Wedding of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie Rhys-Jones
Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones on their wedding day.
|Date||19 June 1999|
|Location||St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, Berkshire, England|
|Participants||Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Sophie Rhys-Jones|
The wedding of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie Rhys-Jones took place on 19 June 1999 in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. The Queen's youngest child, Prince Edward, was created Earl of Wessex hours before the ceremony.
Background and engagement
The Prince Edward, youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II, met Sophie Rhys-Jones at a tennis event in 1993. Prince Edward announced his engagement to Sophie on 6 January 1999. Edward proposed to Sophie with a delicate engagement ring featuring a two-carat oval diamond flanked by two heart-shaped gemstones set in 18-karat white gold. This engagement ring was made by Asprey and Garrard (now Garrard & Co) and it is worth an estimated £105,000.
The wedding took place at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. At the time of their engagement, Edward and Sophie made it known their wish that the wedding not be turned into a state occasion, causing there to be no ceremonial state or military involvement. Prime Minister Tony Blair and other politicians were not invited.
Rather than court dress, the couple requested that guests attend wearing formal evening gowns, and not to wear hats to reflect its wish for a more informal royal wedding. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother wore a hat regardless, as she was rarely seen in public without one. It was Windsor's largest occasion since the 1952 funeral of King George VI.
Edward's two brothers, The Prince of Wales and The Duke of York, both served as his supporters (the royal equivalent of the "best man"). Children of the couple's friends served as Sophie's attendants: Camilla Hadden, Olivia Taylor, Felix Sowerbutts, and Harry Warburton. The three royal brothers chose to leave their limousines behind and walk past the onlookers into the church, twenty minutes before the start of the ceremony.
Sophie arrived with her father Christopher Rhys-Jones in a Rolls Royce owned by the Queen, and he walked her down the aisle. Peter Nott, the Bishop of Norwich, performed the ceremony. Unlike previous royal weddings, like that of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, Sophie chose to say the word "obey" in her vow "to love, honour and obey". The couple said their respective vows properly, though some onlookers noted Edward had a little difficulty placing the wedding ring on Sophie's finger.
Sophie wore a wedding dress designed by Samantha Shaw. It had a long, fitted coat with long sleeves, along with an ivory train that according to one source was "made from hand-dyed silk organza and hand-dyed silk crepe, with rows of pearls and crystal beading". Notably, the four girls and boys who carried her train were all commoners, the first time this has occurred in a royal wedding. Sophie wore a diamond tiara from the Queen's private collection, as well as a pearl necklace that was given to her by Edward for the wedding; Sophie in turn gave him an 18-carat gold pocket watch. Prince Edward's waistcoat was designed by John Kent.
Their wedding cake was adorned with tennis rackets since both of them met each other during a tennis event and like the game of tennis.
Title upon marriage
Hours before the ceremony, The Prince Edward was created Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn in anticipation of his marriage to public relations manager Sophie Rhys-Jones. Upon their marriage, the couple became known as Their Royal Highnesses The Earl and Countess of Wessex. Some constitutional scholars questioned why Edward had not been created a duke, as his brothers had before their weddings; it was made known at that time that Edward would be created Duke of Edinburgh after the deaths of both his parents. The publishing director of Burke's Peerage, Harold Brooks-Baker, noted that Edward was the first son of a monarch since George I to not be made a duke. Historian David Starkey criticised the choice of title Earl of Wessex, remarking "The title itself is a total fiction. There is nowhere called Wessex...the title has not been used for a thousand years - is it the right way to celebrate the third millennium by going back to the first?"
The wedding's broadcast garnered an estimate 200 million viewers from around the world.
- The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, the groom's parents
- The Prince of Wales, the groom's brother
- The Duke of York, the groom's brother
- The Princess Royal and Cmdr Timothy Laurence, the groom's sister and her second husband
- Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, the groom's grandmother
- Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, the groom's grandaunt
- The Duke and Duchess of Kent, the groom's cousin, once removed and his wife
- Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, the groom's cousin, once removed and his wife
- Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy, the groom's cousin, once removed
- Christopher and Mary Rhys-Jones
Other royal guests
- The Sultan of Brunei
- Queen Anne-Marie of the Hellenes
- The Prince of Asturias 
- Prince Joachim and Princess Alexandra of Denmark
Other notable guests
- Anthony Andrews
- Robin Bextor
- John Cleese
- Billy Connolly
- Sir David Frost
- Stephen Fry
- Ruthie Henshall
- Andrew Lloyd Webber
- Nigel Mansell
Many media outlets noted the more "relaxed tone" of the wedding compared to previous royal ceremonies, such as the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer, which took place at the larger St Paul's Cathedral. One called it the "people's wedding", and eight-thousand people were picked at random and invited into the castle grounds.
- "HRH The Countess of Wessex - Marriage and family". Official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- "HRH The Earl of Wessex - Marriage and family". Official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- "Crown jewels: The fabulous rings which sealed the love of Europe's royal couples". HELLO! magazine (UK).
- "Britain's Prince Edward, Sophie Rhys-Jones marry as royals look on". CNN. 19 June 1999. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- "Edward and Sophie's big day". BBC News. 19 June 1999. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- "Something old, something new". BBC News. 20 June 1999. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- Hoge, Warren (20 June 1999). "At Windsor, Royal Wedding Has a Common Touch". New York Times. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
- "Radiant Sophie marries her prince". BBC News. 21 June 1999. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
- "Hats off to wedding fashion". BBC News. 19 June 1999. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- Hubbard, Kim (5 July 1999). "Edward & Sophie". People. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- "Edward and Sophie begin married life". BBC News. 21 July 1999. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
- "So which Royal bride spilled perfume all over her dress? Try our quiz as you wait for the wedding". Mail Online (UK). 29 April 2011.
- "Wessex titles for Edward and Sophie". BBC News. 19 June 1999. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- "HRH The Earl of Wessex - Styles and titles". Official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- "Royal events and ceremonies". Official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 3 May 2011.