Happy birthday Sophie Wessex! 15 facts about the Queen's daughter-in-law

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The Countess of Wessex celebrates her 51st birthday on Wednesday 20 January. Sophie, who is married to the Queen's youngest son Prince Edward, is expected to mark her birthday privately with family and friends.

To honour the big day, HELLO! Online has gathered 15 facts you may not have known about the popular Countess.

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The Countess is the second child of Christopher Bournes Rhys-Jones and his wife Mary

1. The future royal was born Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones at Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford on 20 January 1965. She is the second child of Christopher Bournes Rhys-Jones and his wife Mary.

2. During her younger years, Sophie was brought up in Brenchley, Kent, attending Dulwich Preparatory School. The independent school counts junior triathlete champion Oliver Freeman and Tana Ramsay among its alumni.

3. Sophie then attended Kent College where she became friends with Sarah Sienesi, with whom she shared a flat in Fulham and who later became her lady-in-waiting.

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Sophie met her future husband Prince Edward in 1993 at a tennis event

4. Sophie met Prince Edward during a charity tennis event in 1993 and the couple dated for six years before announcing their engagement on 6 January 1999. The stunning engagement ring, which features a two-carat oval diamond flanked by two heart-shaped gemstones, was made by jeweller to the royals Asprey and Garrard, and is worth an estimated £105,000.

5. The couple's wedding took place on 19 June 1999 at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. Royalty from around the world, including Queen Anne-Marie of Greece and Prince Joachim of Denmark, attended the ceremony, which was watched by an estimated 200 million people worldwide. The couple's wedding cake was decorated with tennis rackets reflecting their love for the sport and how they met.

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The Queen's son proposed six years later with a two-carat oval diamond flanked by two heart-shaped gemstones

6. Since becoming a member of the British Royal Family, the Countess has performed over 3,000 royal engagements. In 2015, Sophie took part in 218 engagements, which included 49 overseas.

7. Like the Duchess of Cambridge, Sophie's first overseas tour was to Canada. Sophie and her husband appropriately visited Prince Edward Island in 2000.

8. Sophie once revealed that she couldn't find her seat at a state banquet at Buckingham Palace minutes before the Queen was due to speak. "I shan't forget the look I got when I couldn't find my chair and she was looking to do her speech," the Countess joked during ITV's documentary Our Queen. "I decided I might study the notes a little more carefully next time."

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The couple's wedding cake was decorated with tennis rackets reflecting how they met

9. Sophie has become a close friend of Monaco's Princess Charlene. The royal wives were spotted catching up at Princess Madeleine of Sweden's wedding in 2013 and the Monaco Grand Prix in 2012.

10. Her full royal title is Her Royal Highness The Princess Edward, Countess of Wessex, Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Dame of Justice of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. She will eventually become the Duchess of Edinburgh when Edward inherits the title Duke of Edinburgh.

11. On 8 November 2003, Sophie gave birth to her and Edward's first child, Lady Louise, at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey. The Countess had to undergo an emergency caesarean after a placental abruption put her and Louise in danger. Four years later, in December 2007, Sophie returned to the same hospital where she and Edward welcomed their son James, Viscount Severn.

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Sophie gave birth to her and Edward's first child Lady Louise in 2003

12. Despite carrying out many royal duties in London, Edward and Sophie have opted for life just outside the city and currently reside at Bagshot Park, Surrey with their children Lady Louise and James.

13. The royal shares her birthday with Belgium's Queen Mathilde, singer Gary Barlow and former Strictly Come Dancing star Mark Wright.

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The Countess has performed over 3,000 royal engagements

14. Sophie and Edward's visits abroad are often met with excitement and during their 2012 visit to Gibraltar to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, commemorative stamps were printed to mark their stay.

15. Kicking off another busy year, which will see her mother-in-law the Queen turn 90, Sophie returned to work on 12 January receiving Sir Nicholas Carter for a meeting, with a lunch at the Wax Chandler's Hall in London the following day.

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