|Countess of Wessex|
|Spouse||Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
|Lady Louise Windsor|
|House||House of Windsor|
|Born||20 January 1965 (1965-01-20) (age 46)|
Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones was born at Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, on 20 January 1965, the second child and first daughter of Christopher Bournes Rhys-Jones (born 1931), a retired tyre salesman, and his wife, Mary (née O'Sullivan; 1934–2005), a secretary,who already had a son, David. Sophie was named after her father's sister, Helen, who died in a riding accident more than a decade before Sophie was born. Her godfather, actor Thane Bettany, is her father's stepbrother; both men spent their early life in Sarawak, North Borneo, then a British protectorate ruled by the White Rajahs.
While she was still young, the Rhys-Jones family moved to Brenchley, Kent. She began her education at Dulwich Preparatory School, before moving on to Kent College, Pembury where she was friends with Sarah Sienesi, with whom she subsequently shared a flat in Fulham and who later became her lady in waiting. She then trained as a secretary at West Kent College, Tonbridge.
She began a career in public relations, working for a variety of firms, including four years at Capital Radio, where she was assigned to the press and promotions department, as well as public relations companies The Quentin Bell Organisation and MacLaurin Communications & Media. She also worked as a ski representative in Switzerland and spent a year travelling and working in Australia. In 1996, with enough experience behind her, Rhys-Jones then launched her public relations agency, RJH Public Relations, which she ran with her business partner, Murray Harkin.
In 2001, a News of the World undercover reporter, Mazher Mahmood, posing as a sheikh, recorded the Countess making disparaging comments about certain members of the British government and appearing to use her royal status in order to gain clientele. The comments were subsequently published in The Mail on Sunday newspaper, and then by other media outlets. Buckingham Palace released a statement saying the reported comments were 'selective, distorted and in several cases, flatly untrue'. Subsequently, in 2002, both the Earl and Countess announced that they would quit their business interests in order to focus on royal duties and aid the Queen in her Golden Jubilee year.
Main article: Wedding of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie Rhys-JonesSee also: Wedding dress of Sophie Rhys-JonesThe engagement of Sophie Rhys-Jones and The Prince Edward, the youngest son of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, was announced on 6 January 1999. Their wedding took place on 19 June of the same year at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, a break from the weddings of Edward's older siblings, which were large, formal events at Westminster Abbey or St Paul's Cathedral.
The couple had met six years earlier, in 1993, at a charity event, and began their relationship soon afterwards.
On the day of their marriage, The Queen declared her son would eventually be created Duke of Edinburgh, when that title reverts to the Crown upon his father's death – Sophie would then become the Duchess of Edinburgh. Until then The Prince Edward would be Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn, the latter title reflecting his bride's Welsh origins. Upon her marriage Rhys-Jones became Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex. After the union, the couple moved to Bagshot Park, in Surrey.
In December 2001, the Countess was taken to the King Edward VII Hospital after feeling unwell, whereupon it was discovered that she was suffering from a potentially life-threatening ectopic pregnancy. Two years later, she gave birth to a daughter, Lady Louise Windsor, on 8 November 2003. It was a premature birth, resulting from a sudden placental abruption that placed both the mother and child at risk, and the Countess had to undergo an emergency caesarean section at Frimley Park Hospital, while the Earl of Wessex rushed back from Mauritius. The Countess returned to Frimley Park Hospital on 17 December 2007, to give birth, again by caesarean section, to her son, James, Viscount Severn. The children, per prior agreement between the Queen and their parents, will either not use or not have (depending on interpretation) the titles of Prince and Princess, nor the style Royal Highness. Further information: on her children's titles and stylesThe Countess of Wessex is particularly close to her mother-in-law, the Queen, with whom she rides and shares an interest in military history. The Countess is reported to be the first of the Queen's children-in-law with whom she has enjoyed a permanently warm relationship. Due to this fact, The Countess is privileged enough to be the only member of the Royal Family to ride in the State Limousine with HM The Queen at Sandringham on Christmas Day.
The Countess of Wessex began to take on royal duties after her wedding, with her first overseas tour being to the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island in 2000. She also became patron of a number of organisations, including the SAFC Foundation (the charitable arm of Sunderland AFC), and Girlguiding UK. In 2006, the Countess also lent her support to the Born in Bradford research project, which is investigating causes of low birth weight and infant mortality.
Titles, styles, honours and armsEdit
Titles and stylesEdit
- 20 January 1965 – 19 June 1999: Miss Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones
- 19 June 1999 – present: Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex
Sophie's style and title in full: Her Royal Highness The Princess Edward Antony Richard Louis, Countess of Wessex, Viscountess Severn, Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Dame of Justice of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.
-  2004: Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II
- 2005 – : Dame of Justice of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem (DStJ)
- 2010 – : Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO)
Honorary military appointmentsEdit
-  Canada
-  Colonel-in-Chief of the South Alberta Light Horse (2005–present)
- Colonel-in-Chief of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment
- United Kingdom