Sophie Wessex: the ‘reassuringly normal’ royal

Sophie Wessex is in line for a promotion if husband Edward is made Duke of Edinburgh

Sophie Wessex
Sophie Wessex plays a ‘pivotal’ role within the Royal Family
(Image credit: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)

Sophie, Countess of Wessex, described as the Queen’s “second daughter” and an “unstuffy” member of the Royal Family, could be in line for a more important role in a “slimmed-down monarchy”.

She is a “reassuringly normal” Royal, wrote The Times, and her “empathy” helped her grow close to the late Queen Elizabeth.

Married to the Queen’s youngest son Edward, Earl of Wessex, Sophie is known for her “hard work behind the scenes”, said The Express, and may now be handed a “bigger role”. The new King, Charles III, will decide whether or not to pass on his father’s title of the Duke of Edinburgh to his youngest brother, according to The Telegraph, meaning the Queen’s Duchess of Edinburgh title would pass to Sophie.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The move would “elevate the status of the countess”, said The Telegraph, and with the death of the Queen, “she is rapidly becoming an integral part” of the Royal Family.

Who is Sophie, Countess of Wessex?

“Coming from a middle-class family,” wrote The Mirror, Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones was born in Oxfordshire in 1965, and grew up in Brenchley, Kent with her father Christopher, her mother Mary and brother David. The family, “although wealthy, did not move in the ‘highest’ social circles,” wrote the BBC in 2001.

Sophie attended Dulwich Preparatory School and then Kent College for Girls in Pembury. She then trained as a secretary for two years at West Kent College in Tonbridge, and was known for her “lively personality and sporty streak”, according to a 1999 article by the BBC.

In 1985 she moved to London to work as a secretary at a PR firm before a year later moving to work in the press department at Capital Radio. In the early 1990s she set up her own PR company, RJH, and working with Prince Edward to organise a charity event led to the pair dating in 1993.

They were married in 1999 at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, after which she “expressed a wish to be known as plain Sophie Wessex”, said the BBC. She gave birth to their first child, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor in 2003, and then James Mountbatten-Windsor, Viscount Severn in 2007.

She had a “shaky start within the royal family”, said The Times, as both her and Edward attempted to forge careers alongside their royal duties.

In 2001, Sophie was caught in a News of the World sting, in which she was secretly recorded in a meeting at the Dorchester Hotel with “Fake Sheikh” reporter Mazher Mahmood. She made derogatory remarks about members of the Royal Family and prominent politicians and had to write “​​grovelling apologies to Prince Charles, Tony Blair and William Hague”, said The Guardian.

The next year Edward and Sophie quit their outside jobs and “devoted themselves to royal duties”, said The Times.

‘A safe pair of hands’

The countess is a “hard-working and down to earth” member of the Royal Family, wrote The Telegraph, and is “acting as patron to more than 70 charities and attending about 200 engagements each year”.

She is known as a “safe pair of hands who works tirelessly behind the scenes” and her “pivotal” role within the family has grown to the point where she is “​​one of a small coterie of senior royal women on whom the future of the monarchy now rests”.

Her “close” relationship with the Queen meant she was viewed as a “second daughter”, wrote Grazia, and her “star rose in the royal firmament” even further after the death of Prince Philip in 2021.

“Sophie’s star is in the ascendancy,” wrote Jennie Bond, the former BBC royal correspondent, for the i news site, and she is becoming one of the “most prominent figures amongst the senior ranks of the royals”. Bond described her as a “secret weapon” for an “institution that has recently blotted its own copybook rather too often”.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Richard Windsor is a freelance writer for The Week Digital. He began his journalism career writing about politics and sport while studying at the University of Southampton. He then worked across various football publications before specialising in cycling for almost nine years, covering major races including the Tour de France and interviewing some of the sport’s top riders. He led Cycling Weekly’s digital platforms as editor for seven of those years, helping to transform the publication into the UK’s largest cycling website. He now works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant.