Happy birthday Sophie! We look back at her royal highlights...
Sophie, Countess of Wessex is celebrating today as she turns fifty. The Countess, who is married to Prince Edward, has released this official photograph to mark her special day.
As is becoming a royal tradition, Sophie opted for an informal birthday portrait in the relaxed style Catherine and William prefer. She donned a simple white silk blouse and requested minimal make-up and hair styling for the intimate shot which was taken by photographer, Richard Young at the family home in Surrey, Bagshot Park.
Sophie will be spending her fiftieth birthday on royal duty with Prince Edward at her side. She will visit Tomorrow’s People – a national charity which helps disadvantaged people back in to work.
Then it’s on to a cause very close to her heart – a demonstration of the avoidable blindness programme at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The Countess has been an active campaigner for the eradication of blindess following her daughter, Lady Louise Windsor’s struggles with the eye condition, exotropia.
Although Sophie isn’t as photographed as the younger royals, she has become an integral part of the royal family and is rumoured to be the Queen’s favourite thanks to their shared love of military history and horses. They often spend weekends riding together at Windsor Park, according to royal insiders.
Happy birthday Sophie! Keep clicking for her royal highlights…
The daughter of a salesman and a secretary, public relations manager Sophie met Prince Edward by chance at a charity event in 1993. Six years later they tied the knot at Windsor Castle.
Sophie and Edward's wedding was watched by 200 million people around the world. Close friends Stephen Fry, Sir David Frost and and Andrew Lloyd Webber were also in attendance. The bride wore a hand-dyed silk organza dress and a glittering diamond tiara from the Queen's collection.
The couple's first child, Lady Louise Windsor was born in 2003. Four years later, Sophie announced she was expecting again. James Alexander Philip Theo Mountbatten-Windsor was welcomed to the world in 2007.
Prince Edward and Sophie are amongst the hardest working royals. On their tenth wedding anniversary, they shunned a private celebration to visit a school in Twickenham which receives donations from their charity, the Wessex Youth Trust.
Sophie's wardrobe is made up of elegant pieces. When Princess Madeleine and Chris O'Neill married in Stockholm, she almost upstaged the bride in a stunning off-white lace dress. In 2013, she was asked to become patron of the London College of Fashion.
Trooping the colour in 2013, Prince Edward and Sophie looked the picture of happiness. The only of The Queen's children not to have suffered a marriage break-up, the couple are said to be extremely strong together.
Pictured with children Lady Louise Windsor and James Viscount Severn here in 2013, the family spend as much time together as possible. Sophie is passionate about eradicating avoidable blindness and is patron of Vision 2020: The Right To Sight and a global ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.
Pictured here at the Royal Ascot Race Meeting in 2013, Sophie showed her sense of humour by smiling into the camera. In her blue jacket and matching fascinator, she looked bright and happy.
Showing off her royal style again, this time at The Sovereign's Parade at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in 2013. Despite hailing from a middle class background, Sophie has proved that she fits in perfectly with the royal family.
Sophie's love of horses is said to have been one of the factors in bonding her and the Queen, and she can often be seen celebrating at ascot. Pictured here at Ascot Christmas horse race meeting in 2013, it seems that the family have picked up her appreciation for the animals too.
Pictured here at the Commonwealth Day Observance, Westminster Abbey in 2014, Sophie proves her style credibility once again with a perfectly royal ensemble.
This heart warming picture captures the Countess of Wessex spending time with a mother and newborn baby as she opened Firmly Park Hospital's Neonatal Clinic. The Countess was reduced to tears during a short speech in which she thanked the staff for all they do to save babies lives. It was an especially poignant visit for Sophie as both her children were born at the hospital.
This formal image was taken last year when the royal couple attended a fundraising dinner in aid of the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes for which the Earl is a patron. The pair also officially opened £1.65 million conservation and interpretation project, Childhood at Osborne’ during their visit to the island.