Wedding of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones

by Susan Flantzer and Scott Mehl

Family of Prince Edward
Family of Sophie Rhys-Jones
The Engagement and Ring
The Attendants
Wedding Attire
Wedding Guests
The Ceremony
The Wedding Reception
The Honeymoon
Learn More About Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones

Family of Prince Edward

HRH The Prince Edward Antony Richard Louis was born March 10 1964 at Buckingham Palace, London. Andrew was the forth, and last, child  of Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh.

Edward’s older siblings are Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, born in 1948; Princess Anne, The Princess Royal, born in 1950; and Prince Andrew, The Duke of York, born in 1960.

On his wedding day, June 19 1999, Edward was created Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn, breaking with the tradition of a dukedom granted to the son of the Sovereign upon marriage.  However, it was announced that Prince Edward will eventually be granted the Dukedom of Edinburgh, currently his father’s title, at such time when it has reverted back to the Crown.

Family of Sophie Rhys-Jones

Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones was born January 20 1965, in Oxford.  She was the second child of Christopher Rhys-Jones and his wife Mary (née O’Sullivan).  Sophie has an older brother, David.  Sophie was named in honor of her paternal aunt, Helen, who had been killed in an accident some years before Sophie was born.

Engagement and Ring

At the announcement of the engagement

On January 6, 1999, Prince Edward held a press conference to announce he and Sophie Rhys-Jones were engaged to be married. It was the culmination of a long courtship, beginning in 1993 when the two renewed a casual acquaintance at a Real Tennis Challenge, hosted by the Prince. Ms. Rhys-Jones, the public relations executive handling the event, was reportedly “charmed” by the youngest of the Queen’s sons, and he with her.

While the two publicly maintained they were merely good friends, it became apparent they were spending considerable time together when Ms. Rhys-Jones was photographed at various Windsor family occasions. Several times, Prince Edward took the press to task for badgering Sophie, leading many royal watchers to believe there might be more to the relationship than met the eye.

Finally, after seeking permission from her father, the Prince asked Ms. Rhys-Jones to marry him over the 1998 Christmas holidays. In accepting the Prince’s proposal, Sophie also accepted an exquisite engagement ring. Because Diana and Sarah Ferguson had colored gemstones in their engagement rings, the superstitious Sophie insisted upon diamonds only. A cluster of three were set in white gold; a creation of royal jeweler Asprey and Garrard and estimated at $170,000.

Rumors abounded that Sophie gave Prince Edward a marriage ultimatum, and that they lived together prior to the wedding; rumors which have been denied by both bride and groom. The Prince said that while the love affair was not a sudden strike of lightning, he and Ms. Rhys-Jones are the best of friends and very much in love.

Sources: BBC News; London Telegraph; MSNBC

The Attendants

As with many European weddings, Sophie’s attendants were young children.  Sophie and Edward carefully chose the four bridesmaids and pages, who were each special in some way.

Eight year old bridesmaid Camilla Hadden was the oldest of the children.  She is Edward’s goddaughter, and the daughter of his friends Abel and Belinda Hadden.  Mr. Hadden was, at one time, the press officer for Lady Margaret Thatcher.

Next in age, at seven, was page Felix Sowerbutts, the son of Julian and Lucinda Sowerbutts, who are friends of Sophie’s from well before the beginning of her public relations career.

Six-year old page Harry Warburton, the son of Sarah Warburton, who was Prince Edward’s Assistant Private Secretary, and also happens to be the Prince’s godson.  Ms. Warburton was instrumental in many of the wedding preparations.

Five year old Olivia Taylor was the second bridesmaid.  She is the daughter of Ian and Lindy Taylor, some of Sophie’s oldest friends.

Prince Edward also had two individuals who stood with him at the ceremony:  Prince Charles and Prince Andrew.  At most weddings, their roles would be considered that of Best Man.  However, in royal circles, they are termed “Supporters”.

Sources: BBC News; London Telegraph; British Royal Website; MSNBC; The Guardian

Wedding Attire

Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones had already decided their wedding would be different than most royal events, and their wedding clothes, while traditional, also carried their own stamps of individuality.

