About The Duchess of Edinburgh
A full-time working member of the Royal Family, The Duchess of Edinburgh splits her time between her work on behalf of The King across the UK and Commonwealth and support for a large number of her own charities and organisations.
Much of the day-to-day working life of The Duchess of Edinburgh is dedicated to her role as Patron of over 70 charities and organisations. Each year, Her Royal Highness undertakes hundreds of visits to schools, hospitals, military bases, charities and community groups to see their work first-hand and to highlight it to the wider world.
The Duchess’s Patronages reflect her wide range of interests which include supporting young people and children in need of additional care, supporting people with disabilities, the elimination of avoidable blindness and championing the sight loss community, as well as agriculture and gender equality. Over the past years, Her Royal Highness has also committed to raising awareness for the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls, and the positive role women play in building peace.
Equality for Women
Her Royal Highness concentrates much of her work on supporting women and championing gender equality, be it in the workplace or in other areas of society, both in the UK and overseas.
Women in the Workplace
The Duchess advocates for gender equality and inclusion in the workplace through her involvement with 100 Women in Finance, the Women’s Network Forum and The Duke of Edinburgh Award’s Women in Business Committee.
In May 2021, Her Royal Highness became Patron of Wellbeing of Women, the women's health charity dedicated to saving and changing the lives of women, girls and babies. Led by women's voices, Wellbeing of Women improves health and wellbeing across a woman's life course through research, education and advocacy. The Duchess attended a virtual roundtable discussion held to launch the charity’s Menopause Workplace Pledge, to mark World Menopause Awareness Month, in October 2021.
Women, Peace and Security and Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict
The Duchess of Edinburgh also devotes her time to supporting the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda and the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI). The Women, Peace and Security agenda is a United Nations initiative which recognises not only the impact of conflict on women and girls, but also the positive role women play in conflict resolution and building peace. The agenda promotes the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in peace processes and politics.
The PSVI is a UK Government-led initiative that raises awareness of how conflict related sexual violence is used as a weapon of war. This violence disproportionately affects women and girls, but also impacts men and boys around the world. The initiative seeks to galvanise the world into further action to tackle sexual violence in conflict by promoting prevention, strengthening justice and accountability, and supporting all survivors and children born of conflict related sexual violence.
The Duchess of Edinburgh announced her commitment to champion both WPS and PSVI on International Women’s Day in 2019. Her Royal Highness has since continued to draw attention to the work undertaken by women peacebuilders, and the experiences of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and children born of rape in conflict affected countries. The Duchess has visited a number of countries to highlight historical and ongoing issues, including Kosovo, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Her Royal Highness maintains regular links with various Civil Society Organisations.
To find out more about The Duchess’s support to PSVI and WPS, visit: The Duchess of Edinburgh’s work to support women in conflict around the world | The Royal Family
The Duchess of Edinburgh is passionate about eliminating avoidable blindness. As Global Ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), The Duchess supports organisations with the right knowledge, experience and funding to make sight a reality for as many people as possible around the world. As Vice Patron of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust from 2012 to 2020, and with the charity Orbis, The Duchess has visited India, Qatar, Malawi and Bangladesh to see projects that are tackling avoidable blindness. In 2022, Her Royal Highness returned to Malawi to celebrate the elimination of blinding Trachoma in the country, and to see the lasting impact of the Trust.
Her Royal Highness has met eye-health professionals working on-the-ground in communities across the Commonwealth, and The Duchess continues to draw attention to the inspiring work being done internationally. The Duchess of Edinburgh also supports remarkable eye care charities across the UK who work with the blind and partially sighted people to ensure they have every opportunity to lead a full and engaging life, including the Vision Foundation and Blind Veterans UK.
To mark World Sight Day in October 2020, The Duchess joined Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth on a video call with eye health professionals from Sierra Leone, Australia and India, to discuss how their work has helped to restore sight and save vision across the Commonwealth.
The Duchess of Edinburgh succeeded Princess Alexandra as Patron of Guide Dogs, in July 2021. The Duchess joined Princess Alexandra, who served as Patron for more than sixty years, to officially open the new Guide Dogs South West regional centre in Bristol to mark the patronage handover. In November, The Duchess visited the Guide Dogs National Centre in Warwickshire to present the Princess Alexandra Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Supporting people with disabilities
The Duchess of Edinburgh is committed to supporting people with disabilities, championing both local organisations such as Disability Initiative in Surrey, and national charities including the Treloar Trust and Mencap.
