DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images Prince Edward and South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa
Prince Edward is stepping up.
The Earl of Wessex, 57, conducted an important duty during the first state visit of King Charles III's reign, accompanying Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of South Africa, to two environmental engagements on Wednesday.
The morning began with a tour of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew on the president final day in the U.K. The duo made the half-hour trip from Buckingham Palace to highlight the scientific and conservation partnerships the two countries share, notably the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership through the South African National Biodiversity Institute.
Prince Edward and President Ramaphosa, 70, checked out the plants in the world-renowned gardens, including the King Protea, the national flower of South Africa. To commemorate the next phase of the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, an underground trove of 2.4 billion diverse seeds being conserved for future use, the stop also featured a ceremonial presentation of seeds.
KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images Prince Edward and South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa
Ramaphosa and the royal traveled back to London for their next outing, visiting the Francis Crick Institute, a biomedical research hub specializing in studying the biology of health and disease. The institute, which involves academia, medicine and industry, works with University of KwaZulu- Natal, a public university in South Africa. At the science center, Prince Edward and the president got to see technology used across Africa to make diagnoses, including COVID-19, before spending time with South African students and scientists.
From there, Ramaphosa was off to meet with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street, and attended a business forum at Lancaster House. The president's final day wrapped with a formal farewell to King Charles at Buckingham Palace, following by a Guildhall banquet hosted by city officials.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa
Prince Edward's solo outing with the world leader is a signal of the elevated royal role he might have during his brother's reign. Last week, Charles, 74, asked British Parliament to make Prince Edward and Princess Anne Counsellors of State. These royal representatives can stand in for the monarch in official duties if he is abroad or unwell.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images Prince Edward and South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa
The petition is being made to round out the ranks, as Prince Harry and Prince Andrew, who are both Counsellors of State, are no longer senior working royals. The update comes after members of Parliament recently pointed out that this conundrum could create a conflict of interest if deputies were needed to act on behalf of the King.
Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, have also been tapped to represent the royal family during a glamorous night out next month. On Dec. 1, the Earl and Countess of Wessex will attend the annual Royal Variety Performance as the evening's guests of honor. It will mark the first time that Edward, 58, and Sophie, 57, go to the show, which has previously been attended by the King, Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
"We are thrilled that our Royal guests of honour at this year's Royal Variety Performance will be Their Royal Highnesses The Earl and Countess of Wessex and Forfar," Royal Variety tweeted Thursday, posting a formal portrait of the royal couple.
We are thrilled that our Royal guests of honour at this year's Royal Variety Performance will be Their Royal Highnesses The Earl and Countess of Wessex and Forfar. pic.twitter.com/d1ocmN8pqh
— Royal Variety (@RoyalVariety) November 16, 2022
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The performance supports the Royal Variety Charity, of which Queen Elizabeth II served as the patron. The money raised helps hundreds of entertainers throughout the U.K. who need help and assistance as a result of old age, poor health or hard times. This year's star-studded lineup includes Ellie Goulding, George Ezra, Becky Hill, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Rita Wilson, Cirque du Soleil, Giffords Circus, the London Youth Choir and more.