Who are Prince Edward and Sophie, the Countess of Wessex?

Rebecca TaylorRoyal Correspondent
Yahoo Style UK
Edward and Sophie have been married for more than 20 years. (Getty Images)
Edward and Sophie have been married for more than 20 years. (Getty Images)

Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, are understood to be preparing to step up their royal work as the Queen stays in isolation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Queen, 94, has been in Windsor Castle since the middle of March, and it’s not known when she might be able to return to frontline duties.

Although she still receives her daily government red box, the Queen can’t do as much from inside her Berkshire home.

Her youngest son Edward and his wife are thought to be a big part of the Queen’s plan to have other members of her family pick up extra work while she is behind castle walls.

Who is Prince Edward?

Prince Edward was born in 1964 in Buckingham Palace, and is the youngest of the Queen’s four children.

As the youngest son, he is 11th in line to the throne.

Read more: How the royals tackle parenting

Queen Elizabeth II with Prince Edward, 13 June 1964 in London. (Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II with Prince Edward, 13 June 1964 in London. (Getty Images)

Like his father and his older siblings, he went to Gordonstaun School in Scotland, before reading history at Jesus College, Cambridge.

Royals have a long history with the military and Edward also went into service, spending three years in the Royal Marines as a University Cadet.

But he had the bug for theatre, not unlike his older brother Charles, and went to work in production, including for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Theatre Company.

He also worked in TV production, writing and narrating two films about the Duke of Edinburgh award which were broadcast in the late 1980s.

Prince Edward and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother attend the Badminton Horse Trials on in 1976 in Badminton. (Getty Images)
Prince Edward and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother attend the Badminton Horse Trials on in 1976 in Badminton. (Getty Images)
The Queen as she explains the details of the Trooping of the Colour to Prince Edward at Buckingham Palace in 1972. (Getty Images)
The Queen as she explains the details of the Trooping of the Colour to Prince Edward at Buckingham Palace in 1972. (Getty Images)

In 1993 he formed his own company, Ardent Productions, which made films including Edward on Edward, which was about his great-uncle, the late Duke of Windsor, and Crown and Country.

But Ardent Productions had a rocky lifespan. It was labelled a “sad joke” by a rival, and was involved in a privacy issue with Prince William during his time at St Andrew’s University in Scotland.

Prince Charles was said to be “incandescent with rage” after a two-man crew from Ardent tried to film William despite an agreement that he could study without intrusion.

Prince Charles takes his younger brother Prince Edward for a spin around the grounds of Windsor Castle. (Getty Images)
Prince Charles takes his younger brother Prince Edward for a spin around the grounds of Windsor Castle. (Getty Images)

Shortly after that incident, Edward apparently agreed to stop making films about the Royal Family.

In March 2002, the Queen’s Jubilee year, he stepped back as production director and joint managing director of the company in order to focus on his royal duties.

When Ardent was dissolved in 2009, its assets were worth just £40.

Who is Sophie, the Countess of Wessex?

Sophie, nee Rhys-Jones, was born in Oxford in 1965, but her family moved to Kent where she went to school and college.

She had a relatively normal upbringing - her father was a tyre salesman and her mother was a secretary.

She worked for several years as a public relations executive before setting up her own firm.

Read more: Sophie, Countess of Wessex rolls up her sleeves and packs food parcels for nurses on coronavirus front line

Sophie Rhys-Jones waterskiing in Cowes, Isle of Wight in 1994. (Getty Images)
Sophie Rhys-Jones waterskiing in Cowes, Isle of Wight in 1994. (Getty Images)

Sophie was caught up in scandal in 2001, after she was duped by a News of the World reporter who was posing as an Arab sheikh. Buckingham Palace denied reports she had insulted the Royal Family during an interview.

But she stepped back from her role in the firm in 2002 and focussed on her royal work.

She has been a working royal since then.

Sophie Rhys-Jones and Prince Edward announce their engagements in 1999. (Getty Images)
Sophie Rhys-Jones and Prince Edward announce their engagements in 1999. (Getty Images)

Before her wedding to Edward, The Sun printed topless photos of her with her former colleague Chris Tarrant, which were taken in 1988 while they were on a business trip in Spain.

The paper printed a full page apology and denied they had acted with “deliberate cruelty” when the printed the photo.

How did Edward and Sophie meet?

Edward met Sophie, then Sophie Rhys Jones, in 1993 at a Real Tennis tournament.

The pair dated for several years before announcing their engagement in 1999. They married in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle in the same year.

Sophie and Edward got married in Windsor, rather than London as his older siblings had. (Getty Images)
Sophie and Edward got married in Windsor, rather than London as his older siblings had. (Getty Images)

It was a departure from the royal weddings of his older siblings, which had been held in London, at either Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral.

By 1999, all of his older siblings had divorced.

Why are they called Earl and Countess, not Duke and Duchess?

On the occasion of their wedding, the Queen gave them the royal titles of the Earl of Wessex and the Countess of Wessex.

They were given the Earldom of Forfar, in March 2019, which they use when they are in Scotland, as royal couples usually have a separate title there.