Mencap was the official charity partner of the London Marathon in 2020. As their Patron since 2004, Her Royal Highness joined Mencap team runner Tomas Cardiollo-Zallo for the first 1.5 miles of his marathon, to represent and raise awareness of the 1.5 million people living in the UK with a learning disability.
The Duchess is also Patron of British Wheelchair Basketball, supporting the initiative in local communities and at an international level. Last year, Her Royal Highness presented the sport’s first ever Commonwealth Games medals at the Birmingham 2022 Games.
The Duchess enthusiastically supports a collection of the UK’s national teams and sports bodies as Patron, including England Hockey, the British Bobsleigh & Skeleton Association, the British Cycling Federation, and the UK Armed Forces Winter Sports Association.
Her Royal Highness, joined by The Earl and their children, celebrated the England Hockey Women’s success at the Commonwealth Games in the summer of 2022.
Young people and children
The Duchess is a strong advocate for young people and recognises the importance of creating opportunities to enable them to reach their full potential. As Patron of the NSPCC, and of Childline, The Duchess is committed to supporting vulnerable children, and raising awareness of the dangers they face in their every day lives, both in person, and online.
In 2021, Her Royal Highness addressed Members of the European Parliament in Brussels, to highlight the scale and severity of online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, and the global nature of the issue. During her visit, The Duchess met policy makers and charities who are working together to keep children safe across Europe, and beyond.
Her Royal Highness has been the President of Girl Guiding UK since 2003, visiting branches across the country every year. In 2020, The Duchess took part in the BBC Children in Need’s ‘Act Your Age’ challenge, baking 55 cheese and bacon scones to encourage fundraising efforts.
Her Royal Highness is also Patron of Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, which supports young people, children and babies with life-limiting conditions, as well as their families.
Food and Farming
The Duchess of Edinburgh is passionate about the contribution that food producers make to our national life and dedicates much of her time to championing opportunities for young people to forge a career in the British food industry.
As Patron of The Addington Fund, Her Royal Highness visited the Smerrill Dairy Farm in January 2023 to meet farmers from across Gloucestershire and hear about the day-to-day challenges they face to produce great British produce.
The Duchess works as Honorary President of LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) to support sustainable food production and engage young people with where our food comes from.
Her Royal Highness regularly visits agricultural shows across the country as Patron of the Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations (ASAO) – the representative body for the UK's many agricultural, horticultural, equine and countryside events. In September 2021, The Duchess joined The Princess Royal at the Westmorland County Show.
The Duchess of Edinburgh has been pleased to support Thames Valley Air Ambulance (TVAA) for many years, having personally experienced their vital care in 2001. In January 2019, Her Royal Highness became Patron of the charity and joined a TVAA crew video call in April 2020 to thank the paramedics and doctors for redeploying in support of their NHS frontline colleagues during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Duchess paid a visit to TVAA at White Waltham Airfield, Maidenhead, to help launch their 21st anniversary celebrations ahead of National Air Ambulance Week, in September 2020.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Duchess of Edinburgh volunteered with a number of local organisations to contribute to community efforts to help those in need, joining the efforts of volunteers at foodbanks and providing catering and care packages for NHS workers.
In February 2021, Her Royal Highness also began regular shifts as a St John Ambulance Care Volunteer at a vaccination centre in Greater London. The Duchess joined the dedicated team of over 10,000 volunteers who were trained and deployed across the country to bolster the UK’s coronavirus vaccination effort. Her Royal Highness has been Grand President of St John Ambulance since 2004.
Her Royal Highness has developed strong links with the Armed Forces through her honorary military appointments.
In 2007, The Duchess became Royal Colonel of 5th Battalion The Rifles following the reorganisation of the Infantry. Her Royal Highness stays in regular contact with the Battalion and has visited them on several occasions while on operational duties, including in Afghanistan in 2011 and Germany in 2016.
In 2006, Her Royal Highness was appointed Sponsor of HMS Daring and, in 2008, Honorary Air Commodore of Royal Air Force Wittering. Every year, The Duchess attends The Duchess of Edinburgh Cup, an annual competition in which Her Royal Highness’s honorary military appointments compete against each other in a series of challenges, fostering cooperation between the regiments.
