The Countess of Wessex (née Sophie Rhys-Jones) celebrated her 50th birthday yesterday. In honour of this milestone event, we are going to look back at her royal life through her hats.
Sophie’s bold and daring hat style dates from the time she joined the British royal family in 1999. During the first three years of her royal life, Sophie’s hats made strong statements- the crowns were tall, the shapes were exaggerated and the embellishments were not held back.
At a wedding, May 1999; Trooping the Colour, June 14, 1999; Christmas 1999
Easter 2000; Trooping the Colour, 2000; Ascot, June 2000, October 2000;
Ascot, June 2001; Trooping the Colour, June 2002; Easter 2003; Ascot June 2004
By 2003, Sophie had established a strong relationship with Irish milliner Philip Treacy. For the next seven years, her hats were primarily Treacy designs and this partnership saw Sophie push the boundaries of her millinery style with more dramatic shapes and gigantic embellishments. It was during this time that she cemented herself as a major player in the world of royal hats.
Ascot 2005 &2003; wedding of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, April 2005; Ascot, June 2005
Christmas 2005; July 2005; January 1, 2006; Ascot, June 2006
Easter 2006; November 19, 2007; Ascot, June 2007
Ascot 2008; Easter 2008; October 9, 2009
Trooping the Colour, June 2011; Ascot, June 13 and 14, 2011
In 2008, the Countess of Wessex wore a navy straw pillbox hat by Rachel Trevor Morgan to church on Christmas Day. This hat was a significant departure in style from the hats she had worn the previous decade and marked the beginning of a style change. This change in millinery style continued over the next two years with Sophie wearing several more Morgan designs.
Christmas 2008; February 24, 2009; Ascot, June 2009; Christmas 2009; Ascot, June 2010
In late 2010, the Countess of Wessex began working with British milliner Jane Taylor and this partnership has yielded most memorable results. While Sophie’s hat style in this new era has remained strong and very dramatic (and continued experimentation with different hat shapes), there is now an underlying confidence with which she carries these hats. It seems that with Jane Taylor, Sophie has hit her hat-wearing stride.
At Prince William’s wedding, April 29, 2011; June 2012; July 30, 2011
March 12, 2012; The Epsom Derby, June 2012; Ascot, June 2012;
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Luxembourg Royal Wedding, October 2012; Easter 2013; Trooping the Colour, June 2013; Ascot June 18, 2013
June19, 2013; June 4, 2013; June 18, 2014
Ascot June 19, 2014; Remembrance Day 2014; Christmas 2014
It’s no surprise that the Countess of Wessex was one of your top picks for best overall royal hat style in 2014. What is it about her millinery style that you love most? Which hat would you most like to see Sophie repeat this year?
Photos from Antony Jones/UK Press, Tim Graham, Tim Graham, Tim Graham, Tim Graham, Tim Graham, Tim Graham, UK Press, Tim Graham, Mark Cuthbert, Mark Cuthbert, Anwar Hussein, Justin Goff, WireImage, Chris Jackson, WireImage, Tim Graham, Anwar Hussein, WireImage, Tim Graham, Justin Goff, Tim Graham, AFP, WireImage, WPA Pool, Max Mumby/Indigo, Chris Jackson, Max Mumby/Indigo, Mark Cuthbert, Chris Jackson, Max Mumby/Indigo, Max Nash, Mas Mumby/Indigo, Chris Jackson, Mark Cuthbert, Chris Jackson, AFP/Stringer, AFP, Max Mumby/Indigo, Sean Gallup, Mark Cuthbert, Mark Cuthbert, Samir Hussein, Samir Hussein, Mark Cuthbert, Max Mumby/Indigo, Chris Jackson and Mark Cuthbert via Getty and ADavidson/GoffPhotos.com/Splash News/Corbis via Corbis
The hat worn at Monaco wedding 2011 was a JaneTaylor hat not a Phillip Treacy hat
Yes, Sophie wore a Jane Taylor hat to the Monaco royal wedding on July 2, 2011 but it was this one, not any of the ones shown above
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I would loan the Countess’s entire wardrobe of hats with only a few exceptions. Keep up the good work in 2015 Your Royal Highness!
I have to commend HatQueen on compiling this enormous collage of HRH the Countess of Wessex’s hats. I had forgotten how many she has worn! Most of the time she gets it right and she seems to be able to pull off some hard ones, like that vertical Treacy hat. I hope she has a Happy Birthday and many more to come. I can hardly wait for Ascot this year!
Such bold choices! I like most of them.
I didn’t realize how dramatic Sophie’s early hats were. I understand your comment about the confidence she has with her Jane Taylor hats now but I think she always looked very confident. I don’t like all of her early hats but she certainly was brave!
There aren’t many walks of life in which hat-wearing forms a noticeable part. The thing I appreciate most about Sophie is that she embraces this aspect of her role with evident relish! Some of her hats have been, shall we say, on the exuberant side of lively, but even the less successful ones have a panache that is hard not to admire. Without her having the dash to go for something exciting, it’s true we wouldn’t have the tall crowned ones that perhaps don’t do a lot for her, but we also wouldn’t have all the exciting, elegant and comment-worthy ones either. (And besides, unlike one or two other adventurous royal hat wearers, she rarely has an absolute disaster!) Sophie isn’t as consistent as other consummate hat wearers such as The Queen, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge, but partly for that reason she is generally much more interesting.
