- Rachel Burchfield
Happy birthday on Monday to Sophie – the hardest working Royal you’ve never heard of
One of the hardest working Royals turns 55 on Monday – and you may not have even heard of her.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex, is one of the Queen’s absolute favorite Family members – so much so that Sophie even calls Her Majesty “Mama,” as though she was a biological child.
Sophie has been married to Edward, the Queen’s fourth and youngest child, since 1999; it is the only first marriage of the Queen’s four children to not end in divorce. Sophie is the stable, hardworking, dependable backbone of the Family, preferring to put her nose to the grindstone and, though very much a full-time, working Royal, remain out of the press. With Harry and Meghan’s “step back” – which is the new term I’m coining because y’all got real mad at me when I called it quitting on Instagram – expect to see even more of Sophie. She’s drama free and someone the Queen not only can count on, but really, truly enjoys.
In fact, at William and Kate’s next big event – coincidentally held on Monday, Sophie’s actual birthday – they will be joined by Edward and Sophie. It will be a reception at Buckingham Palace on behalf of the Queen to mark the U.K.-Africa Investment Summit, and a rare chance to see Edward and Sophie in a role this glittery and large-scale. But, as one can expect, many changes are a’brewing around the Palace, and stepping Edward and Sophie up into more public roles seems to be one of them.
Sophie is actually one of my favorite Royals – she first caught my attention back in the 1990s, because back then she had a deeply striking resemblance to Diana. Beautiful and blonde and fashion forward, Sophie’s marriage to Edward is rock-solid; she was a bit of an older bride, not marrying until she was 34, and maybe because of this has always demonstrated a maturity that I look up to.
Here are some fast facts about the (almost) birthday girl:
· She and Edward met for the first time in 1987 – he was actually dating a friend of hers. They didn’t meet again until six years later, in 1993, at a charity event; they began dating soon afterwards. After a six-year courtship, their engagement was announced on January 6, 1999, and they married that June 19 at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where Harry and Meghan would marry 19 years later.
· She and Edward have two children – Lady Louise Windsor, 16, and James, Viscount Severn, 12. Before Louise was born in 2003, Sophie suffered from an ectopic pregnancy in 2001; when she gave birth to Louise two years later, it was prematurely, as Sophie had a sudden placental abruption that could have killed them both. She underwent an emergency C-section and, thankfully, Louise was a healthy baby.
· The family lives at Bagshot Park, about 10 miles south of Windsor.
· Sophie is an HRH and is patron of over 70 charities and organizations – comparatively, Kate has 17, and Meghan, only five. She also goes on hundreds of engagements annually and has a keen interest in provisions for people with disabilities and children. She also does ample work for the prevention of blindness in developing countries and agriculture, and has a keen interest in fashion. She is considered one of the most stylish members of the Family.
· She was born Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones in Oxford, the baby of the family and the only girl. Her family was very working class, and I love that about her.
· Her career was in public relations, and she owned her own PR firm for five years. In fact, immediately after marrying Edward, she continued to work in PR, and only became a full-time working Royal in 2003, four years into her marriage.
· Sophie and the Queen hit it off right after Sophie and Edward started dating, so much so that even prior to their marriage Sophie lived in the Royal apartments at Buckingham Palace. Sophie remains one of the Queen’s closest relatives to this day.
· Unlike Edward’s siblings – who all married in very large weddings – Edward and Sophie specifically requested that their wedding not be a state occasion. Called “the people’s wedding,” it was mostly a family affair, but a few celebrities snuck in, like John Travolta and Harry Connick Jr. Edward and Sophie’s wedding was the first Royal Wedding I ever watched – I was off from school and in between my sixth and seventh grade years when it happened. Edward, like William after him, struggled to get the ring on Sophie’s finger. It was a relatively simple affair compared to, say, Charles and Diana's wedding, but it was absolutely lovely. Go take a watch sometime. It's on YouTube! I watched it a few months ago there.
· Edward and Sophie honeymooned at Balmoral.
I anticipate us seeing quite a bit more of the Countess of Wessex in the coming year – and I’m thankful for it, as I absolutely adore her. She has been one of my favorite Royals for a long time and maybe, finally, she’ll get the recognition she’s always deserved but never sought out.
Happy birthday, Sophie!