Friday, 4 January 2013

Royal Profile: The Countess of Wessex

Sophie Rhys-Jones was born on January 20,1965 at Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, the second child and first daughter to Christopher Bournes Rhys-Jones and his wife Mary. Sophie was named after her father's sister, who died in a horse riding accident.  Much was made of the Middleton family's humble roots before the royal wedding of Kate to Prince William. Something many forgot about Sophie is she was not born into royalty, in fact her father was a tyre salesman and her mother a secretary.

During Sophie's childhood the Rhys-Jones family moved from Wales to Brenchley, Kent where the Rhys-Jones family lived in a 17th century farmhouse. Sophie was educated at Dulwich Prepatory School before moving on to Kent College, Pembury where she became very good friends with Sarah Sienesi (who later became her lady in waiting). At 16, Sophie followed in her mother's footsteps and trained as a secretary at West Kent College, Tonbridge.

Kent College Pembury

Sophie threw herself into her career which began with a secretarial position at a London public relations company. The following year, the ambitious and hard-working blonde landed a job in the press department of Capital Radio where she worked for four years. Sophie worked as a ski representative in Switzerland and spent a year in Australia before launching her own public relations agency, RJH Public Relations.

Wiki
Sophie met Prince Edward, the youngest son of the Queen during a PR strategy meeting about a charity event that he was organising in 1993 and the couple began a relationship shortly afterwards. On January 6 1999, their engagement was announced. Edward proposed with a delicate engagement ring featuring a two -carat oval diamond flanked by two heart-shaped gemstones set in 18-karat white gold made by Garrard & Co.

The British Monarchy Flickr

The couple enjoyed a June wedding the same year in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. It was a much more low key choice than Princes Charles and Andrew who had large scale weddings at Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral. Sophie and Edward were a private couple with a strong relationship and unlike Charles's and Andrew's, Edward's was a marriage which was going to stand the test of time.

The British Monarchy Flickr

On the day of their wedding, the Queen created Edward Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn, and declared that he would eventually be created the Duke of Edinburgh (the title is currently held by Prince Philip). Sophie became the Countess of Wessex and at the time the second-highest ranking woman in the Kingdom, preceded only by the Queen.

BBC

After the wedding, the couple moved to the picturesque Bagshot Park in Surrey. The royal residence is 11 miles south west of Windsor.

Geograph

In December 2001, the Countess was taken to the King Edward VII hospital (the Duchess of Cambridge was recently treated there) where it was discovered she was suffering ectopic pregnancy. It was undoubtedly a very difficult time for Sophie but two years later she gave birth to Lady Louise Windsor. It was a premature birth due to a sudden placental abruption which meant Sophie needed an emergency caesarean section at Frimley Park hospital.

British Monarchy Flickr

Sophie gave birth to a son, James, on 17 December 2007, again by caesarean section at Frimley Park hospital. Edward, Sophie and the Queen decided together that Louise and James would not be titled Prince or Princess, nor would they have the use of the style Royal Highness.

The British Monarchy Flickr

Due to the health scares Sophie encountered during her pregnancies she became patron of the Born in Bradford research project, which investigates causes of infant mortality. I think it is wonderful to see royals supporting causes close to their heart and working with children is, without doubt, something Sophie feels passionate about.

The British Monarchy Flickr

Sophie met patients at Great Ormond Street hospital last year.

The British Monarchy Flickr

The Earl and Countess are the primary representative of the Queen at foreign events, especially marriages. Below we see the couple at the wedding of Princess Victoria of Sweden in 2010.

Wiki
Sophie wearing her Honorary Air Commodore's uniform at Kandahar Airfield.

Wiki
Edward and Sophie visited St Lucia school of music during their tour of the West Indies last year where Sophie showcased a number of stunning looks. Her style has developed beautifully in recent years.

The British Monarchy Flickr
Sophie enjoys an incredibly close relationship with the Queen. They share an interest in military history and ride together. Sophie is a gentle person who enjoys spending time with family in the country much like Her Majesty who appreciates these qualities in her favourite daughter-in-law. Due to their close relationship, the Countess is the only member of the royal family to ride with the Queen at Sandringham on Christmas Day.

The British Monarchy Flcikr

Unfortunately, Sophie is one of the most underrated royals out there. She and Edward do not receive enough media attention by any stretch of the imagination. They are an interesting couple and I'd love to see their work highlighted more. Sophie is becoming more and more popular, and I look forward to seeing what 2013 has in store for her :)

The British Monarchy Flickr

37 comments:

  1. Very interesting post. Thank you. :) Side note: isn't it a bit funny that Sophie and Edward's home is larger than Prince Charles' Highgrove?

