May 19, 1999 12:00 AM

The world loves a love story, as proved by the coverage of the royal engagement of Prince Edward and his girlfriend of five years, Sophie Rhys-Jones. Even those die-hard cynics in the British press were drooling over the latest romance in the divorce-prone Windsor family. “Royal Sensation. They’re happy, madly in love, and it might just last!,” the Mirror tabloid declared in Thursday’s editions. “Will it be fourth time lucky? Why this time I’m sure the marriage will work,” wrote a columnist in a 12-page souvenir pullout in the Daily Mail. The blonde, svelte Rhys-Jones — who reportedly replied, “Yes, yes please,” to Edward’s proposal — posed for the customary press photographs with her fiance, the queen’s youngest son, after Buckingham Palace made the formal announcement Wednesday. With her arm wrapped through his, Rhys-Jones regularly threw back her head in laughter as the two answered media questions and showed off an engagement ring featuring a two-carat diamond flanked by two smaller heart-shaped ones.

  • Royal Fiancee Sophie Rhys-Jones is the product of a typical middle-class English home. Her father, Christopher, is a tire salesman and her mother, Mary, a typist. They raised Sophie and her brother, David, in the quiet village of Brenchley, southeast of London. Rhys-Jones, 33, attended Kent College, a private school where she had a good, but not outstanding, academic record. Later, she attended secretarial college and worked for a while in an office before beginning a public relations career with a company offering skiing holidays. Two years ago she set up R-JH Public Relations in London’s ritzy Mayfair with partner Murray Harkin. They charge up to $16,000 for organizing an event and have handled the public relations for some royal events. She plans to keep working after the wedding.

  • She met Prince Edward at the Queen’s Tennis Club in London in 1993, and they began dating soon afterward. She has spent weekends and holidays with him at Queen Elizabeth’s homes at Balmoral in Scotland and Sandringham. She enjoys sports, particularly sailing, skiing and windsurfing.

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