Sophie & Edward’s Engagement Announcement: January 6, 1999

Just for fun, let’s take a step back in time.

17 years ago today, on January 6 1999, the press was notified on the Queen’s behalf that Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones were engaged. Later that morning, a photo call was held in the St. James’s Palace. The couple emerged to greet the waiting press for pictures and a look at the ring.

Sophie & Edward (source)

It must have been a warm January! Sophie & Edward at St. James’s Palace January 6, 1999 (source)

During the photo call, Prince Edward revealed that when he proposed, “I managed to take her completely by surprise, she had no idea it was coming.” He was also pretty thrilled with the ring and told the journalists “If it catches the sun, you’ll all be blinded.” One of our first posts when we launched the blog in 2011 covered Sophie’s engagement ring here.

On that day in January 1999, Prince Edward was 34 to Sophie’s 33 years of age and they had been dating for a solid five years. To answer why the wait was so long, Edward said  “It’s impossible for anyone else to understand why it has taken me this long but I don’t think it would have been right before and I don’t think Sophie would have said yes if I had said before. Hopefully, by the fact that she did say yes, I must have got the timing right.” (source). You can check out a video of the photo call here here.

We went into detail on their chance royal meeting in a previous post. In a nutshell, they met thanks to a charity event that the company Sophie worked for had helped to put on. She first met him at a preliminary meeting in 1992 and then things really got rolling at the event itself when Sophie asked him to play a round of tennis with her. A rather gossipy article with more on that can be found here if you are in the mood for more.

A First Photo, September 1993 (source)

A First Photo, September 1993 (source)

Fun fact: Television presenter Sue Barker was also on the invite list for the event that day, however she was unable to take a promotional photograph with Prince Edward, so Sophie was asked to step in and the results are above. When the couple sat down to a pre-wedding interview a few days before the wedding, Sue was the journalist asked to do the honors.

A good chunk of the interview is included in the footage below. It took place on the grounds of Bagshot Park, the stately home that Prince Edward had begun to lease two years before the engagement (and, really, the house and grounds deserve their own lengthy post so will add that to the list). The interview begins at 27:30 and a detailed transcript can be found here.

It’s been reported that Prince Edward proposed to Sophie while they were on vacation before Christmas. They spoke to their parents over the holidays and made the announcement when everyone was getting back to work in the New Year which gave them some time to decide a few things. For example, they shared with the press that they would like to have a smaller wedding than Edward’s siblings had had and would instead have their wedding ceremony at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor. Both Princess Anne and Prince Andrew had chosen Westminster Abbey for their weddings and Prince Charles of course famously married Lady Diana Spencer at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

They also shared their intention to continue their careers after the wedding instead of taking on full time royal duties. This AP video has some interesting snippets including a quote from Sophie’s business partner saying that “it’s business as usual…the intention always was that we’d sent the company up and after the engagement she’d continue to work.” Interesting that Sophie was that candid in expecting the engagement, right?

Sophie outside her office after her engagement was announced, protection officer in tow. (Getty Images)

Sophie outside her office after her engagement was announced, protection officer in tow. (Getty Images)

A former boyfriend is also interviewed in the video. His soundbite is quite something. He says, “She’s a capable girl and I always think she had her eye on the main chance. I think that although she went out with the likes of me I think that weekends are very much spent in the country homes of Lord This and Lady That and I think that that is what she always felt was the kind of area that she would want to move into…and good luck to her…I think she’ll be a breath of fresh air.” Cue the screech of the record stopping on Lord This and Lady That. Sheesh- she can’t have been too thrilled with that interview!

The wedding went off on June 19, 1999 with just a few small glitches like the sound of airplanes en route to Heathrow drowning out the vows and Edward struggled to get Sophie’s ring on. They will celebrate their 17th wedding anniversary this year and while they did go back to work after the wedding it proved to be too difficult to continue indefinitely what with Edward’s production company ignoring a media ban when William started at St. Andrew’s University and Sophie’s being taken in by a fake sheikh. They announced in December 20o1 that they would be wrapping up their careers in order to focus full time with royal duties and supporting the Queen.

The new Earl and Countess of Wessex (source)

The new Earl and Countess of Wessex (source)

It seems to me that they’ve been fulfilled their promise and are actively involved with a number of charities and interests so it must be mildly frustrating that the press glosses over them for features on more glamorous royals. Sophie is a favorite of mine, she seems quite down to earth and hardworking despite all the crazy around her. What do you think?

PS Here’s a look at the tiaras Sophie has worn so far if you feel like looking at more sparkly things!

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Categories: British Royal Family, Royal Weddings, The Countess of Wessex

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