Sophie, Countess of Wessex (née Rhys-Jones, born 20 January 1965) is a member of the British Royal Family, the wife of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Until 2002, the Countess of Wessex worked in public relations.
She has an elder brother named David Bournes. She is an eleventh cousin once removed to her husband through their common ancestors Nicholas St John and Elizabeth (née Blount). Sophie has both Welsh and Irish ancestry through her father and mother respectively; Sophie also has royal ancestry as she is a descendant of King Henry II of France. Her maternal grandmother belonged, however, to the house of the Viscount Molesworth.
Early in her life, her family moved to Kent, where she began her education at Dulwich College Preparatory School, Cranbrook. She then attended Kent College Pembury, before training as a secretary at West Kent College.
In 1996, she launched her own PR agency, RJH Public Relations, which she ran with her business partner Murray Harkin.
The Countess's charitable ventures are as patron of SAFC Foundation, the charitable arm of Sunderland AFC. She recently watched the team play in a match against Crystal Palace, as a guest of the club's chairman Niall Quinn. She is also patron of Girlguiding UK, the UK's largest all-female organisation.
On their wedding day, the Queen created her son Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn (the latter reflecting the origins of Sophie's family in the Welsh border country). Thus Sophie took on the style Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex. The couple live at Bagshot Park in Surrey.
The Earl and Countess have two children. The Lady Louise Windsor was born on 8 November 2003. Louise is the first grandchild of the sovereign in the male line not to be styled Prince or Princess with the style Royal Highness. This was in deference to the wishes of the Earl and Countess in that their children would not carry royal titles and styles. Although the first-born male of the couple uses the Earl's subdsidiary title of Viscount Severn, subsequent males and females would be styled by courtesy The Honourable NN Wessex or Lady NN Wessex, respectively.
On 17 December 2007, Sophie gave birth by caesarean section to a boy at Frimley Park Hospital, where Louise had been born. She and the baby were released from hospital on 20 December, and the following day he was named James Alexander Philip Theo. He is known as Viscount Severn.
In 2001, a News of the World newspaper undercover reporter, Mazher Mahmood, posing as a sheik recorded comments made by the Countess in which she made disparaging remarks about members of the British Government, and appeared to use her royal status as a business tool to gain clients. The comments were subsequently printed in The Mail on Sunday newspaper, and later by other media sources.
In an effort to prevent the publication of the remarks, the Countess agreed to give an interview to the News of the World, where she spoke of her views on the possibility of undergoing IVF fertility treatment. However, the News of the World printed their story with the headline: "My Edward's Not Gay".
The public perception of the Earl and Countess may have been badly damaged by the affair, in addition to similar criticism against the Earl of Wessex, that he was using his royal status to promote his television production company. Subsequently in 2002, the Earl and Countess of Wessex announced that they were to quit their business interests and concentrate on their royal duties.
In 2007, there is no evidence that either alleged incidents have had any lasting damaging effect on either the Earl or Countess of Wessex. In fact they are widely known for carrying out an ever-increasing number of royal duties.
In December 2001, the Countess was rushed to King Edward VII Hospital in Central London, after feeling unwell. She was discovered to have an ectopic pregnancy, a potentially life-threatening condition.
In 2003, it was announced that the Countess was again pregnant. She gave birth to her first child, her daughter Louise Alice Elizabeth Mary, on 8 November 2003. The premature birth resulted from a sudden placental abruption that placed both mother and child at risk. The Countess was rushed to hospital and underwent an emergency caesarian section. The Earl of Wessex was in Mauritius at the time of the birth, but returned immediately.
Sophie's full royal style is Her Royal Highness The Princess Edward Antony Richard Louis, Countess of Wessex, Viscountess Severn