It’s 10 Questions & Answers time again. This week, we’ll be answering 10 frequently asked questions on Her Royal Highness Sophie, Countess Of Wessex (commonly referred to as ‘Sophie Wessex’), wife of Prince Edward, Earl Of Wessex.
Question 1: Where does Sophie, Countess Of Wessex come in relation to the Royal Family?
The Countess of Wessex is the wife of Prince Edward, fourth child and 3rd son of Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Duke Of Edinburgh. Sophie and Prince Edward married on 19th June 1999. Prince Edward is the only one of the Queen’s children never to have divorced. Prince Edward is 7th in line to the throne. The Countess Of Wessex is an active member of the Royal Family and performs various Royal functions throughout the year.
Question 2: How did Prince Edward and Sophie meet?
Sophie met Prince Edward at a charity event in 1993, and the two began their relationship soon afterwards. Their engagement was announced on 6 January 1999. Prince Edward proposed to Sophie with an engagement ring featuring a two-carat oval diamond flanked by two heart-shaped gemstones set in 18-carat white gold. This engagement ring was made by Asprey and Garrard (now Garrard & Co) and it is worth an estimated £105,000.
Question 3: What were the changes in the order of the precedence that the Queen introduced in 2012, and how did they affect Sophie?
Upon marriage, Sophie became the second-highest ranking woman in the kingdom, preceded only by the Queen, as her brothers-in-law, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York, were then unmarried. Due to marriages of Prince Charles and Prince William and changes in favour of Princesses by blood for private occasions, Sophie now ranks after her sisters-in-law, the Princess Royal and the Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, The Duchess Of Cambridge and Princess Alexandra. At official occasions, however, she ranks third, only behind The Queen and The Duchess Of Cornwall.
Question 4: Does the Countess Of Wessex have children?
Yes, the Countess of Wessex has two children. The Lady Louise Windsor, who was born in 2003 and James Windsor, Viscount Severn, born in 2007. Prince Edward was in Mauritius at the time of Lady Louise’s birth on an official engagement and was rushed back to London when Sophie was admitted to hospital.
Question 5: Why are Sophie’s children not styled as Princes and Princesses?
Under the 1917 letters patent (the instrument which determines who gets the title of Prince or Princess in the Royal Family), Sophie’s children should be styled as Princes and Princesses, however under a special declaration made by The Queen and in agreement with the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the children will be styled as children of an Earl, so male children would be ‘The Honourable’ (or hold their father’s courtesy title) and female children are ‘The Lady’.
Question 6: How well does the Countess get on with Her Majesty?
The 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 The Queen at Sandringham on Christmas Day.
Question 7: What was the Countess’s name before she married Prince Edward, and what did she do?
Before she married Prince Edward, her full name was Sophie Rhys-Jones. Sophie worked in public relations management before she married Prince Edward, she even set up her own PR firm with business partner Murray Harkin, RJH Public Relations (Rhys-Jones Harkin Public Relations). In 2001, the Countess was caught on video by an undercover tabloid journalist making remarks about members of the Government. Partly due to this that she and Prince Edward announced in 2002 that they would quit their business interests in order to focus on royal duties.
Question 8: Why are Prince Edward and Sophie an Earl and Countess, not Duke and Duchess?
It is customary for children of the Sovereign to receive Dukedoms on their wedding day, but it was announced that in 1999 Prince Edward would be made Earl of Wessex and when his father, Prince Philip, dies, the title of Duke Of Edinburgh would be conferred on Edward to allow him to continue work in the Duke Of Edinburgh’s award scheme. This would not be automatic, however, and would require the reigning monarch (whether that be the current Queen or Prince Charles as King) to issue the title especially. It would make Sophie, the Duchess Of Edinburgh.
Question 9: Is The Countess in any way related to her husband, the Earl of Wessex?
Yes. Like a lot of members of the Royal Family, the Countess is actually related to her husband, though distantly. Sophie is the 11th cousin once removed of her husband, through their common ancestors Nicholas St. John of Lydiard Tregoze and his wife, Elizabeth. By multiple lines, Sophie is a direct descendant of King Edward III of England.
Question 10: What is the correct way to address the Countess?
As a titled member of the Royal Family, holding the style of HRH, the correct way to address the Countess Of Wessex is ‘Your Royal Highness’ on first greeting, then ‘Ma’am’ after that (Ma’am to rhyme with jam not Ma’am rhyming with farm). Members of countries of which Her Majesty The Queen is head of state should also bow or curtsey to the Countess as a member of the reigning Royal Family, holding the style of Royal Highness.