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Sophie, Countess of Wessex (born Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones on 20 January 1965) is the wife of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, himself the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Married in 1999, she worked in public relations until 2002 and now supports her husband in his royal duties. The Wessexes have two children.

Early life

Sophie Rhys-Jones was born at Radcliffe Infirmarymarker, Oxfordmarker, on 20 January 1965, the second child and first daughter of Christopher Bournes Rhys-Jones, a retired tyre salesman, and his wife, Mary (née O'Sullivan), a secretary, who already had a son, David. Sophie was named for 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 Sarawakmarker, North Borneo, then a British protectorate ruled by the White Rajahs.

While she was still young, the Rhys-Jones family moved to Kentmarker, where she began her education at Dulwich College Preparatory Schoolmarker, before moving on to Kent College Pembury. She then trained as a secretary at West Kent Collegemarker.

Career

She began a career in public relations, working for a variety of firms, including 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. 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.

A few days before her wedding, The Sun newspaper published a picture of Rhys-Jones posing topless with Capital Radio presenter Chris Tarrant, a photo that had been taken when she still worked at the station. It was revealed later that the picture had been sold to the media by one of Rhys-Jones's former friends.

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. In an effort to prevent publication of her comments, the Countess agreed to give an interview to News of the World about her views on the possibility of undergoing IVF fertility treatment. However, the tabloid printed the story regardless, under the headline: "My Edward's Not Gay", in reference to continued gossip about the Prince's sexuality. 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.

Marriage

It was announced on 6 January 1999 that Sophie Rhys-Jones and Prince Edward, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, were engaged, and the wedding took place on 19 June of the same year at St George's Chapelmarker at Windsor Castlemarker; a break from the weddings of Edward's older siblings, which were large, formal events at Westminster Abbeymarker or St. Paul's Cathedralmarker. On the same day, the Queen declared her son would eventually be named Duke of Edinburgh, when that title reverts to the Crown upon his father's death. Until then Prince Edward would be known as Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn, the latter title reflecting his bride's Welsh origins. Upon her marriage Rhys-Jones became Her Royal Highness Countess of Wessex. After the union, the couple moved to Bagshot Park, in Surreymarker.

In December 2001, the Countess was rushed to the King Edward VII Hospital after feeling unwell, whereupon it was discovered that she was suffering from a potentially life-threatening ectopic pregnancy. It was announced in 2003 that she was again pregnant, and she gave birth to her daughter, Lady Louise Windsor, on 8 November of that year. It was, however, 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 Hospitalmarker, while the Earl of Wessex rushed back from Mauritiusmarker. 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 not use the titles of Prince and Princess, nor will they be Royal Highnesses; their surname will be Windsor.

Official duties

The Countess of Wessex began to take on royal duties after her wedding, with her first overseas tour being to the Canadianmarker province of Prince Edward Islandmarker 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 arms

Titles and styles

  • 20 January 1965 19 June 1999: Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones
  • 19 June 1999 : 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 of Justice of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.

Honours

Appointments


Decorations


Honorary military appointments

Canada


United Kingdom


Arms

Ancestry

Sophie is the 11th cousin once removed of her husband, through their common ancestors Nicholas St John and his wife, Elizabeth (née Blount). She is also of Welshmarker and Irishmarker ancestry, through her father and mother respectively; as well as being a descendant of King Henry II of France. Sophie's paternal grandmother belonged to the house of the Viscount Molesworth.

Issue

Name Birth Marriage Issue
Lady Louise Windsor (Princess Louise of Wessex) 8 November 2003
James, Viscount Severn (Prince James of Wessex) 17 December 2007


See also



References


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