The Earl and Countess of Wessex
In September 1993, Prince Edward, the youngest child of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, presided over a tennis fundraiser. A young PR executive working on the event approached the Prince, whom she had met at a Buckingham Palace business meeting, and said, "I'd love to have a hit."
A five-year courtship, complete with nights at the theatre and dinner at Windsor Castle, ensued. And on January 6, 1999, the Prince and Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones announced their engagement, marrying in St George's Chapel on June 19 that same year. Prince Edward became Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn on his marriage; his bride, the Countess of Wessex. They choose to be known as Edward Wessex and Sophie Wessex in their respective businesses.
Born on March 10, 1964, Edward Antony Richard Louis graduated from Jesus College, Cambridge, with a Bachelor of Arts in 1986, and set out for a standard military tour of duty in the Royal Marines, putting his true passions, acting and the entertainment industry, temporarily on hold. But after three years, the Prince declared, "I'm not a Rambo," and set out on a year of soul-searching which culminated in a job with Lord Lloyd-Webber's Really Useful Theatre Group.
He continued his work in the arts while keeping up with his royal duties, and in October 2000 was presented with the prestigious Bette Davis Special Achievement Awards at Boston University for his work in television production. Prince Edward's Ardent Productions, established in 1993, produced a number of documentaries, including an in-depth programme on the royal family which was screened on US TV in 2002. The same year, Edward announced he was stepping down as director of production and joint managing director of the company.
Prior to taking up royal duties full time his wife Sophie was also accomplished in her chosen career, running her own PR firm, R-JH Public Relations. In April 2001, however, the Countess was forced to stand down as chairman of the firm after she was inadvertently caught out by a tabloid sting operation and taped making indiscreet comments about royal and political figures. A year later she announced she was resigning.
The only daughter of Christopher Rhys-Jones, a car parts salesman, and charity worker Mary O'Sullivan, Sophie was born in Oxford on January 20, 1965, and attended the prestigious Kent College For Girls in Pembury. She grew up in a loving home alongside brother David at Homestead Farmhouse, a 17th-century cottage in Brenchley, Kent.
In 2003, four years after their wedding, Edward and Sophie's dreams of beginning a family came true when the couple discovered they were expecting a baby. The news was especially significant as the Countess had suffered an ectopic pregnancy two years earlier. Their daughter, Lady Louise Alice Elizabeth Mary Mountbatten-Windsor, was born by emergency Caesarean section a month early, on November 8. Four years later, on December 17, 2007, the couple welcomed a son, James, Viscount Severn.