was his Duke of Edinburgh Award, a youth development program he established in 1956.

«It is a framework of activities. It was said that he encouraged young people and adults to participate in non-formal activities or outside of the classroom, ”says Edward. “And, of course, it empowered both adults and youth to take control of their destinies, and no matter where in the world that youth or adult is, it’s the same.”

And that’s why I think it has spread to 130 countries and is doing particularly well in the United States. It was a bit of a late start, but it’s brilliant. And what is really exciting about what is happening in America is that almost 50% of the people involved are what we would call at-risk or marginalized youth, which is brilliant because they are young people who can really benefit from this. “

The Duke of Edinburgh attends the Presentation Reception for The Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Award holders in the gardens at the Palace of Holyroodhouse on July 6, 2017 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Duke of Edinburgh at the award ceremony in 2017.

Many of the alumni of the program speak fondly of their experiences.

“What I really liked is that the award is so diversified, it has so many different components,” says Kristina Ayanian, a 24-year-old NASDAQ senior listing analyst who has bronze, silver and gold awards from the Duke of Edinburgh International Award. .

“One of the highlights I had was volunteering at the local food market for my bronze medal award, and seeing how food insecurity is so important in our lives. That connection to giving back to my community really stuck with me. “

Ayanian has since continued her work with hunger relief, organizing a food drive in Boston when the pandemic struck, working with local businesses and individuals to support shelters and hospitals in the city.

“I partnered with dedicated corporations, distributors, restaurants, and individuals to really do our part to help our community during these difficult times. But it all stems from this award and the impact it really had on my life, ”he says.

‘It was about other people’

Ayanian says the show’s current international reach is an important part of Prince Philip’s legacy.

‘He’s had a huge impact, not just on young people in the UK, but globally, and I think that’s what’s so impressive about his work,’ he says. “I really believe in the award, that it will continue to be successful and continue to have representatives to carry it out through future generations. And I am proud to be a part of his legacy. It is truly an honor.

One representative continuing his awards journey is 19-year-old Victor Echániz. As part of the program for the past five years, the Berklee College of Music dual degree student is also currently serving as Alumni Leader for the Duke of Edinburgh International Award in the USA while completing his own gold award level.

“For me it is one of the best things you can do as a young adult,” says Echániz. “You also embark on these adventurous journeys where you get to work in your leadership, in team building and in your exploration, and looking for new passions.”

He says he’s grateful that the Duke of Edinburgh created the program. ” You will become someone who has helped millions of young adults transform themselves and become better people and conscientious citizens. “

Edward also sees his father’s legacy in the many lives he quietly helped change.

Always, always, he was incredibly modest, wasn’t he? It was about other people. He just gave them a push, encouraged them and there they went, ”he says. And tragically, it wasn’t until he passed away that everyone was like wow, this is what he did. And of course it’s too late, (he) never found out. But then, I suspect that if he had made it to his 100th birthday, a lot of it would have come to light, and it would have been lovely for him to have heard it himself.

But, of course, since he was so modest, he wouldn’t have wanted the fuss and hassle… that wasn’t him, it just wasn’t him at all.

CNN’s Matthew Brealey and Luis Graham-Yooll contributed to this report.

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