The Countess of Wessex, born Sophie Rhys Jones, is the wife of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. They were married in 1999, and they have two children together. Unlike her two sisters-in-law, Sophie became a royal Countess and not a royal Duchess. The Earl of Wessex title had been created twice before in the 11th century and was created again for Prince Edward.1 The subsidiary title of Viscount Severn is currently held by their only son James.
At the time of their marriage, it was announced that any children they might have would be styled as the children of an Earl. Any daughters would be a Lady, while the eldest son would be Viscount Severn, and any subsequent sons would be styled as The Honourable. At the same time, it was announced that the Earl of Wessex would become Duke of Edinburgh when the title reverts to the Crown.2
The Duke of Edinburgh title has been created twice before. The first creation was in 1726 by King George I, who bestowed it on his grandson Frederick, who was also created Prince of Wales in 1729. Frederick predeceased his father, and it was his son who became King George III. Upon his death in 1751, the title passed to his son George. When George succeeded as King, the title merged with the Crown.
The second creation took place in 1866 when Queen Victoria bestowed it on her second son Prince Alfred. Alfred’s only son predeceased him, and so the title became extinct upon Alfred’s death in 1900.
The third creation took place in 1947 by King George VI for Prince Philip and was inherited by his “heirs male lawfully begotten.”3 This meant that on Prince Philip’s death on 9 April 2021, his eldest son, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, became the new Duke of Edinburgh.4
With the accession of Charles as King Charles III on 8 September 2022, the Duke of Edinburgh title merged with the Crown. The new King is now free to create the title again for his brother – making Sophie Duchess of Edinburgh at last.
- London Gazette
- See here
- London Gazette
- “These peerages are hereditary and on the death of His Royal Highness have passed to his eldest son, HRH The Prince of Wales. In the event of the Prince of Wales or any subsequent holder of these titles succeeding to the Crown, these titles and all others held will merge with the Crown.“