One of Britain’s hardest-working members of the Royal Family, the Countess of Wessex celebrates her 54th birthday on Sunday, 20 January 2019.
The Countess of Wessex was born Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones at the Ratcliffe Infirmary in Oxford on 20 January 1965.
She is the second child and only daughter of Christopher Bournes Rhys-Jones and the late Mary Rhys-Jones (nee Sullivan). She has an older brother David.
Her family moved to Kent where she attended Dulwich College Preparatory School in Cranbrook, Kent College School for Girls, Pembury, where she met her childhood friend (and flatmate in Fulham) Sarah Sienesi.
Sophie finishing her education by training as a secretary at West Kent College at Tunbridge.
However, Sophie worked in public relations for several businesses, including Capital Radio, The Quentin Bell Organisation and MacLaurin Communications & Media and even spent a year travelling and working in Australia.
In 1996, Sophie launched her own agency, RJH Public Relations, which she ran with her business partner Murray Harkin for five years.
Sophie met Prince Edward during a real tennis event in 1993.
The couple announced their engagement in January 1999 and they were married at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle on 19 June 1999.
The Queen bestowed the titles of The Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn on their wedding day, so Sophie became HRH The Countess of Wessex.
The Earl and Countess have two children, Lady Louise Windsor (born 8 November 2003) and James, Viscount Severn (17 December 2007).
Full-Time Working Member
The Countess of Wessex divides her time supporting Queen Elizabeth II and over 70 charities and organisations, mostly supporting people with disabilities, prevention of blindness in developing countries, agriculture and fashion.
The Countess represents The Queen at events in Great Britain and overseas and attends state ceremonial occasions, usually accompanied by her husband The Earl of Wessex and other members of the Royal Family.
She also accompanies Prince Edward during visits and official events.
Sophie carries out hundreds of visits to schools, universities, military bases and charity headquarters to learn more about their work and to increase public awareness.
The Earl and Countess of Wessex established their own foundation, The Wessex Youth Trust, in 1999 to focus on helping, supporting and advancing registered charities providing opportunities mostly for children and young people.
The Countess was appointed Royal Colonel of 5th Battalion The Rifles in 2007, following reorganisation within the Infantry. She regularly visits the Battalion at their base in Germany and during deployment, including Afghanistan in December 2011.
She is also Colonel-in-Chief of the Corps of Army Music and of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corp
Sophie was appointed Sponsor of HMS Daring in 2006 and Honorary Air Commodore of Royal Air Force Wittering in 2008.
Duke of Edinburgh Award 60th Anniversary
Sophie participated in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Diamond Challenge in 2016 by finishing her challenge to cycle 445 miles (716 kilometres) from the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh to Buckingham Palace, London.
The Countess also wrote a blog about her experiences during her journey, including stops along the way with her companions, including eating some very yummy cake!
Listen to the 23 September 2016 podcast about the Countess’s DofE Challenge – https://rightroyalroundup.com.au/2016/09/23/podcast-paralympians-dofe-challenge-weekend-at-balmoral-kongens-nei/