Meet Prince Edward: King Charles' Brother Has Stepped Up in Wake of Royal Family Health Struggles

The king's youngest brother has taken on more and more responsibility over the last few years, especially now that the king is sick.

The British royal family is closing ranks in the face of two medical emergencies, and Prince Edward has become more central than ever. The 60-year-old Duke of Edinburgh is the youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, and is currently a Counsellor of State for King Charles III. On Monday, April 8, he led a major royal event for the very first time.

Prince Edward and his wife Sophie Rhys-Jones stood in for the king and Queen Camilla at Buckingham Palace for the 120th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale – an agreement between the countries who opposed Germany in World War I. The king himself is not attending public events or engagements during his cancer treatment, though he is still carrying out his day-to-day duties. Pundits at the BBC and other publications noted that it was a big deal for the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh to be trusted for a major event like this one, and that it was hard-earned. Royalty expert Jennie Bond told OK! Magazine that Prince Edward and Rhys-Jones "thoroughly deserve the recognition they are now getting."

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(Photo: VICTORIA JONES/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

"They have always been quietly devoted to their various causes, but their work has been overshadowed by other royals," she said. "I suppose every cloud has a silver lining... and as the King calls on them to take a more prominent role, Edward and Sophie are showing they are very much up to the task."

Bond also noted that Prince Edward's dutiful behavior is a welcome example of how a member of the royal family can pitch in even if they are lower in the line of succession. She said: "They are also serving as excellent role models to their great nephews and niece – showing that you can be a 'spare' or even a 'spare to the spare' and make a real success of working as a valued member of the Royal Family."

That's a clear reference to Prince Harry, whose memoir Spare was published just last year, detailing his conflicted feelings about being the younger sibling in the monarchy. Prince Edward was born even lower in the order of succession as the fourth child of the queen and Prince Philip. He is 15 years younger than the king, and their siblings Prince Andrew and Princess Anne come between them. Prince Edward served in the Royal Marines, attended college, and worked as a theater and TV producer before returning to full-time royal duties.

Prince Edward and Rhys-Jones have two children – 20-year-old Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor and 16-year-old James Mountbatten-Windsor. They are styled as "children of a duke" rather than "princess and prince," according to royal tradition. The family patronizes organizations for children's activities, paralympic sports, classical music, ballet, and theater. Upon the death of Prince Philip, Prince Edward was created the new Duke of Edinburgh. However, the title is not hereditary, and will return to the crown upon his passing.

Practically speaking, the most important role Prince Edward holds now is that of Counsellor of State. Counsellors are the people eligible to carry out royal duties on behalf of the king, but only through formal letters patent and only in situations of great need. The other counselors include Queen Camilla, Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Andrew, Princess Beatrice, and Princess Anne. However, the royal family is spread thin as both the king and Kate Middleton undergo cancer treatment. The help of figures like Prince Edward may become more common in the months to come.