In keeping with Royal tradition (and we all know how much of a stickler for tradition Edward is), back in the 1980s, Edward joined the Royal Marines. However, things didn't turn out quite like he (or maybe his father) planned.
It's hard to believe that Edward, a quiet man who loves the theater, would even consider joining the Marines and becoming a Commando, but that's exactly what he did in the fall of 1986, just three months after leaving Cambridge.
Edward first got connected with the Royal Marines four years prior to this, in 1982, when he signed up for a potential officers training course. He knew the services were a unfailing Royal career path and, being the stickler for protocol and tradition he is, wanted to do the right thing by following his father and two elder brothers into the forces. The fact that he wanted to quit after only a little while didn't surprise anyone who knew him. The big shock was the fact that he had the courage to actually quit.
In spite of it all, though, Edward had wanted to join the Marines ever since he was a child watching James Bond movies. Another thing that probably added to his desire to become a Marine was a desire to match, and prove he was as tough as his father, Prince Philip, the Captain General of the Marines, and his brothers, Prince Charles, the "Action Man" and Prince Andrew, the helicopter-flying Falklands War hero.
I could go into major details on those early days in the Marines, but you know what? I won't. Instead, I'm going to plug the book yet again. Want details? Buy the book.
When Edward arrived at Lympstone in 1986, he had the rank of Second Lieutenant and was one of 36 officer recruits. His private bodyguard was with him, as always, and that, along with the fact that his room was separated from the rooms of the other officers, created a mental and physical barrier between Edward and his fellow recruits that was probably impossibly for the reserved Prince to overcome.
Looking back, it appears the physical demands of the training weren't as tough on Edward as the mental stress, the feeling of suppression and the feeling of not being allowed to think for himself. But don't get me wrong: the physical part was hard too.
Edward served twelve weeks before breaking for Christmas, but in that short time two incidents took place that most likely made him think even more seriously about quitting. What were they? What that? You expect me to tell you and spoil the surprise? No way. Buy the book. The incidents are right there on page 104. I told you before: I'm not a tabloid. I don't repeat details, at least not very fully. I'm trying to tell you about who Edward is, that's it.
Edward, who sometimes displays a pompous and officious streak, was regarded by the other officers as a prima donna who would bellow orders like a drill sergeant. But that was really going too far. Edward, like most naturally shy people, tends to go overboard when given a position of authority, that's all. Nothing to get all worked up about.
Edward spent that Christmas vacation tyring to decide between his personal happiness and his sense of duty. He was suppoesd to stay in the Marines for at the very least five years, and he didn't know if he could sacrifice his own happiness for that long a time. His parents, with their own strong senses of duty, urged him to take more time to decide, but by New Year's Eve he had decided.
He was supposed to go back to barracks on January 5, 1987. He didn't. He had a sick note from the palace and spent the day composing his letter of resignation. He wasn't going back.
His commanding officer, along with many others, tried in the days that followed to convince Edward to reconsider his decision. It didn't work. By the beginning of the next week, Edward resigned.
The press made a big deal out of the resignation, which was really unfair to Edward, because a third of all trainees quit, and the truth of his matter was, he just wanted to be his own person.
Royal biographer Anthony Holden said that Edward "had merely had the good sense to question the merit of a military career. He has shown that he wishes to be his own man, and thus choose his own career, not have it chosen for him, nor to live his life merely by tradition or precedent." (Gibbs & Smith, p. 108).
And on that note...I have nothing more to add except this: I think it was one of the best decisions Edward has ever made in his life. And 80% of the British people supported his decision as well.
Good show, Your Royal Highness.
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