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    1. Not really. Bagshot is Sophie and Edward's home "forever". Charles will eventually own Sandringham and Balmoral. Highgrove will probably go to Harry eventually.

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    2. I agree "royalfan." I was surprised to see how large it is. Wonder if Charles has ever been jealous of it? You know how he can jealous easily.

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  2. Laura from italy4 January 2013 at 22:28

    Hi charlotte! A very good job! Well done!

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  3. Thank you for your comments.

    Bagshot is actually one of my favourite royal residences and very interesting it's larger than Highgrove. I didn't know that!

    On another note, there's quite a few rumuors concerning the possibility of William purchasing a country home this year.

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  4. Sophie is one of my favorite princesses!!!
    Have a nice week end
    Serar

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  5. A lovely look at, as you say, a very underrated royal! It is particulary odd as she and Edward represent the Queen so frequently abroad.
    Just a sidenote surely both the Queen and Princess Preceded Sophie so she would have been 3rd highest, rather than 2nd?

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    1. Apparently not. Although I stand corrected as it was before my time. I asked a royal correspondent who said directly after Sophie's marriage she ranked next to the Queen.

      I also found this on the Morton report:

      "Sophie, Countess of Wessex, who had previously ranked next to the Queen as Charles had been unmarried since his divorce from Diana, and Andrew, the Duke of York, was also divorced."

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    2. I think since male primogeniture was also still well alive and kicking back then, Princess Anne ranked below her brothers' wives, even though she was a direct descendant of the monarch. Not fair IMO but perhaps it could be said that her kids have fared the best, being out of the limelight.

      -Sarah

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    3. where does she live
      p.s this is 4 homework so plz reply asap

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  6. Alyssa from Pa, USA4 January 2013 at 23:08

    Charlotte, Could you or any of your readers help me to better understand the why's and wherefores of how royal titles are decided. Is it totally at the Queens discretion, or are there other factors involved? Thank you!
    I love her green dress she wore to the music school, and appreciate so much their strong relationship!

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    1. Hello Alyssa!

      There is some interesting info on titles on this wiki page :)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Royal_Family#Royal_styles_and_titles

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    2. Alyssa from PA, USA5 January 2013 at 04:16

      Thanks so much! I will check it out.

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  7. I don't know how you do it, Charlotte, but you've created another wonderful, well-written, informative blog! Well done you!! :o)

    Thanks especially for this post about Countess Sophie. She seems to be have quietly become a steadfast, hard working royal. It's nice that she and the Queen are so close.

    Looking forward to learning more about the Countess and the other royals you highlight. Thanks for all your hard work! You make it look easy! ;o)

    Julie

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  8. Thank you for this post! I think Sophie looks a little bit like Diana in some of the photos. In the future, perhaps you'd consider a post on how Sophie's style has evolved over time.

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    1. Absolutely. A wonderful idea for a future post!

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  9. Sarah from Calif.5 January 2013 at 01:59

    Hmmm I thought the same thing it's huge. Would love to see the inside. What do 4 people do with all thoses rooms?
    I love Prince Charles home and have looked at the info on the organic gardening he has and think it is lovely

    Anyways have watched Sophie for many years she seems like a very sincere person.

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    1. Kate, Texas, USA5 January 2013 at 06:54

      Sarah, I watched a special tonight called Castles on Camera: Royal Residences on TV. It was very interesting and one they showcased was Althorp. While watching I was wondering the same thing....what do people do with all those rooms! I think the history and beauty of stately homes is really interesting. I loved seeing the picture of Bagshot Park. Would love to see the inside also!

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    2. Sarah from Calif.5 January 2013 at 17:48

      Kate. There are also on You Tube manyyy wonderful documentarys about castles in Britian and other countries. It is so interesting to watch. It would be so fun to stroll around them but pity the people who have to dust. Ha

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  10. I enjoyed reading this post - very informative!

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  11. Thank you so much for your comments x

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  12. Charlotte-Thank you so much for this great post on the Countess of Wassex. She is one classy lady. I think the Duchess can learn alot from her. Both women have the grace & beauty. Both are very good assests to the royal family.

    Now is the Duchess second in line? I would think she would be becuase William is second inline. Just love your blogs.

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    1. Thank you very much Pauline :)

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    2. Sophie was not 2nd in line to the throne. As with many courts, the BRF have an order of precedence. At the time Charlotte is talking about, Sophie was the 2nd highest ranked female member of the royal family as the wife of the Queen's 3rd son. This is no longer the case.

      The Royal web site (offical site of the British monarchy explains this, and so, I think, does wikipedia.

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  13. Thank you for such a great post! She is a classy and under-appreciated lady. It seems really nice that the Queen has someone like her as a confidant.

