Edward and Sophie celebrate 20 years of marriage

By Laura Elston, Press Association Court Reporter

The Earl and Countess of Wessex are celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary.

Edward is the youngest of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s children, and the only one not to have got divorced.

The earl and Sophie enjoyed a day out at the races on Tuesday, ahead of their anniversary, and posed for photographs at Royal Ascot to mark their milestone.

Buckingham Palace said the couple would be celebrating their two decades of marriage together privately on Wednesday.

Prince Edward married Sophie Rhys-Jones in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on June 19 1999, in a continental-style evening service where guests were told not to wear hats.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex on their wedding day (John Stillwell/PA)

Edward said ahead of the nuptials: “We manage to have a good laugh about things most of the time, and we happen to love each other, which is the most important thing of all.”

A newlywed Earl and Countess of Wessex wave to the crowds following their wedding in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle (PA)

Romance blossomed when Edward and public relations professional Sophie met at a real tennis event in the early 1990s.

They now have two children, Lady Louise Windsor, 15, and 11-year-old Viscount Severn.

The Countess of Wessex, Lady Louise Windsor, Viscount Severn and the Earl of Wessex attending church on Christmas Day (Joe Giddens/PA)

Sophie’s journey to motherhood was a traumatic and dangerous one.

Her daughter, Lady Louise Windsor, was born several weeks prematurely when the countess was rushed to hospital for an emergency Caesarean section.

Two years earlier, she suffered a potentially life-threatening ectopic pregnancy and lost the baby.

Sophie, who hails from a middle-class background, once had a job at Capital Radio and continued working in PR when she married.

Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones at their engagement photocall (Toby Melville/PA)

But problems arose when she tried to combine her life as a royal with her professional career.

She was caught in a Fake Sheikh sting and accused of trying to use her status to promote her business.

The “Sophiegate” newspaper controversy was hugely damaging, resulting in reports of indiscreet remarks about a string of public figures including Tony and Cherie Blair, and William Hague.

It led to a lengthy inquiry into how working royals should be regulated.

Edward, who dropped out of the Royal Marines in 1987, was the first child of a sovereign to actively pursue their own career.

Prince Edward on the assault course at the Royal Marine Training Camp at Lympstone in Devon (PA)

He set up his own film and TV production company, Ardent Productions, in 1990, but faced criticism over claims that he used official royal trips abroad, funded by taxpayers, to drum up business for his firm.

Edward also enraged his brother, the Prince of Wales, when Ardent was found filming at St Andrews University, in breach of a media agreement, shortly after Prince William began studying there.

In the Queen’s Golden Jubilee year of 2002, the Wessexes finally announced that they would be quitting their businesses to become full-time royals.

The earl, 55, is heavily involved with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, founded by his father, Philip.

His interests also include sports and the arts.

The Earl of Wessex rows a boat as he joins Sea Cadets on the River Avon in Salisbury as part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Diamond Challenge (Ben Birchall/PA)

He is patron of Paralympics GB and vice patron of the Commonwealth Games Federation.

His many arts patronages include the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Northern Ballet and the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain.

Sophie, 54, is patron of more than 70 charities and organisations, with interests including agriculture, fashion, supporting people with disabilities, and the prevention of avoidable blindness in developing countries.

In 2015, the Queen hosted a reception for nearly 400 people at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the couple’s charitable work.

A photo taken by the Duke of York of the Queen with the Earl and Countess of Wessex ahead of their 2015 reception at Buckingham Palace (Duke of York/PA)

Three years ago, the countess cycled 445 miles from the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh to Buckingham Palace, as part of her Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Diamond Challenge.

She recently returned from the first ever official royal visit to Lebanon, where she met Syrian women and children in a refugee camp.

The Countess of Wessex meets a Syrian woman and child, among refugees in an informal tented settlement in the Bekaa Valley (Victoria Jones/PA)

Sophie has a close relationship with her mother-in-law, the Queen, and also shares an interest in carriage driving with Philip.

The Countess of Wessex and the Princess Royal watch the Queen cut a Women’s Institute cake to mark its centenary (Chris Jackson/PA)

The traditional gift for 20 years of marriage is china, but more recently it has become the platinum anniversary.

Edward’s siblings have all been divorced.

The Duke of York ended his marriage to Sarah, Duchess of York, in 1996, while Charles formally split from Diana, Princess of Wales, the same year.

The Princess Royal divorced Captain Mark Phillips in 1992.