Wedding of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones

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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[edit]

Prince Edward, youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II, met Sophie Rhys-Jones at a tennis event in 1993.[1] He announced his engagement to Sophie on 6 January 1999.[2][3] 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.[4]

Wedding ceremony[edit]

Combined coat of arms of Edward and Sophie, the Earl and Countess of Wessex

The wedding took place at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.[5] 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.[6] Prime Minister Tony Blair and other politicians were not invited.[7]

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.[8][9] Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother wore a hat regardless,[10] as she was rarely seen in public without one.[11] It was the town of Windsor's largest occasion since the 1952 funeral of King George VI.[7]

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").[5] Children of the couple's friends served as Sophie's attendants: Camilla Hadden, Olivia Taylor, Felix Sowerbutts, and Harry Warburton.[12] The three royal brothers chose to leave their limousines behind and walk past the onlookers into the church,[9] twenty minutes before the start of the ceremony.[10]

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.[13] Peter Nott, the Bishop of Norwich, performed the ceremony.[5] 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".[9] The couple said their respective vows properly, though some onlookers noted Edward had a little difficulty placing the wedding ring on Sophie's finger.[10] In keeping with tradition, the wedding ring was crafted from Welsh gold from the Prince Edward mine in Gwynedd.[14] 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".[15] Notably, the four girls and boys who carried her train were all commoners, the first time this has occurred in a royal wedding.[9] 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.[15] Prince Edward's waistcoat was designed by John Kent.[11]

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.[10][15] The Countess sent her wedding bouquet to Westminster Abbey to rest on the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.[16] The tradition of Royal brides sending their bouquet to the Grave was started by Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later the Queen Mother) in 1923.[17]

Their 10-foot-tall chocolate cake was made by Linda Fripp and adorned with tennis rackets.[18][19] 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.[20]

The couple spent their honeymoon at Balmoral Castle.[12]

Title upon marriage[edit]

Hours before the ceremony, Prince Edward was created Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn.[5][21] Upon their marriage, the couple became known as Their Royal Highnesses The Earl and Countess of Wessex.[12] 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.[10][21][22] 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?"[21]

Broadcast[edit]

The wedding's broadcast garnered an estimated 200 million viewers from around the world.[8]

Reactions[edit]

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.[7][8][9] One called it the "people's wedding", and 8,000 people were picked at random and invited into the castle grounds.[8] The wedding ceremony was positively received by the public, and parties were held at different places in the streets to celebrate the occasion.[23] 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.[24]

Guest list[edit]

The wedding was attended by 550[5] to 560 guests.[25]

Relatives of the groom[edit]

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, the groom's maternal grandmother[5]

Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, the groom's great-aunt

Relatives of the bride[edit]

  • Christopher and Mary Rhys-Jones, the bride's parents[5]

Other royal guests[edit]

Other notable guests[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "HRH The Countess of Wessex - Biography". Official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  2. ^ "HRH The Earl of Wessex - Biography". Official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  3. ^ "Prince Edward announces his engagement". BBC. 24 November 2009. Retrieved 12 April 2018. 
  4. ^ "Crown jewels: The fabulous rings which sealed the love of Europe's royal couples". HELLO! magazine. UK. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Britain's Prince Edward, Sophie Rhys-Jones marry as royals look on". CNN. 19 June 1999. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  6. ^ MacMillan, Ann (18 June 1999). "Edward and Sophie's 'low-key' wedding". CBC. Retrieved 12 May 2018. 
  7. ^ a b c "Edward and Sophie's big day". BBC News. 19 June 1999. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Something old, something new". BBC News. 20 June 1999. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Hoge, Warren (20 June 1999). "At Windsor, Royal Wedding Has a Common Touch". New York Times. Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Radiant Sophie marries her prince". BBC News. 21 June 1999. Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  11. ^ a b "Hats off to wedding fashion". BBC News. 19 June 1999. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Hubbard, Kim (5 July 1999). "Edward & Sophie". People. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  13. ^ "Prince Edward's wedding". BBC. Retrieved 12 May 2018. 
  14. ^ "Earl formerly known as prince weds Wessex girl". The Guardian. 20 June 1999. Retrieved 12 May 2018. 
  15. ^ a b c "Edward and Sophie begin married life". BBC News. 21 July 1999. Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  16. ^ Westminster Abbey [@wabbey] (20 May 2018). "And here is the bouquet of the Countess of Wessex, placed on the Grave after her wedding to Prince Edward in 1999. #RoyalWedding" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
  17. ^ Westminster Abbey [@wabbey] (20 May 2018). "The tradition of Royal brides sending their bouquet to the Grave was started by the future Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The bouquet of The Duchess of Cambridge was placed on the Grave in 2011" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
  18. ^ "Chocolate surprise for Royal wedding guests". BBC. 22 June 1999. Retrieved 12 May 2018. 
  19. ^ Hefa, Kiran (12 April 2011). "The Most Glamorous Royal Wedding Cakes Through History". People. Retrieved 12 May 2018. 
  20. ^ "Smile! William photo touched up". BBC. 21 June 1999. Retrieved 23 March 2016. 
  21. ^ a b c "Wessex titles for Edward and Sophie". BBC News. 19 June 1999. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  22. ^ "HRH The Earl of Wessex - Styles and titles". Official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  23. ^ "Crowds cheer the wedding of Prince Edward to Sophie". BBC. 26 November 2009. Retrieved 12 May 2018. 
  24. ^ "Monitor: The Sunday newspapers on the wedding of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones". The Independent. 20 June 1999. Retrieved 12 May 2018. 
  25. ^ "Royal events and ceremonies". Official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 

External links[edit]