Prince Edward
Prince Edward looks relaxed in the official family portrait. POOL

Prince Edward has marked his 50<sup>th birthday with the release of an official family portrait.

The Earl of Wessex is photographed in a relaxed pose with his wife Sophie, the Countess of Wessex and their two children The Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.

The photograph was taken in the panelled dining room of their Berkshire home, Bagshot Park, by photographer Millie Pilkington, who was also commissioned to take the private photographs at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's wedding.

The Prince has opted for a low key celebration to mark his half century, with close family in attendance.

The Queen and Prince Phillip were earlier seen heading to Bagshot Park, for the birthday celebrations of their youngest child.

The Prince is expected to carry out two public engagements with his wife in support of the Wessex Youth Trust, the charity set up by the couple before their marriage in 1999.

The couple will then accompany the Queen and other senior royals to the Commonwealth Observance Service at Westminster Abbey.

Prince Andrew and Prince Edward
The Queen with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, March 1960. Copyright Royal Collection

Aside from the release of the official portrait, the Prince has refused to be interviewed by media about the milestone birthday, permitting only one interview with a children's news programme.

The eighth-in-line to the throne, Edward has largely kept out of the media glare, conducting 258 official engagements last year with little publicity.

After giving up a lacklustre career in entertainment, the Prince is expected to take on his father's role on the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme. He has also been appointed the International Trustee and Chairman of the International Council.

After university, Edward followed in the royal tradition of military service with a brief stint of training with the Royal Marines. However, he dropped out of training after just a few months to pursue a career in entertainment. He began his career as a production assistant for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Theatre Company and produced the ill-fated It's A Royal Knockout in 1987.

Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, the Countess of Wessex
Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, arrive at Trondheim cathedral in a file photo. Reuters

In 1993 he formed Ardent Productions, which produced as series of royal documentaries, however the Prince was accused of profiting from his royal position.

In 2001, Edward found himself at the centre of a private and public controversy after one of his own film crews breached his nephew, Prince William's privacy, while he was studying in Scotland.

His wife Sophie had also been the focus of controversy for her PR by business with allegations that she had allowed access to royals at a price.

In 2002, the royal couple gave up their business interests to concentrate on their royal duties.

The Prince is said to be happy in his role as a father and a family man.

A friend of the family said: 'It really is lovely to see Edward and Sophie sitting down on the floor playing with their children. They are such hand-on parents and totally unstuffy. Louise and James were much longed-for children and are the centre of their world."