Sophie

Sophie

[soh-fee]
Germain, Sophie, 1776-1831, French mathematician. Although self-taught, she mastered mathematics and corresponded with J. L. Lagrange and C. F. Gauss. She is known especially for her study of the vibrations of elastic surfaces.

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.

Early life

The Countess was born Miss Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, the daughter of Christopher Bournes Rhys-Jones, a retired tyre salesman, and wife, Mary Rhys-Jones (nee O'Sullivan), a secretary of Irish birth, who died on 29 August 2005 at the age of 71. Sophie's second name, Helen, comes from her father's sister who died in a riding accident more than ten years before Sophie was born.

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.

Career

Starting a career in public relations, Sophie worked for a variety of firms including Capital Radio, where she worked in the Press and Promotions Department and also PR companies The Quentin Bell Organisation and MacLaurin Communications & Media.

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.

Marriage

On 6 January 1999 Sophie became engaged to The Prince Edward, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Their marriage took place on 19 June 1999 at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. Unlike previous weddings of the Queen's children, the wedding did not take place at either Westminster Abbey or St Paul's Cathedral, reflecting the couple's wishes to have a lower key ceremony.

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.

Children

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.

Countess of Wessex

The Countess of Wessex began to take on royal duties after her wedding, though she still worked at RJH under the name Sophie Wessex. Her first overseas tour was one to the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island in 2000. However, the Countess soon came under criticism for appearing in public with clients of RJH at press launches, accused of using her royal status to promote her business. A few days before her wedding, a scandal occurred when the Sun newspaper published a picture of the Countess in a topless pose with Capital Radio presenter Chris Tarrant. The picture had been taken when she still worked at the station. It later turned out that the photo was sold to the media for the highest price by a former friend of the Countess.

"Fake Sheik" Affair

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.

Pregnancy scares

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.

In 2006, the Countess 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 full royal style is Her Royal Highness The Princess Edward Antony Richard Louis, Countess of Wessex, Viscountess Severn

Honours

Honorary military appointments

Arms

Ancestry

See also

References

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