Sophie, Countess of Wessex, who is married to the Queen’s youngest son Prince Edward, celebrates her 49th birthday on Monday 20 January. The royal is expected to mark her birthday privately before continuing with her official engagements in London on Wednesday.
To honour the Countess’ birthday, ! Online has compiled a list of 20 facts about the popular royal.
1. Sophie met Prince Edward during a charity event in 1993 and the couple dated for six years before announcing their engagement on 6 January 1999.
2. Sophie and Edward’s wedding took place on 19 June 1999 at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Royalty from around the world, including Queen Anne-Marie of Greece and Prince Joachim of Denmark, attended the wedding ceremony, which was watched by an estimated 200 million people worldwide.
3. In recent years, Sophie has been praised for her elegant sense of style and in 2013 she became the first royal patron of the London College of Fashion.
4. Married to the Queen’s youngest son, Sophie is known to have a strong bond with her mother-in-law. They are often spotted riding together at weekends in the magnificent grounds of Windsor Park, and the Queen has been known to turn up unannounced at Edward and Sophie’s Surrey home for afternoon tea.
5. The Countess is a self-confessed Doctor Who fan, and last year held a reception at Buckingham Palace to honour the Time Lord’s 50th anniversary where she met former Doctors including Tom Baker, Peter Davison, John Hurt and Matt Smith.
6. Sophie once revealed that she couldn’t find her seat at a state banquet at Buckingham Palace minutes before the Queen was due to speak. “I shan’t forget the look I got when I couldn’t find my chair and she was looking to do her speech,” the Countess joked during ITV’s documentary Our Queen. “I decided I might study the notes a little more carefully next time.”
7. Sophie is a friend of Monaco’s Princess Charlene. The royal wives were spotted catching up at Princess Madeleine of Sweden’s wedding in 2013 and the Monaco Grand Prix in 2012.
8. Her full royal title is Her Royal Highness The Princess Edward, Countess of Wessex, Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Dame of Justice of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. She will eventually become the Duchess of Edinburgh when Edward inherits the title Duke of Edinburgh.
9. Like the Duchess of Cambridge, Sophie’s first overseas tour was to Canada. Sophie and her husband appropriately visited Prince Edward Island in 2000.
10. Sophie often represents the Queen at foreign royal events with the Earl of Wessex. Notably she and Edward have attended the weddings of Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden as well as Prince Albert of Monaco’s wedding to Princess Charlene.
11. In 2013, the Countess carried out 228 official royal engagements.
12. Sophie currently supports over 70 organisations and takes a particular interest in supporting children and young people who suffer from sensory, learning and communication disabilities.
13. She is known for her compassion. During an official visit to a hospital in Leeds in October 2013, the Countess took time to surprise 15-year-old Nikita Chadwick, who was being prepared for surgery for the spinal condition Scoliosis. “The Countess was lovely,” said Nikita’s mother, Maria after the visit.
14. Like many royals, Sophie is a keen sportswoman and she enjoys walking, running, sailing and riding.
15. Prince Edward’s wife often travels overseas solo and in 2013 visited Hong Kong, India and Qatar to carry out official duties.
16. Sophie has struck up a good friendship with the Duchess of Cambridge since her wedding to Prince William in 2011. Speaking after the birth of Prince George, the Countess spoke about her joy for the new parents. “I’m so excited for them both,” said Sophie. “I never expected to feel quite this happy but I’ve had a big smile on my face ever since the news broke.”
17. On 8 November 2003, Sophie gave birth to her and Edward’s first child, Lady Louise, at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey. The Countess had to undergo an emergency caesarean after a placental abruption put her and Louise in danger. Four years later, in December 2007, Sophie returned to the same hospital where she and Edward welcomed James, Viscount Severn.
18. In October 2013, the Countess was named as the first Global Ambassador for the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, which encourages personal development in 14-24 year olds. The role has already seen Sophie travel to South Africa, and later this year both she and Edward will visit the United States and Barbados to visit participants of the scheme.
19. Sophie has been known to show her sensitive side and during the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall last year to mark Remembrance Sunday, the royal was moved to tears as family members of fallen soldiers were introduced on stage.
20. In 2014, Sophie will mark her 15th wedding anniversary to Prince Edward and the couple will celebrate Edward’s 50th birthday.