The Countess of Wessex and Prince Edward celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary on Thursday, with the couple likely to mark the occasion privately at their home with family and close friends.Often described as "the Queen's favourite", Sophie has blossomed from a supporting player in the royal family into a stunning and popular principal.
The former public relations manager captured the world's attention when she married Prince Edward at Windsor Castle in 1999. The glowing bride wore an elegant white hand-dyed silk organza dress, complementing her understated gown with a diamond tiara from the Queen's private collection.The wedding, which was watched by 200million people around the world, was attended by royalty from around the world, including Queen Anne-Marie of Greece and Prince Joachim of Denmark. Close friends of the couple, including Sir David Frost, Stephen Fry and Andrew Lloyd Webber were also on the guest list.
Fifteen years later the countess' royal role is more prominent than ever, with the stylish royal being praised for her commitment to public service, her support to the Queen and to her husband Prince Edward.Sophie has a close relationship with her mother-in-law the Queen. The two women share a passion for military history and a love of horses.
They are often spotted riding together at weekends in the magnificent grounds of Windsor Park. The Queen has been known to turn up unannounced at Edward and Sophie's Surrey home for afternoon tea.
The strong bond was made clear when the Queen visited Sophie in hospital shortly after Lady Louise's birth in 2003, breaking tradition. "Her majesty doesn't even visit people on their deathbeds," revealed a royal source.
In 2012, in celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the Earl and Countess represented the monarchy on an official visit to Gibraltar, signalling the Queen's confidence in the couple. The royals were welcomed by thousands of well-wishers who had lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the new royal couple.Since then, the couple have made visits across the world including South Africa, Jamaica and Canada, often being praised for their compassion and kindness when meeting members of the public. Sophie, who works continuously for her charities, has also made solo visits to India and Qatar.Earlier this year, joined by senior members of the royal family, Edward celebrated his 50th birthday with a party at the couple's Surrey home, Bagshot Park. Speaking in a rare interview to mark the milestone, the earl gushed about his fond memories of his wedding day. He explained the day had been one of the best moments of his life adding it was "great fun and over far too quickly".Sophie, knowing the pressures on new royal wives, has also provided support to the Duchess of Cambridge and the pair are often spotted together during events. Speaking shortly after the birth of Prince George, the countess revealed she was "ridiculously happy" for Kate and Prince William adding she had been smiling ever since the news broke.
Before taking on royal duties, Sophie worked in public relations, including four years at Capital Radio. The countess met Prince Edward at a charity event in 1993, with the couple dating for six years until they announced their engagement in January 1999 and married six months later.Prince Edward and Sophie's marriage has not been without heartbreak. In 2001 the Countess suffered an ectopic pregnancy, undergoing emergency surgery. Sophie later experienced a difficult pregnancy with Lady Louise, who was delivered by emergency Caesarean. Four years later the couple welcomed their son, Viscount James.In March, Sophie made an emotional return to Frimley Park Hospital where she underwent the lifesaving surgery. "The service you provide is paramount and can literally make the difference between life and death, I can attest to that," she told staff in a tear-jerking speech. "It is rare to have the opportunity to thank people for the huge difference they have made at an important time in your life so I am so pleased to be here and to be able to say thank you in person."