Edward and Sophie reveal secrets of their barrier-breaking marriage (2024)

When Sophie and Edward tied the knot on June 19, 1999, they had already broken several significant royal barriers.

Having dated Edward for six years, the then Sophie Rhys-Jones was the first royal girlfriend ever to be permitted to stay overnight at Buckingham Palace as an unmarried woman— still a shocking proposition at the time.

What’s more, as the daughter of a tyre salesman from Kent she was, to use criminally old-fashioned parlance, a ‘commoner’ (let us not forget, when he was born, Edward was, by comparison, third in line to the throne).

And the couple’s insistence on not giving up their day jobs— she in PR and he in television production— was equally unheard of in royal circles.

But perhaps most notable was the fact that they were optimistically embarking on married life at a time when Edward’s three siblings—Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne— had all just seen their first marriages sadly end in divorce.

The Duke and duch*ess of Edinburgh on the balcony at Buckingham Palace during Trooping the Colour at the weekend

And yet against the odds, Sophie and Edward— who were made the Earl and Countess of Wessex when they wed but have since been ‘promoted’ to Duke and duch*ess of Edinburgh by the King— will tomorrow celebrate their silver wedding anniversary.

In royal circles they are known as a universally happy couple who have barely (certainly not since the notorious ‘Fake Sheikh’ scandal of the late 1990s in which Sophie was duped by an undercover reporter into making indiscreet comments about the then Prince Charles, Tony Blair and William Hague, and subsequently chose to give up her PR business) put a foot wrong.

They have two lovely children, James, now Earl of Wessex, who is currently undertaking his GCSEs and Lady Louise, an English literature student at St Andrews University who, family friends tell me, is turning into a confident young woman.

They plan to celebrate 25 years of marriage in typically low-key style, I can reveal, with a group of close pals at Royal Ascot (and not even in the royal carriage procession).

It is this careful balancing of their positions as full-time working royals with a strong sense of duty, together with their life as partners and parents, that is the secret to their success, say friends.

Prince Edward embraces Sophie after she delivered a speech on international women's day

‘They are a real team,’ one life-long friend of the couple tells me. ‘There’s an equilibrium in the relationship, neither one is jealous of the other. In fact they take great pride in the other’s achievements.

‘When Sophie undertook a 450-mile cycling challenge a few years ago from Edinburgh to London there was no one prouder than the prince, I can tell you.’

According to Sophie, 59, who paid a remarkable public tribute to her husband on his 60th birthday in March, it’s also the fact that he is ‘the best of the fathers and the most loving of husbands’.

She sweetly described Edward as her ‘best friend’— and unhesitatingly admitted that she still fancies him in a uniform.

For Edward’s part, in an exclusive interview with me to mark his landmark birthday, he notably came alive as he discussed his wife.

‘Well, you need a really good supportive network in this and family is incredibly important. I am just very, very lucky that Sophie is a brilliant, brilliant person in her own right,’ he told me, smiling from ear to ear.

Friends say the prince has never taken for granted what Sophie took on when she married him, after they famously first met at a ‘real tennis’ tournament she was doing the PR for and he was playing in.

The couple attend a D-Day Remembrance service for veterans in Alrewas, Staffordshire

Prince Edward waves at crowds on the day of his wedding to Sophie on June 19, 1999

Their close friend Mark Foster-Brown, who has known Edward since their days at Cambridge University (and was also a guest at the tournament when they first met) agrees, adding: ‘I just feel that there is a particular pride in him at what she does and how she does it. That’s very bonding, it would be in any marriage, and it certainly is in theirs.’

Sophie has become an acclaimed campaigner for men and women who are victims of sexual violence in war and recently became the first British royal to travel to Ukraine to highlight this untold story of the current conflict.

Edward, meanwhile, has taken on the mantle of his late father, not just in name but in many of the public duties he once undertook, particularly with the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme.

While the couple would insist they aren’t doing anything particularly different nowadays— it’s just that people have started to notice it more in a slimmed-down monarchy— there’s little doubt their star is in the ascendance.

Outside work they are both very much country sorts, adoring their dogs, walking and riding.

They’re also keen skiers. Edward, in particular, is ‘irritatingly good’ and utterly ‘fearless’, says one friend. Sophie did a season on the slopes after leaving school and isn’t far behind.

The couple are known too to enjoy ‘bucket and spade’ family holidays in places such as the Isles of Scilly.

One family friend who has holidayed with them recalls a member of the public once coming up to Edward to tell him that he was a ‘dead ringer’ for the Queen’s youngest son — clearly not thinking for a second that the man queuing up to get supplies in the Co-op could ever have been him.

Above all, Sophie and Edward laugh a lot.

‘There is always something for them to giggle about,’ says a pal.

Prince William, Princess Charlotte, King Charles, Queen Camilla, Prince Edward and Sophie watch the RAF flypast in 2023

It’s unsurprising to many in royal circles that they have become role models to the Prince and Princess of Wales, who greatly admire the way they have brought up their children out of the public spotlight (at one point 16th-in-line-to-the-throne Louise even had a job working in a local garden centre for £6.83 an hour).

Sophie, in particular, has become a reliable ‘sounding board’ for Kate and their relationship has gone from strength to strength, while William enjoys an easy relationship with his uncle (which cannot be said for his dealings with Andrew).

Read More Pretty in pink! Sophie, duch*ess of Edinburgh is radiant in a floral dress at Order of the Garter

On Monday, William was paired with Edward at the Order of the Garter service, while Sophie was seen giving him a reassuring pat on the back after the family’s moving appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony on Saturday, Kate’s first public appearance since her cancer diagnosis. Sophie was also seen laughing with the princess and her children at Horse Guards.

The foursome are only expected to support each other more in the years to come as the Royal Family’s youngest working royals.

Certainly, the way Edward and Sophie have supported each other since their marriage at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, two and a half decades ago, is testimony to the strength of their union.

As their friend, Mr Foster Brown, tells me: ‘The day of their wedding was the most extraordinary experience. For all of us at the time, it felt like it was an amazing thing to be part of. Here we are, 25 years later, and all of the hopes and expectations that we had on that day have been fulfilled.

‘And that’s quite something because, let’s face it, not everyone can say that.’

Edward and Sophie reveal secrets of their barrier-breaking marriage (2024)

References

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Lilliana Bartoletti

Last Updated:

Views: 5910

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (53 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Lilliana Bartoletti

Birthday: 1999-11-18

Address: 58866 Tricia Spurs, North Melvinberg, HI 91346-3774

Phone: +50616620367928

Job: Real-Estate Liaison

Hobby: Graffiti, Astronomy, Handball, Magic, Origami, Fashion, Foreign language learning

Introduction: My name is Lilliana Bartoletti, I am a adventurous, pleasant, shiny, beautiful, handsome, zealous, tasty person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.