Who is Sophie, the new Duchess of Edinburgh?
You might know Sophie Wessex (née Rhys-Jones) as the Countess of Wessex, who is married to the Queen's youngest son Prince Edward. But recently, with her husband having received a new royal title of Duke of Edinburgh, Sophie too has had a name change.
King Charles III signed off on the title - which was once held by Prince Phillip - on an especially poignant day too: Edward's 59th birthday, which automatically makes Sophie the Duchess of Edinburgh, and their 15-year-old son James, Viscount Severn, the new Earl of Wessex, the title that Edward held previously. Still keeping up? Good!
So, who exactly is Sophie, our new Duchess of Edinburgh?
Who is the Duchess of Edinburgh?
Prior to Queen Elizabeth II's death in September 2022, Sophie, 58, was rumoured to be one of her 'favourite' family members, so it seems a sweet tribute that Sophie has now inherited the title of Duchess of Edinburgh – which was once held by Her Majesty herself. According to reports, the Queen leant on Sophie for support back when she lost Prince Phillip, her husband of 70 years and the former Duke of Edinburgh, in April 2021.
Royal expert Duncan Larcombe told The Sun at the time: "Sophie Wessex has emerged as the Queen’s unlikely 'rock' as the monarch adjusts to life without Prince Philip. Prince Edward's wife has – according to sources – made it her personal mission to ensure Her Majesty is fully supported by the family."
Sophie, who has long been regarded by the royals as a 'safe pair of hands', has also played a more prominent role in the family ever since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped away from their royal duties and set off to start a new life in LA, and has given a few interviews in recent years.
Is Sophie still the Countess of Wessex?
Nope, not anymore! When King Charles III announced that Prince Edward was the new Duke of Edinburgh, Sophie became the Duchess of Edinburgh as his wife and Edward's former title, the Earl of Wessex, was passed on to their son, James. Should James marry in future, his wife will become the new Countess of Wessex.
Now that it seems we're going to be seeing even more of her, here's everything you need to know about Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh...
She has many responsibilities
As a full-time working member of the royal family, Sophie splits her time between supporting the King and visiting charities and organisations, 70 of which she is Patron of. Sophie's work is focused largely on the disabled community and children's charities, including NSPCC and Childline. As of 2021, Sophie took up a Guide Dogs patronage from the Queen's cousin Princess Alexandra, who previously held the role for 60 years.
Sophie is also patron of London College of Fashion, where she champions the college's commitment to 'Better Lives': where fashion is used to drive change, build a sustainable future and improve wellbeing.
In 2019, Sophie pledged her support in favour of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda and the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI), which tackles the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls. In 2020, Sophie fearlessly travelled to South Sudan to campaign against sexual violence in conflict.
Her children have a 'normal' upbringing
Although her and Prince Edward's daughter, Lady Louise Windsor, 19, and son, James, 15, are 14th and 15th in line to the throne respectively, they will both have to work to make their own way in the world. Sophie has said previously that she hopes her children, who do not use HRH titles, will go to university. Her own upbringing was all pretty 'normal' (for want of a better word): her mother worked as a secretary and her father as a sales director for a tyre company.
She used to have a successful career in PR
Like Meghan Markle, Sophie had carved out a successful career prior to becoming a full-time working royal in 2001; before her marriage, she worked for a variety of firms, including Capital Radio, where she was employed for four years, as well as PR companies The Quentin Bell Organisation and MacLaurin Communications & Media. She also founded her own PR company RJH Public Relations which she ran with Murray Harkin for five years.
On her transition from businesswoman to a full-time royal, Sophie told The Sunday Times: "It took me a while to find my feet. The frustration was I had to reduce my expectations of what I could actually do. I had to take a really big step back and go, OK, they want you to be the icing on the cake, the person to come in to thank their volunteers and funders, not necessarily to tell them how to run their communications plan."
Over 200 million people watched her marry Prince Edward
No biggie then! The Edinburghs have now been married for almost 24 years after tying the knot at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle back on the 19 June 1999 (they met at a tennis match six years prior). Sophie's wedding dress was a silk organza number by Samantha Shaw, featuring 325,000 crystals and pearls. She was also loaned the Anthemion tiara from the Queen's personal jewellery collection.
She's had her fair share of drama
Many members of the royal family, especially Meghan and Harry, have been vocal about press intrusion and Sophie has also been victim to the unyielding tabloids; just a month before her 1999 wedding, The Sun published topless photos of her.
On top of that, in 2001, according to the Daily Beast, Sophie was secretly taped by the News of the World, where she mocked Tony Blair and called the Queen "old dear". Buckingham Palace responded by saying the stories were "wholesale inaccuracies" and suggested that "no serious journalist gives this story the time of day".
She has her own separate ties to royalty
It's reported that the now Duchess of Edinburgh is a descendant of King Henry IV of England, ruler of England from 1399 to 1413, and also has Welsh and Scottish ancestry.
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