Today is the birthday of Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex – to celebrate the occasion, here are 20 facts about The Queen’s youngest daughter-in-law.
The Countess of Wessex was born on 20th January 1965 at Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford and is the second child and first daughter of Christopher and Mary Rhys-Jones – her birth name was Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones.
Prior to becoming a full time working royal in 2002, the Countess of Wessex worked in Public Relations and created her own public relations agency in 1996 called RJH Relations with business partner Murray Harkin.
Sophie’s close relationship with her mother in law, The Queen, has been noted on many occasions. Their shared interest in military history is said to be one of the things they have in common.
Prince Edward remains the only of The Queen’s children never to have divorced – he married Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999 when he was granted the title Earl of Wessex – Sophie became known, and remains known to this day, as The Countess of Wessex.
Sophie’s full title and style is Her Royal Highness The Princess Edward, Countess of Wessex, Viscountess Severn GCVO DStJ.
Her Royal Highness holds a number of honorary military appointments and takes a keen interest in the activities of the respective regiments. Her honorary colonies include being Royal Colonel of 5 Rifles, Colonel-in-Chief of the Corps of Army Music and Ship’s Sponsor of HMS Daring among other appointments.
In 2010, the Countess took part in a battle demonstration with 5 Rifles, of which she is Colonel, in Germany which involved her riding in a tank on a simulated battlefield.
Edward and Sophie have two children, The Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor (born 2003) and James, Viscount Severn (born 2007) – though entitled to royal titles by birth, their parents asked The Queen that they use titles as children of an Earl instead in a bid to bring more normality to their lives.
The Countess of Wessex is a descendant of Edward III and several peers – according to one expert, she is the 11th cousin of her husband.
Since becoming a member of the Royal Family in 1999, the Countess of Wessex has performed an estimated 3,250 engagements in the UK and overseas. / .
When Edward and Sophie married in 1999, he was granted the title of Earl of Wessex with the promise that he would be created Duke of Edinburgh one day to continue working with the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme – this could only happen when both his parent have died. The Countess of Wessex would become Duchess of Edinburgh.
In 2010, The Queen granted Sophie the honour of Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, one of the highest personal honours given by The Queen and the highest grade in the Royal Victorian order, in recognition of her work and personal service to Her Majesty.
The Countess of Wessex’s engagement ring was produced by Asprey and Garrard (now Garrard & Co) and is said to be worth an estimated £105,000 – featuring ‘a two-carat oval diamond flanked by two heart-shaped gemstones set in 18-karat white gold’.
Notable guests at their wedding, aside from members of the Royal Family, included comedian Stephen Fry, actor John Cleese and composer Lord Lloyd-Webber.
The Earl and Countess live at Bagshot Park in Surrey with their two children and a small number of staff. They moved in there shortly after their wedding. Their official offices, however, are at Buckingham Palace.
Sophie became the Global Ambassador for the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award in October 2013, a role which will see her continue to visit various countries to promote the DofE award.
In 1999, the Earl and Countess of Wessex setup the Wessex Youth Trust, a charity to ‘help, support and advance registered charities which provide opportunities specifically for children and young people’.
The Countess of Wessex is involved with over 75 organisations according to the Royal website, including being patron of Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary, sponsor of HMS Daring and President of the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children).
The Countess has appointed a small number of Ladies-in-Waiting since becoming a member of the Royal Family, including Suzanne Lofthouse; former flatmate and friend, Sarah Sienesi and Amy Mayes.
2014 is a big year for Sophie’s family too. She and her husband celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary and he celebrates his 50th birthday.