|By Frankie Fouganthin via Wikimedia Commons|
Sophie Rhys-Jones first met The Queen's youngest son, Prince Edward in 1993. At 28, she had already worked in a couple of different public relations jobs. That day, she was filling in for someone else when the Prince was on a royal visit. As part of the event, Sophie was drafted to play the ancient game of real tennis with him. The encounter sparked their interest in each other, and Sophie soon became his girl at a time when the royal family was still recovering the annus horribilis that had witnessed the demise of all three of his siblings' first marriages. As the war between the Waleses and the continuing media embarrassments of the Yorks stayed on the front pages, Edward and Sophie didn't draw much attention, beyond occasional stories remarking that she was a dead ringer for Diana Princess of Wales (one short-haired blonde girl is apparently indistinguishable for another.) By the time, Edward and Sophie finally married in 1999, the Royal Family had survived the death of Diana and its aftermath.
From the beginning, the couple made it clear that they would do things differently. Instead of the pageantry of huge London weddings, they had a smaller more family-oriented wedding at the family church near their favorite home in Windsor. More dramatically, The Prince was made an Earl instead of a Duke and it was announced that any children would not be styled with princely titles.
Even more amazingly, both of the newlyweds kept their day jobs; Edward as a television producer and Sophie as a public relations consultant. Their commercial interests didn't blend well with their roles as royals: Edward caught flack for being the only person to break the media embargo against filming his nephew Prince William at university and Sophie was caught on hidden-camera footage seeming to criticize politicians and to use her royal connections for business purposes. By 2002, when The Queen's Golden Jubilee added immensely to the royal calendar just at the time when it lost two more of its members (The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret), it was announced that Edward and Sophie would leave their businesses and focus only on supporting The Queen. Since then, there public life has been relatively smooth sailing. They support dozens of charities and represent The Queen on numerous official occasions at home and abroad. Most notably, they are the usual royals dispatched to attend royal weddings in other countries, so Sophie gets to wear her tiaras more than almost anyone else in the family, except perhaps her mother-in-law.
|Sophie and daughter Louise at Trooping the Colour|
By Carfax2 via Wikimedia Commons
Throughout all of this, the Wessex marriage has remained strong, and it appears from their family visits to fairs and horse shoes that they are all happy and healthy. Little Louise has been seen more often lately, notably as a bridesmaid at the 2011 wedding of her cousin Prince William. At home, their lives are very "normal"--school projects, playing with pets, and little visits from Granny, who just happens to be the most famous woman on the planet.
For more about Sophie on her birthday:
Read her first interview in over a decade in her Harper's Bazaar
Read royal biographer Hugo Vicker's profile in The Telegraph
There is also a blog devoted to Sophie:
HRH The Countess of Wessex