It had been speculated that Sophie’s gown would be relatively simple, given the style of her chosen designer, Samantha Shaw. While the cut of the dress was simple: a hand-dyed ivory silk crepe corseted coat over a hand-dyed ivory silk organza skirt, it had the sparkle of 325,000 hand sewn cut-glass and pearl beads, as well. The beads decorated the deep V-neckline, which extended both in front and in back; as well as the slightly flared sleeves. Beads also cascaded down the cleverly designed train, which was sewn in panels so it would pleat out behind the bride as she walked down the aisle. Ms. Rhys-Jones also wore a hand-dyed silk tulle veil one inch longer than her train, which was dotted with occasional hand sewn crystal beads, and supported by a diamond tiara borrowed from the Queen’s private collection. Her shoes were also ivory silk crepe, and her bouquet consisted of ivory garden roses, stephanotis, lily of the valley and freesia. Her most remarkable accessory, however, was the beautiful black and white pearl necklace and matching earrings designed by Prince Edward as a personal wedding gift.

The Prince looked dashing in formal morning dress, with a lively yellow waistcoat made especially for the wedding by John Kent. He also wore a blue shirt with white collar and a patterned blue and yellow tie. He, too, wore a special accessory: an 18 carat yellow gold Hunter pocket watch and chain given to him as a wedding gift by Sophie.

The young attendants were dressed in the Plantagenet style. The bridesmaids wore ivory silk taffeta dresses with navy silk velvet tunics decorated with gold braid, and feather trimmed velvet hats. They each carried a small bouquet of heavily scented flowers tied informally with ivory ribbon. The pages were dressed in navy velvet knickers and tunics with brass buttons over ivory taffeta shirts and accented with taffeta cummerbunds. They, too, wore velvet berets with feathers.

The mother of the groom, remembering the day over fifty years before when she pledged her troth to Prince Philip, wore the pearl necklace, dainty pearl and diamond earrings and diamond brooch she donned on her own wedding day. Lovely in a lilac lace and chiffon gown by Sir Hardy Amies, a feathered hat in a similar hue completed the ensemble.

Sources: BBC News; London Telegraph; MSNBC; SkyNews

Wedding Guests

Prince Edward’s Family
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh
Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
The Prince of Wales
Prince William of Wales
Prince Harry of Wales
The Duke of York
Princess Beatrice of York
Princess Eugenie of York
The Princess Royal and Commander Timothy Laurence
Mr Peter Phillips
Miss Zara Phillips
The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon

Sophie Rhys-Jones’ Family
Christopher and Mary Rhys-Jones

Foreign Royalty
The Sultan of Brunei
Queen Anne-Marie of Greece
The Prince of Asturias
Prince Joachim and Princess Alexandra of Denmark

Some Notable Guests
Anthony Andrews
John Cleese
Billy Connolly
Sir David Frost
Stephen Fry
Ruthie Henshall
Andrew Lloyd Webber

Sources: BBC; CNN; British Monarchy Website

The Ceremony

As a televised audience of 200 million looked on, a throng of eight thousand locals fortunate enough to have been chosen to represent the residents of Windsor lined the drive leading up to Windsor Castle, witnessing the bride’s arrival in a vintage black Rolls Royce. The bride acknowledged the cheering crowd before entering the house of worship, where a new phase of her life as the Countess of Wessex would begin.

As the clock struck 5 P.M. the passionate strains of “The Marche Heroique” echoed through the chapel as the bride made her way past such illustrious witnesses as Sir Andew Lloyd Webber and David Frost to stand at the altar by her intended. A forty-five minute ceremony followed, in which the bride was presented with a wedding band which, in the royal tradition, was fashioned from Welsh gold. At the conclusion of the nuptials, the Toccata from the 5th symphony and The Coronation March– Crown Imperial escorted the newly betrothed up the aisle.

Following the ceremony, the new Earl and Countess of Wessex rode in an open carriage to the reception at Windsor Castle, greeting thousands of well-wishers who had come out to celebrate their marriage.

The Wedding Reception

Five hundred fifty guests gathered in the State Apartments of Windsor Castle for a feast fit for a king, complete with smoked haddock with rice and mushrooms in pastry, beef stroganoff and fresh raspberries for dessert. Attendees also nibbled on a seven-tier wedding cake adorned with sugar roses and fruit by Upper Crusts Country Kitchen before taking to the dancefloor, where it was reported that the Queen danced along with her grandchildren to The Village People’s “YMCA.”

The Honeymoon

The Honeymoon: The couple chose Birkhall Lodge, located five miles from Balmoral, for their four day honeymoon. The venue’s romantic past (Prince Philip, the groom’s father, proposed to the future Queen of England at the locale) makes the lodge a sentimental favorite among members of the royal family.

Learn more about Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys Jones