LONDON — Prince Edward is quitting Ardent Prods., the TV and film outfit he set up, to spend more time fulfilling royal duties during his mother Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee year.
The British prince, who announced the news Saturday, will step down as director of production and co-managing director on March 31. His wife Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, will also give up her work in PR.
“The opportunity to set up and run my own company has got to have been the biggest challenge I have ever faced and yet has turned out to be enormous fun, immensely rewarding and full of surprises,” Edward said. “Yet I always knew in the back of my mind that one day things would have to change. Well, that day has come, not just for me, but also for my wife.”
Edward’s decision closes the controversy surrounding his links to the company, which has lost $2.4 million since it began in 1993. The Queen’s youngest son, also known as the Earl of Wessex, had been accused of exploiting his position to make and present documentaries about royalty and the royal family.
Last year one of Ardent’s film crews was caught stalking Edward’s nephew, Prince William, breaching a media agreement to leave the young prince alone (Daily Variety, Sept. 27). The crew was found shooting at St. Andrews U. in Scotland, where William is a freshman, long after an official photocall ended. William is the eldest son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana and second in line to the throne.
Ardent claimed to be shooting a program about tourism but was actually gathering material for a series called “The A to Z of Royalty” for the E! Entertainment network in the U.S.
The rector at St. Andrew’s was outraged at the time. “We thought maybe paparazzi or maybe a British tabloid, but it never crossed our minds that the first people to breach (the prince’s privacy) would be a company owned by the royal family,” he said. “It beggars belief.”
Prince William had hinted he might leave the university if he was pestered by the media.
After that incident, Ardent was forced to stop making programs about royalty, its most successful subject matter, and focus on film and drama.