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Prince Edward Weds Sophie in Chapel of Windsor Castle

June 20, 1999|From Times Wire Services

WINDSOR, England — Prince Edward wed commoner Sophie Rhys-Jones in the regal grandeur of Windsor Castle's ornate chapel Saturday, determined to avoid his siblings' highly publicized stumbles and make his marriage last.

Thousands lined the streets of this small town to celebrate the union of the new Earl of Wessex--the title his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, gave him as a wedding gift--and a radiant Rhys-Jones, hereafter to be known as Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex.

Despite the royal splendor, it was a relatively modern ceremony for a decidedly modern couple.

The early evening service, attended by just 550 family members and friends, was held well away from London's great cathedrals and with no military processions or official representatives from other countries.

Edward, at 35 the queen's youngest child, is a television producer, and his 34-year-old bride is a public relations executive. They dated for almost six years before marrying, and both will continue working.

In an interview broadcast Saturday, the bridegroom said the couple possess the cornerstone of a successful marriage, explaining that "we happen to love each other, which is the most important thing of all."

Their happiness showed during their nuptials, when Edward winked and beamed at his bride and in her broad smile before uttering her vows.

Standing at Edward's side during the ceremony were his "supporters"--the royal equivalent of best man--brothers Prince Charles and Prince Andrew, both of whose marriages famously failed.

Also in St. George's Chapel was his sister, Princess Anne, who divorced her first husband but has been remarried for almost seven years.

The entire British royal family attended, including the queen and her husband, Prince Philip; Queen Mother Elizabeth, the bridegroom's 98-year-old grandmother; and the sons of Charles and the late Princess Diana, Prince William, 16, and Prince Harry, 14.

Andrew's former wife, Sarah Ferguson, was not invited, and Charles' longtime love, Camilla Parker-Bowles, was notably absent.

After the ceremony, the newlyweds took a jubilant ride in an open carriage through the historic heart of Windsor, past cheering, flag-waving crowds, some of whom had camped overnight to secure prime spots.

The bride was elegant in an ivory silk organza paneled coat and corseted, V-neck dress strewn with 325,000 cut-glass and pearl beads, with a train of ivory tulle.

Hours before the wedding, the queen made her son the Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn--not a duke as some had expected.

The title Earl of Wessex has not been used since 1066. Its last holder, King Harold II, was killed at the Battle of Hastings, where he was defeated by William the Conqueror.

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