Wedding of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones
|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 and Sophie Rhys-Jones took place on 19 June 1999 in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Queen Elizabeth II's youngest child, Prince Edward, was created Earl of Wessex hours before the ceremony.
Background and engagement
Prince Edward, youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II, met Sophie Rhys-Jones at a tennis event in 1993. He 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 known their wish that the wedding not be turned into a state occasion, causing there to be no ceremonial state or military involvement. The ceremony was mainly a family occasion. 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 the town of 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 while a fanfare by the Royal Marines was being played. 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, cherish 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. In keeping with tradition, the wedding ring was crafted from Welsh gold from the Prince Edward mine in Gwynedd. The tradition of using Welsh gold within the wedding rings of the royal family dates back to 1923.
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-karat gold pocket watch. Prince Edward's waistcoat was designed by John Kent.
After the ceremony, Edward and Sophie rode in an open, horse-drawn carriage to the reception in St George's Hall at Windsor Castle, passing thousands of people en route. The Countess sent her wedding bouquet to Westminster Abbey to rest on the Grave of the Unknown Warrior. The tradition of Royal brides sending their bouquet to the Grave was started by Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later the Queen Mother) in 1923.
Their 10-foot-tall chocolate cake was made by Linda Fripp and adorned with tennis rackets. Geoffrey Shakerley photographed the wedding of Edward and Sophie. Shakerley later admitted that Prince William's face was digitally enhanced by taking a happier smile from another photograph and placing it on some of the released shots to the press.
Title upon marriage
Hours before the ceremony, Prince Edward was created Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn. 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 estimated 200 million viewers from around the world.
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 8,000 people were picked at random and invited into the castle grounds. The wedding ceremony was positively received by the public, and parties were held at different places in the streets to celebrate the occasion. The marriage also had a positive reflection in the media, who labelled it as a love match which could be successful unlike the marriages of Edward's elder siblings.
Relatives of the groom
- The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, the groom's parents
- The Prince of Wales, the groom's brother
- The Princess Royal and Commander Timothy Laurence, the groom's sister and her second husband
- The Duke of York, the groom's brother
- The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon and The Earl of Snowdon, the groom's aunt and her former husband
Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, the groom's great-aunt
- The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the groom's cousin, once removed and his wife
- The Prince George, Duke of Kent's family:
- The Duke and Duchess of Kent, the groom's cousin, once removed and his wife
- Princess Alexandra, The Hon. Lady Ogilvy, the groom's cousin, once removed
- Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, the groom's cousin, once removed and his wife
Relatives of the bride
- Christopher and Mary Rhys-Jones, the bride's parents
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
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