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  14. Kate, Texas, USA5 January 2013 at 06:48

    One of the sweetest moments is how he winked at her as she approached the alter at their wedding. I don't know much about them, but that is a memory that sticks out in my mind. She's seems very genuine and her looks remind me of Diana....a natural beauty. This post has peaked my interest and I will be reading up on her and her charity work. I love that she and the Queen are so close. I have read that several times before. I know the Queen will be thankful that Edward and Sophie's love seems strong and the marriage will last.

    I posted on another link about not ever seeing their son out and about. Just wondering if it's because he's only five??? You see Lady Louise out, especially since Will and Kate's wedding, but never really see James. Just curious.

    Charlotte, you have done an excellent job on the new blog! Looking forward to learning more and reading up on all the royal families.

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    1. Sarah from Calif.5 January 2013 at 18:12

      Kate there are some pictures out there of James just have to search a bit. Maybe Edward and Sophie want to keep him away from the prying camera lens or maybe he is still to active or busy for some of the sit down events. One of my boys would occasionally say and do the most embarrassing things. Now we laugh looking back.

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    2. Kate, it's very true that we did not see much of Lady Louise until William and Kate's wedding. I understand keeping children away from prying lenses, but it would be nice to see them doing more as a family (as Europe's royal families tend to do). Going to church on Christmas Day is a perfect example. IMO.

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    3. Kate, Texas, USA7 January 2013 at 05:18

      I would think it's a privacy issue and keeping him out of the media's eye as you both said. I agree with you Royalfan, I would love to see the entire family participate in the walk to church on Christmas Day. I thought of that this year as Peter and Autumn's children were absent also. I know they are so young, but again would be nice to see the entire family. I suppose they are left back at the house with a nanny.

      Sarah, I had to laugh at your comment about your sons. I have 4 children, 2 girls and 2 boys. They all at times say and do silly things, but my boys more so than my girls. Just thinking of William at Andrew and Sarah's wedding....what a hoot!

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  15. Hi Charlotte.
    As usual a great post.
    As a fan of Duchess Kate, I have become very interested in Countess Sophie and her style and think she has great class and grace.
    Delighted to follow this blog now, as I have grown to follow royals in Europe too.
    Keep up your great work.
    Happy New Year
    Siobhan x

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  16. Thank you for taking the time to comment, It's wonderful to see such interest in Sophie!

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  17. Does it mean that at the time she was more important than princess Anne? Justina

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  18. Sophie always drew my interest as did Edward. Their courtship and early days of marriage were in the news in the US a lot. They seemed to be a breath of fresh air after all the issues that hit QEII in the early 90's and in 97 with Princess Di's death. I need to look up what Edward and Sophie do now other than royal duties. I seem to recall they are full time royals now, which as I recall was something early on as a couple they did not want to have happen. They both were career people and wished to maintain a life along those lines. Seems that is nearly impossible for any of the Br. Royals to pull off. It's nice for the Queen that she has close relationship/friendships with Sophie, Camilla and of course her daughter Anne as well. I expect over time despite the age differences, she also will have a close relationship with Catherine. Thanks for the wiki link to how royal titles are bestowed by the Queen. I knew there was a hierarchy and a list of 'available' titles. I have one for you Charlotte - I would like to see a blog here about Duchess of Kent. I am older than many readers probably and know what a large role she played for a very long time. Most would recall her as 'the' royal who presided over Wimbledon annual grand-slam tennis tournament. I know she is on in years now and probably not all that active. But she lead a large presence for many years among the Royals.

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  19. In the news here in Portugal, we only see Sophie (and Edward) in the weddings. We don´t know anything else about her, so thank you for your post, Charlotte!

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  20. Charlotte - fabulous post! I really rate Sophie and her choice of outfits over recent years has evolved to become sublime.

    PPx

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  21. Love the post! Sophie deserves more recognition, IMO. Her steadfast and low-key nature makes her a firm favourite among the royals. She seems very genuine in interviews, also.

    Sometimes I wonder why Sophie isn't more popular than she is. She really was the first princess to marry into the family since Diana's death. The papers certainly tried to sell her as such back in the day. But better yet, she and Edward established what seems to be a strong marriage and happy family life. It's ultimately what the Windsors needed. I'm also pleased that her young children are able to enjoy life largely out of the media spotlight. Perhaps it's because they live close to Windsor and are very far down the line of succession. So far, it's the Wessex family that's closest to the Queen. I imagine she's enjoying her grandchildren very much. Anyone who's seen that beautiful picture of her riding with Louise & James would know exactly what I mean. It's darling!

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  22. Hello...I just happened upon this page and found it a wonderful read!! It's nice to read about Sophie, and of course Edward, as well as the rest of the Royal Family!!

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