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Sophie, the Countess of Wessex

HRH The Countess of Wessex, formerly Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones (born January 20, 1965 in Oxford, England), is the wife of HRH The Earl of Wessex, the youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

Sophie Rhys-Jones is the daughter of Christopher Bournes Rhys-Jones, a retired tire salesman, and his wife, Mary O'Sullivan, a secretary of Irish birth. According to the BBC News, her father reportedly added a hyphen to the family's surname to make it look posh. She is also reportedly an eleventh-cousin once removed to her husband.

Her marriage to the prince took place on June 19, 1999 in St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. The title "Viscount Severn" was revived and added to her husband's titles at the time of their marriage to reflect the origins of Sophie's family (in the Welsh border country). Her full title is Her Royal Highness, The Princess Edward of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Countess of Wessex and Viscountess Severn.

She was previously the live-in girlfriend of Mike O'Neill, a ski instructor who she met in Switzerland and later settled down with in his native Australia, and had an earlier relationship with Jeremy Barkley, an automobile salesman.

Since her marriage, the countess has taken the name "Sophie Wessex" for everyday use. Since then, both she and her husband have been in the news for gaffes in the course of their attempt to combine royal duties with their business careers. In Sophie's case, she has been accused of taking advantage of her privileged position within the royal family to further her work in public relations for example in the infamous "fake sheik" affair.

In the autumn of 2001, she suffered an ectopic pregnancy. On May 6, 2003, it was revealed that Sophie was again pregnant, expecting a child in December 2003. On November 8, 2003, just before midnight, she was delivered of a daughter by Caesarean section. The child, named Lady Louise, who is the first of the Queen's male-line grandchildren not to be known as "Her Royal Highness", is eighth in the line of succession to the throne of the United Kingdom. The Earl of Wessex was in Mauritius at the time of the birth, but returned immediately.

See also: British Royal Family