There have been a number of high-profile royal weddings and royal brides in the British Royal Family in recent decades. 

In the 21st century, the royal duchesses Camilla, Catherine and Meghan have made headlines around the globe, with unprecedented media attention chronicling their life events, as well as their private lives and even their wardrobes. 

In the late 20th-century, undoubtedly the most famous royal wedding featured the 20-year-old Lady Diana Spencer who went on to become the legendary Diana, Princess of Wales who lived her entire life under the glare of the media spotlight. Some even claim that her fame and notoriety were the cause of her tragic and untimely death in Paris in 1997. 

During the same era, a vivacious, auburn-haired beauty named Sarah Ferguson, became the next young woman to fulfill the popular dream of marrying a royal prince, when she wed Prince Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth, in 1986. Known fondly as Fergie in the media, this royal bride sparked a frenzy of interest and fascination around the globe, as the bubbly young Sarah embarked on her new role within the royal family as the Duchess of York. 

A Quiet Royal Couple

Towards the end of the 1990s, after a decade of highly public divorces and scandals within the royal family, the queen’s youngest son, Edward, married the beautiful blonde, Sophie Rhys-Jones, in a relatively quiet wedding – compared to previous royal extravaganzas. 

The couple were married in a low-key ceremony at Windsor Castle, a wedding that didn’t include the state fanfare and military presence that had been such an iconic feature of the youngest prince’s older brothers’ weddings. 

This was a reflection of the quieter nature of Prince Edward, who had played a royal role largely out of the public spotlight for much of his life. His new bride, Sophie, was also known as a quieter character than some of the larger-than-life personalities that had featured in other royal marriages.   

Why Is Sophie A Countess? 

In the tradition of previous royal weddings, Queen Elizabeth granted a new royal title to her youngest son on his wedding day. Prince Edward was given the title, Earl of Wessex. 

Sophie and Edward at Trooping the Colour in London
Sophie and Edward at Trooping the Colour in London – Carfax2, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As the wife of the Earl of Wessex, Sophie’s title was Countess of Wessex, because the wife of an earl is customarily styled as a Countess. (An Earl is a noble title equivalent to the rank of a Count in many of the other systems of aristocratic hierarchy around the world.) 

This was a departure from the pattern of gifts of royal titles for Prince Edward’s brothers and their wives who had been styled as The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles), and the Duke and Duchess of York (Prince Andrew and Sarah ‘Fergie’ Ferguson). 

It was believed that the title of Earl granted to Prince Andrew would ultimately be upgraded, as the royal family had a plan for a dukedom further down the line. 

Sophie – Royal Duchess At Last

When her husband turned 59 in March 2023, Prince Edward was granted the title that had long been intended for him – that of the Duke of Edinburgh.

This is a historic title, which is created and offered at the discretion of the monarch, and is not hereditary ie it returns to the crown When each recipient dies. It was previously held by Prince Edward’s father, Prince Philip, who died in 2021. 

It is now the highest-ranking royal title of Prince Edward, whose official titles also include the Earl of Forfar. 

Now that Prince Edward has been granted the title of Duke of Edinburgh. His wife Sophie is now styled as the Duchess of Edinburgh. After 23 years of marriage, she has joined the ranks of the other Royal Duchesses within the royal family. 

Sophie, Duchess Of Edinburgh

Like many of her royal in-laws, Sophie has embraced the life and work of a hard-working and dutiful royal servant. She is known for her tireless efforts in support of more than 70 charities and worthy causes. 

Some of the charities and causes that she has supported in the past include organisations that support the wellbeing and rights of women, the prevention of avoidable blindness, charities that support people with disabilities, as well as sporting organisations and causes for young people and children. 

Like her brother-in-law, King Charles III, Sophie also shares a passion for food and farming, and is a fellow environmentalist who is keen to support sustainable practices within the agricultural industry. 

The Children Of Prince Edward & Sophie, Duchess Of Edinburgh

Sophie and Edward have two children, who are 14th and 15th in the line of succession to the British throne. 

Their son, James Mountbatten Windsor, has been granted his father’s title of Earl of Wessex, in the same way that Prince Edward has been granted his own father’s title.

Their daughter, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor, is officially titled as the daughter of an earl, i.e. addressed as Lady, rather than a royal princess. This is another legacy of the changes in recent decades around the royal titles and official styling of royal wives and royal grandchildren.   

These two young royals,who like their parents, have previously played quieter roles within the royal family, have in recent years become more visible on the world stage. Their appearances at high-profile events, such as the late Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee and funeral in 2022 have caught the interest of some of the world’s media, as many people around the globe have questions about these little-known royals. 

As the children of the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh grow into young adults, it remains to be seen whether they will play quieter roles within the royal family, or whether they will step into the limelight like many of the high-profile young royals that currently dominate the world’s headlines. 

Sophie, the former Countess of Wessex, the new Duchess of Edinburgh, has carved out an esteemed and respected role within the British monarchy. 

In the past, she has played a quieter role than some of the other royal wives, yet her obvious friendship with the Princess of Wales, along with the media interest in her recent appearances at royal events, may indicate that a new level of public interest and more high-profile works and publicity lie ahead.