The Countess of Wessex celebrates her 49th birthday today as she approaches her 15th year as a member of the Royal Family.
In recent years, Sophie’s position and popularity has risen leading the Countess to being called the “Jewel in the Crown” by one royal commentator.
Prince Edward and Sophie met during a charity event in 1993 and the couple soon started dating, leading to speculation the couple would eventually announce their engagement. However, it would be six years later ,in 1999, that they would confirm their engagement. The Royal Family had experienced troubling times, which had seen the divorce of Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York, and the tragic death of Diana, which had led some to lose faith in the monarchy.
However, in June 1999, Britain prepared to celebrate the wedding of the Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, to the then Sophie Rhys-Jones. The couple decided to marry in the St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle wanting a low-key affair compared to the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana. Sophie dazzled in a stunning white hand-dyed silk organza dress, which she complemented with a diamond tiara borrowed from the Queen’s private collection.
Prince Edward soon helped Sophie settle into her role as a royal wife and the couple visited Prince Edward Island in Canada in 2000 for their first overseas tour, while the Countess still worked with her PR company. Many noted Sophie was a welcome addition to the Royal Family after the troubling times that had engulfed the family for the last decade. However, in 2001, Sophie would face public humiliation after an uncover reporter appeared to record the Countess criticising the British government, including Tony Blair and his wife Cherie, and using her position to gain business. There was shock amongst the public, and it was eventually announced both Edward and Sophie would quit their personal jobs to concentrate on Royal duties as the Queen approached her Golden Jubilee.
Over the next few years, Sophie became determined to change the public’s opinion of her and show her dedication to her charity work and supporting her mother-in-law, The Queen. Joining Prince Edward on engagements and taking on her own patronages, the Countess worked hard to rebuild her reputation, winning admiration from Her Majesty.
In 2003, Sophie gave birth to her and Edward’s first child, Lady Louise, prematurely, which had put both mother and baby in danger. However, eventually after several weeks, Sophie and Lady Louise left hospital. The Queen and Sophie’s growing bond was clear to see when the monarch made a visit to Sophie in the hospital. “Her Majesty doesn’t even visit people on their deathbed,” a royal source revealed. Four years later, the Earl and Countess would welcome their second child, James, Viscount Severn.
Fast forward nearly ten years, and Sophie is one of the monarchy’s rising stars. The Countess has become known for her commitment to her charity work, and her compassion and kind nature when meeting people. Championing over 70 organisations and over 3000 engagements under her belt, Sophie has managed to win the respect of the nation and the affection of The Queen.
The Countess and her mother-in-law have developed such a strong bond that they are often seen riding together at weekends in the grounds of Windsor Park and the two share a love of history which has cemented their bond. The Queen has also seen how happy and relaxed Prince Edward is now, and although she is close to the Princess Royal, Sophie is around a lot more to keep the monarch company. It has been known that The Queen will often turn up unannounced at Edward and Sophie’s home in Surrey for afternoon tear.
Last year, Sophie continued to show her dedication to public service, carrying out 228 official engagements, and visiting India and Qatar solo where she helped promote eye-care in developing worlds.
In June, Sophie will mark 15 years as a member of the Royal Family and the wife of Prince Edward. While it hasn’t been an easy road, the Countess has proved her commitment to supporting her mother-in-law, The Queen, and making a difference with her endless charity work.
It is no surprise, the Countess is often referred to as “the Queen’s favourite”.