Read more: The Queen and Duchess of Cambridge release touching messages to nurses

The couple wed in 1999. (Getty Images)
The couple wed in 1999. (Getty Images)
They initially remained in their own careers but moved into royal work. (Getty Images)
They initially remained in their own careers but moved into royal work. (Getty Images)

He was the first of the sons of the Queen not to be given a dukedom. It was revealed this was because the Queen intends for him to inherit his father’s dukedom one day.

When Prince Philip dies, Edward will have the Duke of Edinburgh conferred to him.

The Queen also gave the Earl the subsidiary title of the Viscount Severn, which was then given to their son. The name reflects Sophie’s Welsh roots.

However their children are not styled as His or Her Royal Highness and are not prince or princess. This was chosen because of the likely future of their children - who are unlikely to make it to the throne.

After their wedding, they went to Balmoral Castle for their honeymoon and have lived in Bagshot Park in Surrey since then.

Who are their children?

Edward and Sophie have two children, Lady Louise Windsor and James, the Viscount Severn.

Louise was born in November 2003 in Frimley, Surrey. She was premature, and Edward was in Mauritius when she arrived, as it was not expected the countess would give birth.

They have two children - Louise and James. (Getty Images)
They have two children - Louise and James. (Getty Images)

She was born with a rare eye condition which caused one eye to point inwards, and has had surgery twice. Her vision was eventually corrected in 2013.

James was born in December 2007 at the same hospital as his sister. He was the first royal baby to wear the newly made christening gown.

Where do they live?

The family lives in Bagshot Park, in Surrey, set in Windsor Great Park.

The house and accompanying 51 acres has a varied history, and was once the home of Prince Arthur, one of Queen Victoria’s sons. It was also a hospital in war time, and a Chaplains’ depot.

The couple moved in after their wedding in 1999, but also have offices at Buckingham Palace.

It’s thought the current home on the land has 120 rooms.

Though in the county of Surrey, the home is very close to Windsor Castle and Sophie has previously spoken about how convenient it is to be close to the Queen.

Read more: International Women's Day: The Royal Family's most feminist moments

Queen Elizabeth II with Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Lady Louise Windsor attend the Royal Windsor Horse show in 2015. (Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II with Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Lady Louise Windsor attend the Royal Windsor Horse show in 2015. (Getty Images)
Sophie, Countess of Wessex, James, Viscount Severn, with Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Edward, Prince Philip, and Princess Anne, at Harry and Meghan's wedding. (Getty Images)
Sophie, Countess of Wessex, James, Viscount Severn, with Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Edward, Prince Philip, and Princess Anne, at Harry and Meghan's wedding. (Getty Images)

She told Sky News: “We’re a lot more fortunate because we live so much closer to the Queen.

“So, when she spends a lot of time at Windsor at weekends, our children are more fortunate because they can go over and have tea with her on a regular basis.

“We’re over there most weekends riding, so she sees quite a lot of us - lucky her!”

It’s rare to catch a glimpse inside the country mansion, but with royals working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, there have been some shots of the earl and countess’s house.

In one recent video, the countess sat in a grand room with carefully placed photographs behind her, but in another, she showed it’s still a family home as she stood in front of a bookshelf filled with board games.

What do they do?

Prince Edward’s main role in the Royal Family is looking after the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, which was set up by his father in 1956.

Edward achieved his gold DofE award in 1986, became a trustee the year after, and has been chairman of the trustees since 2015. He travels around the world meeting young people who take on the scheme and handing out awards.

Read more: Buckingham Palace floor plans revealed: Exactly what's inside the Queen's main residence

Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex during a visit to Tiptree Jam Factory. (Getty Images)
Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex during a visit to Tiptree Jam Factory. (Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II and The Countess of Wessex attend a church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk. (Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II and The Countess of Wessex attend a church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk. (Getty Images)

Sophie has several royal patronages and spends much of her time working with these and visiting them, outside of coronavirus times.

She has a variety of interests, including disability in young people, agriculture, and avoidable blindness. She is active, and completed a challenge to cycle 445 miles from the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh to Buckingham Palace for the DofE scheme.

Together, they run the The Earl and Countess of Wessex Trust, which was renamed from the Wessex Youth Trust in 2019.

The trust was founded in 1999 and offers grants and supports to charities dealing with a huge range of issues, including child protection and drug-prevention schemes, inner city drop-in centres, sex education initiatives, and special educational needs libraries.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex talks to Asmaa (R) aged 25, and her daughters Sidra, aged 6 (3rd L) and Nisrine, aged 4 (2nd L) on the first official Royal visit to Lebanon. (Getty Images)
Sophie, Countess of Wessex talks to Asmaa (R) aged 25, and her daughters Sidra, aged 6 (3rd L) and Nisrine, aged 4 (2nd L) on the first official Royal visit to Lebanon. (Getty Images)

They also complete royal tours abroad and conduct engagements around the UK.

Sophie was sent on the first official royal tour of Lebanon, and has also been to places like Sierra Leone and India.

The couple has visited UK armed forces at Camp Bastion as part of their work supporting the army. Both hold military honours.

And they are regularly seen with the Royal Family at events like Trooping the Colour, Christmas Day in Norfolk, and the Buckingham Palace garden parties.

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