|Countess of Wessex (more)|
|The Countess at the England vs Germany 2010 Women's Hockey Champions Trophy Bronze Medal Match|
|Spouse||Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
|Lady Louise Windsor
James, Viscount Severn
|House||House of Windsor|
|Born||) 20 January 1965
Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, England
|Religion||Anglican (Church of England)|
Sophie, Countess of Wessex GCVO, DStJ (Sophie Helen; née Rhys-Jones; born 20 January 1965) is the wife of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, 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 Earl and Countess have two children, Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.
Early life 
Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones was born at Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, on 20 January 1965, the second child and first daughter of Christopher Bournes Rhys-Jones (born 1931), a retired tyre salesman, and his wife, Mary (née O'Sullivan; 1934–2005), a secretary, who already had a son, David. Sophie was named after 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 Sarawak, North Borneo, then a British Protectorate ruled by the White Rajahs.
While she was still young, the Rhys-Jones family moved from Wales to Brenchley, Kent. She began her education at Dulwich Preparatory School, before moving on to Kent College, Pembury where she was friends with Sarah Sienesi, with whom she subsequently shared a flat in Fulham and who later became her lady-in-waiting. She then trained as a secretary at West Kent College, Tonbridge.
She began a career in public relations, working for a variety of firms, including four years at 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. She also worked as a ski representative in Switzerland and spent a year travelling and working in Australia. 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.
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. Buckingham Palace released a statement saying the reported comments were 'selective, distorted and in several cases, flatly untrue'. 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.
|The Royal Family of the
United Kingdom and the
other Commonwealth realms
Sophie met Prince Edward, the youngest son of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, at a charity event in 1993, and the two began their relationship soon afterwards. Their engagement was announced on 6 January 1999. Edward proposed to Sophie with a delicate engagement ring featuring a two-carat oval diamond flanked by two heart-shaped gemstones set in 18-karat white gold. This engagement ring was made by Asprey and Garrard (now Garrard & Co) and it is worth an estimated £105,000. The wedding took place on 19 June of the same year at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, a break from the weddings of Edward's older siblings, which were large, formal events at Westminster Abbey or St Paul's Cathedral. On the day of their marriage, the Queen created Edward Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn, and declared that he would eventually be created Duke of Edinburgh, once that title reverts to the Crown. After the union, the couple moved to Bagshot Park, in Surrey.
After the death of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 2002, 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 the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge 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, her nieces, Beatrice and Eugenie, her niece-in-law Catherine and her mother-in-law's cousin Alexandra. At official occasions, however, she ranks third, only behind her mother-in-law and sister-in-law.
In December 2001, the Countess was taken to the King Edward VII Hospital after feeling unwell, whereupon it was discovered that she was suffering from a potentially life-threatening ectopic pregnancy. Two years later, she gave birth to a daughter, Lady Louise Windsor, on 8 November 2003. It was 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 Hospital, while The Earl of Wessex rushed back from Mauritius. 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 either not have or use (depending on interpretation) the titles of Prince and Princess, nor the style Royal Highness.
The Countess of Wessex is particularly close to her mother-in-law, 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.
Royal duties 
The Countess of Wessex began to take on royal duties after her wedding, with her first overseas tour being to the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island 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 2003, she became Patron of Tomorrow's People Trust. 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.
The Earl and Countess of Wessex are the primary representatives of The Queen at foreign royal events, especially marriages of heirs apparent. In this capacity, the Countess has attended the weddings of Prince Haakon of Norway, Princess Martha Louise of Norway, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Guillaume, Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg, the 40th birthday celebrations for Prince Willem-Alexander and the coronation and the wedding of Prince Albert II of Monaco.
In December 2011, the Countess of Wessex joined her husband visiting troops in Afghanistan. On the same trip, the royal couple visited Bahrain, and received two gifts of jewels from the Bahraini royal family and Prime Minister. Given concern about human rights abuses in Bahrain, this gift attracted controversy, with calls for the jewels to be sold, and the proceeds used for the benefit of the Bahraini people. In February and March 2012, The Earl and Countess visited the Caribbean for the Diamond Jubilee, visiting Saint Lucia, Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla and Antigua and Barbuda. Highlights of the tour included the 50th Anniversary Independence Day celebrations in Saint Lucia, a joint address from both houses of the Barbados Parliament and a visit to sites affected by the recent volcanic eruptions in Montserrat.
The Countess of Wessex has been criticised for accepting two sets of jewels from the royal family of Bahrain during an official day-long visit to the country in December 2011, as she and her husband returned to the UK from a trip to Afghanistan. She was given one set by Bahrain’s king and a second set by the country’s prime minister, Sheikh Khalifa ibn Salman Al Khalifa. Her husband, the earl, received a pen and a watch as well as a silk rug from the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, who also gave the countess a silver and pearl cup. The value of the jewellery has not been estimated and its precise contents were not disclosed.
Critics said the countess should sell the gems and give the proceeds to political protesters in Bahrain. Denis MacShane, a former Foreign Office minister, said: “Given the appalling suffering and repression of the Bahraini people, it would be a fitting gesture for the Countess of Wessex to auction these trinkets and distribute the proceeds to the victims of the regime.”
Gift guidelines 
Royal Family guidelines and procedures relating to gifts drafted in 2003 state that "before accepting any gift, careful consideration should always be given, wherever practicable, to the donor, the reason for and occasion of the gift and the nature of the gift itself (..) Equally, before declining the offer of a gift, careful consideration should be given to any offence that might be caused by such action."
Titles, styles, honours and arms 
Titles and styles 
- 20 January 1965 – 19 June 1999: Miss Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones
- 19 June 1999 – present: Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex
Sophie's style and title is alternatively: Her Royal Highness The Princess Edward, Countess of Wessex.
- 2004 – : Member of the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II
- 2005 – : Dame of Justice of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem (DStJ)
- 2010 – : Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO)
- 2002: Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal
- 7 June 2005: Commemorative Medal for the Centennial of Saskatchewan
- 2012: Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
Honorary military appointments 
- Colonel-in-Chief of the South Alberta Light Horse (since 2005)
- Colonel-in-Chief of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment
- Colonel-in-Chief of the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps
- Colonel-in-Chief of the Corps of Army Music
- Royal Colonel of the 5th Battalion The Rifles
- Honorary Air Commodore Royal Air Force Wittering
- Ship's Sponsor of HMS Daring