Sophie Wessex: who is Countess of Wessex? Will King Charles III make her new Duchess of Edinburgh

The late Queen’s youngest son Prince Edward and his wife Sophie could become the new Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh

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The late Queen’s daughter-in-law, Sophie Wessex, is set to become the new Duchess of Edinburgh.

The new title could be given to the Countess of Wessex, who is married to Queen Elizabeth II’s youngest son, Prince Edward.

The change could be just one of new titles given to members of the royal family in the wake of Her Majesty’s death.

The Queen died at Balmoral Castle on Thursday 8 September, with her eldest son, Charles, immediately becoming monarch.

So, will Sophie Wessex become the new Duchess of Edinburgh, who was the previous Duchess of Edinburgh and what does the role involve?

Here’s what you need to know.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex, could become the new Duchess of Edinburgh after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.Sophie, Countess of Wessex, could become the new Duchess of Edinburgh after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex, could become the new Duchess of Edinburgh after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Who is Sophie, Countess of Wessex?

Sophie is married to Prince Edward, the youngest son of the late Queen and her husband, the late Prince Philip.

She grew up in Brenchley, Kent, and trained as a secretary. She then began working in public relations, representing firms across the UK, Switzerland and Australia before opening her own agency in 1996.

She met Prince Edward in 1987 while working for Capital Radio, and the pair began dating in 1993. Their engagement was announced in January 1999 before they were married on 19 June at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

The couple have two children: Lady Louise Windsor, aged 18, and James, Viscount Severn, aged 14, who are now fifteenth and fourteenth in line to the British throne respectively.

In 2002, Sophie closed her business interests and began full-time work as a member of the royal family. She is the patron of over 70 charities and organisations, including Childline and the London College of Fashion.

Who was the former Duchess of Edinburgh?

Duchess of Edinburgh is the principal courtesy title held by the wife of the Duke of Edinburgh.

The late Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband, was created Duke of Edinburgh and granted the title His Royal Highness shortly before the couple married in 1947.

From their marriage until her accession as Queen in 1952, Elizabeth II was called Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh.

Philip retained his Duke of Edinburgh title, until his death on 9 April 2021.

After his father’s death, Prince Charles acceded to the dukedom.His wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, therefore became Duchess of Edinburgh.

There were two holders of the title prior to the late Queen and Camilla, Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, who held the title between 1736 and 1772, and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, who held the title between 1874 and 1920.

Will Sophie Wessex be the new Duchess of Edinburgh?

It was announced in 1999, at the time of the wedding of Prince Edward and the then Sophie Rhys-Jones, who were then named the Earl and Countess of Wessex, that Edward would eventually follow his father as Duke of Edinburgh.

On their wedding day, Buckingham Palace announced in a statement: “The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales have also agreed that Prince Edward should be given the Dukedom of Edinburgh in due course, when the present title held now by Prince Philip eventually reverts to the Crown.”

If Prince Edward does indeed become Duke of Edinburgh then, as Edward’s wife, Sophie would become the Duchess of Edinburgh.

In July 2021, however, The Times reported that Charles was unsure about whether or not to give the title to his brother upon accession.

Now Charles has become King, it will be his decision whether to bestow the title of Duke of Edinburgh on Edward, another member of his family, or to leave it in abeyance.

Prince Edward is seemingly aware that the title may or may not be given to him.

In an interview with the BBC in June 2021, to mark what would have been Prince Philip’s 100th birthday, Prince Edward was asked: “You will be the next Duke of Edinburgh, when the Prince of Wales becomes king, that is quite something to take on?”

Edward replied: “It was fine in theory, ages ago when it was sort of a pipe dream of my father’s . . . and of course it will depend on whether or not the Prince of Wales, when he becomes king, whether he’ll do that, so we’ll wait and see. So yes, it will be quite a challenge taking that on.”

At the time, Clarence House stated that "no final decisions have been taken" and Buckingham Palace refused to comment further.

What does the Duchess of Edinburgh do?

Inheriting the title of Duchess of Edinburgh would give Sophie a more prominent role as one of a reduced number of working royals.

The Wessexes have taken on a more prominent role within the royal family since Prince Andrew stepped back from public life in 2019, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex quit royal duties in 2021.

Prince Edward  ook on several of his father’s patronages after his death and is trustee of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, which was founded by Prince Philip in 1956 to help young people develop life and work skills.

The late Queen was known to have a close relationship with Sophie and is understood to have encouraged the Wessexes to boost their public profile.

If Prince Edward and Sophie did indeed become the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh they would continue to take on even more duties within the royal family.