The Duchess of Edinburgh is also Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Corps of Army Music and Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps and meets service personnel and their families whenever possible. In 2015, Her Royal Highness invited medical staff from the QARANC to Buckingham Palace to thank them for their work in response to the Ebola epidemic. In December 2020, The Duchess presented the Corps of Army Music with their new Royal title at their headquarters in Kneller Hall, Twickenham.
In 2022, The Duchess became the new Colonel-in Chief of the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), taking on role held by The Duke of Edinburgh for over 50 years.
The Duchess holds two military positions in Canada: Colonel in-Chief of The South Alberta Light Horse and Colonel-in-Chief of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment.
The Duchess of Edinburgh was born Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones on 20th January 1965 in Oxford.
Her Royal Highness is the second child and first daughter of Christopher Bournes Rhys-Jones and the late Mary Rhys-Jones. She has an elder brother, David.
Miss Rhys-Jones’s family moved to Kent when she was still young. She began her education at Dulwich College Preparatory School in Cranbrook and attended Kent College School for Girls, Pembury, before completing her education at West Kent College.
After leaving school, Miss Rhys-Jones embarked on a career in public relations, working for a variety of firms, before opening her own public relations agency which she co-ran for five years.
Miss Rhys-Jones met Prince Edward at a real tennis event in the summer of 1993.
The couple announced their engagement in January 1999, and the wedding ceremony took place at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, on 19th June 1999.
On the day of the wedding, it was announced that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth had conferred the titles of The Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn upon Prince Edward. Upon her marriage, Miss Rhys-Jones became known as Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex. On 10 March 2023 - Prince Edward's 59th birthday - it was announced that The King had conferred the Dukedom of Edinburgh on his brother, with Her Royal Highness becoming The Duchess of Edinburgh.
Their Royal Highnesses have two children; Lady Louise, who was born on 8th November 2003, and The Earl of Wessex (previously James, Viscount Severn), who was born on 17th December 2007.
Supporting the Monarch
The Duchess of Edinburgh supports The Kings in his role as Head of State, as she did during the reign of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth. The Duchess represents His Majesty at events in the UK and abroad, as well as attending state and ceremonial occasions alongside other members of the Royal Family.
Charities and Patronages
Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association (DEBRA)Website: www.debra.org.uk
Charity working on behalf of people who have the genetic skin blistering condition Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). DebRa provides a team of nurses and social care staff to work directly with people affected by EB and commissions world-leading reasearch into the condition with the aim of finding effective treatments and, ultimately, a cure for EB.Region: UK-wideMembers of the Royal Family:The Countess of Wessex, Patron
England HockeyWebsite: www.englandhockey.co.uk
Representative body for the sport of hockey in England.Region: UK (England)Members of the Royal Family:The Countess of Wessex, Patron
Foundation of Light (formerly Sunderland AFC Foundation)Website: www.foundationoflight.co.uk
Develops educational and community programmes in northern England, based around football.Region: UK (England)Members of the Royal Family:The Countess of Wessex, Patron
Friends of Bedgebury National PinetumWebsite: www.bedgeburypinetum.org.uk
Collection of conifer trees, located in Kent.Region: UK (England)Members of the Royal Family:The Countess of Wessex, Patron
Friends of Southwark CathedralWebsite: www.southwark.anglican.org
Fundraisers working to conserve the ancient cathedral in Southwark, London.Region: UK (England)Members of the Royal Family:The Countess of Wessex, Patron
Friends of the Royal London HospitalWebsite: www.bartsandthelondon.org.uk
Supports the work of the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, London.Region: UK (England)Members of the Royal Family:The Countess of Wessex, Patron
Movement offering girls and young women challenges and skills development opportunities.Region: UK-wideMembers of the Royal Family:Her Majesty The Queen, Patron
The Countess of Wessex, President
Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, TheWebsite: www.guidedogs.org.uk
Charity providing dogs and mobility services to the visually impaired.Region: UK-wideMembers of the Royal Family:The Countess of Wessex, Patron
Halle Concerts SocietyWebsite: www.halle.co.uk
Britain's longest-established symphony orchestra, based at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.Region: UK-wideMembers of the Royal Family:The Countess of Wessex, Patron
HMS DARINGWebsite: platinumjubilee.royal.uk
Ship in the Royal Navy.Region: UK-wideMembers of the Royal Family:The Countess of Wessex, Sponsor