I smile when I remember her early days. There were some glaringly awful ensembles topped with truly amazing but awful hats. She loved hats and I watched her from then on. She went through her mumsy stage and the bang, she hit the big 4.0.! And OMG Sophie had arrived. Instead of fading a couple of decades behind Anne, here was this terrific, gorgeous woman with ensembles to die for and hats you’d kill for!
Sophie is an absolute marvel. She is the quintessential royal, a wonderful helpmate for her adoring hubby, a loving and very protective mother, a strong solo royal act and a magnificent example of how to approach life. Because here she is at 50 and numbers certainly don’t mean a thing (unless you’re fudging the number on the account for your newest glorious confection). I think this is probably one of my most favourite Sophie “looks”.
Well said! This is my all time favorite hat for Sophie. Remember the photos of her in profile on the day? Stunning!
The Countess looks fabulous in so many of these, including the early years! She wears them with confidence. I hope her style doesn’t turn to small hats or fascinators; I love BIG royal hats!
Happy birthday, Sophie!
My family and I want to wish the Countess of Wessex Happy 50th Birthday and to thank her for all the joy we have had from seeing her including her huge collection of hats. We voted for her as one of our best hat wearers in 2014 in the recent polls on this website. As Lucia commented: She suits hats. Hats suit her.
That, to paraphrase, is a LOT of hat!
God Bless the Countess of Wessex. It is quite amazing to see these images (and hats) all collected together. As Lucia says, “She suits hats. Hats suit her” — Brilliant!
MrFitzroy is quite overwhelmed to see this decade and a half of millinery fabulousness all assembled in this amazing retrospective. (HatQueen, you are a true treasure to do this work.)
With such an archive, certainly there are going to be a lot of hits, and a few misses….but what comes through most strongly is Sophie’s personality and style. At times she channels hat themes of other members of the royal family — HM, DofCornwall, Princess Beatrice (the wacky years), Princess Michael (without the haughty willfulness) — but in each of these examples she owns the look, she clearly has confidence and wears each hat with aplomb.
What is most striking to MrFitzroy is that so many of these hats would look absolutely wrong (if not ridiculous) on any other head but Sophie’s — and that is her most precious gift, that she wears the hat….the hat doesn’t wear her.
Sophie is one of my favorite royals. I appreciate what she does as a member of the BRF and it has been fun to watch her style evolve. Someone mentioned she seemed to follow the lead of the senior royals early on, and this appears to have been the case.
Her early hats with the high crowns and loaded with embellishments are my least favorite, but from about 2010, she has been a treat to watch. She must have a great deal of confidence to wear some of the hats she has carried off over the years. Good for her
My favorite hat and overall outfit ‘look’ of the Countess’ is the grey gorgeousness she wore to the Monaco Royal Wedding in 2011. She rocked that stylish look!
Ah yes- this vertical Philip Treacy hat. It was spectacular!
This is an amazing hat. I wonder how it stays on.
Many of the photos look distorted or vertically stretched.
Favorite: Trooping of the Colours 2000 (elegant and classy)
Least Favorite: Ascot 2008 (metal shop/super glue)
Jimbo- is this fixed now?
Great job! I guess July 2005 IS stretched a bit, but who cares? It’s still beautiful. I’m envious of all of you readers who get such wonderful eye candy so often. We get the Kentucky Derby and an occasional wedding! BTW, it has been said that the longest sentence in the English language is “I do.”
I’ve double checked- the hat in July 2005 was actually that proportion (with such a tall peak)!
Sophie looks lovely in all of these. The only one I think that doesn’t suit her as well as the others is the exaggerated crown of Ascot 2001 (though I love the suit!) and the similar one worn to the POW/DOC wedding. My favorites are Trooping Color 2000, October 2000, July 2005 and Trooping 2011 and the Easter peacock hat. I would adore seeing the pink one from Trooping 2011 again, that is a fabulous hat on Sophie and the shape really suits her and the embellishments were very well balanced.
I’d like to see Sophie wear the grey, broad-brimmed hat she wore in August 2013. I appreciate how Sophie has tried many styles, and her earlier appearances reflect her looking around and copying what senior royals wore. She has slowly found her style with hats that are more flattering to her, whilst being edgy.
When the Countess of Wessex joined the British royal family in 1999, I always felt she was trying to copy Diana, Princess of Wales, and to outdo her. In her first three years of royal life, I thought her hats were too overdone, with too much trim, and the tall crowns didn’t suit her, and she wasn’t tall enough to carry off such hats. I think she gradually found her way, and I do like most of her later hats. If I was to closet raid a Royal hat collection, I would take the Countess of Wessex’s hat collection, but not any of the early hats. Her hat styles have good variety, the conservative yet eye-catching designs and they are more suited to everyday life than the more big gun hats than the Royals like Queen Maxima wears. The hats from Ascot, June 18 and 19, 2014 were my favorites of hers for 2014.
She suits hats. Hats suit her. She looks so comfortable in them, so confident. Sophie without a hat, she would look naked.