Happy Birthday to Sophie, Countess of Wessex! Inside Her Busy Year and Rising Royal Role

Sophie Wessex
Sophie Wessex

Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty

Birthday wishes are in order for Sophie, Countess of Wessex!

The Countess of Wessex turned 58 on Friday, and worked right up until her birthday. On Thursday, she opened a new STEAM lab at Connaught Junior School in Bagshot and visited Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot. A testament to her work ethic, Sophie's latest engagements were her first of 2023 — following a record year for the royal.

Last March, Sophie was announced as the new Colonel-in-Chief of the Corps of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Prince Edward's wife inherited the role from her late father-in-law, Prince Philip, who held the honorary title for over 50 years. Embracing the patronage (one of 70 on her roster), Sophie looked at home in camo when she toured the Defence School of Electronic and Mechanical Engineering and School of Army Aeronautical Engineering a few months later.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex Wears Camo in Visit to Charity That Previously Was Championed by Prince Philip
Sophie, Countess of Wessex Wears Camo in Visit to Charity That Previously Was Championed by Prince Philip

The Royal Family/Twitter Sophie, Countess of Wessex

The spring was a busy time for the royal family with Queen Elizabeth's 96th birthday and record-breaking Platinum Jubilee. In April, Sophie and Prince Edward, 58, traveled to some of the Commonwealth's Caribbean countries for week-long tour to mark the Queen's 70-year reign, but controversy bubbled up during the trip.

A stop in Grenada was canceled at the last minute, and Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, told the royals that his country intended to become a republic in the future, though there were no immediate plans to do so. Browne also urged them to use their "diplomatic influence" to achieve "reparatory justice" for the island country.

Sophie Wessex
Sophie Wessex

Stuart C. Wilson - Pool/Getty

RELATED: Sophie, Countess of Wessex Sparkles in Aquamarine Tiara — That Can Also Be Worn as a Necklace!

Prince William and Kate Middleton also experienced significant backlash during their tour of the Caribbean in March, as the rising tide of social and economic justice movements — including calls for slavery reparations and indigenous rights expansion — are rapidly reshaping contemporary views of the monarchy.

A few weeks later, Sophie had a key seat near the Queen during the "Gallop Through History" event of the Platinum Jubilee. The Queen was famously close with her youngest daughter-in-law, and the Countess of Wessex, Prince Edward and their children — Lady Louise Windsor, 18, and James, Viscount Severn, 14 — supported the sovereign during the epic festivities that continued through June.

Sophie Wessex
Sophie Wessex

Chris Jackson/Getty

Queen Elizabeth's death in September rocked the royal family, and a guest who attended her state funeral at Westminster Abbey exclusively told PEOPLE that Sophie seemed to be a rock for her relatives at the emotional service.

"The Countess of Wessex was incredible. I saw her putting her arm around three or four people," lawyer Pranav Bhanot told PEOPLE of what he saw. "It felt like she was really the glue keeping everyone quite strong today."

"She really seemed to be the person keeping the family together," Bhanot explained. "There were a few bishops who started crying when they saw the Queen and she was kind of comforting them, even though she is the direct family member."

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Camilla, Queen Consort, Prince George of Wales, Catherine, Princess of Wales, Princess Charlotte of Wales and Sophie, Countess of Wessex during the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey on September 19, 2022 in London, England.
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Camilla, Queen Consort, Prince George of Wales, Catherine, Princess of Wales, Princess Charlotte of Wales and Sophie, Countess of Wessex during the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey on September 19, 2022 in London, England.

Karwai Tang/WireImage

RELATED: All About Lady Louise and James, Viscount Severn — Prince Edward and Sophie's Kids

After observing a formal period of mourning with the rest of the royal family, Sophie went straight back to work. In October, she became the first British royal to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The visit focused on addressing the harrowing impact of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict, while supporting survivors. Sophie's trip has been planned for "many months" and came ahead of the International Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative Conference in London in November, which she also attended.

In December, Sophie and Edward had a glittering night out at the Royal Variety Performance at Royal Albert Hall in London, where they represented the royal family as the evening's guests of honor for the first time. King Charles III, Prince William, Kate, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have all gone in the past, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex's presence perhaps signaled the elevated royal role they might have in Charles' reign.

Editorial use only Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jonathan Hordle/ITV/Shutterstock (13645029g) From Lifted Entertainment, part of ITV Studios.THE ROYAL VARIETY PERFORMANCETUESDAY 20TH DECEMBER 2022on ITV1Pictured: Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie, Countess of Wessex arrive at the Royal Albert Hall ahead of the Royal Variety Performance 2022, at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Thursday December 1, 2022.Photographer: Jon HordleMulti award winning comedian and actor Lee Mack is to host The Royal Variety Performance 2022 from the magnificent Royal Albert Hall in London. The event will be held in the presence of The Earl and Countess of Wessex. In honour of Queen Elizabeth II long association with The Royal Variety Performance there will be a unique celebration as world-renowned composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, award-winning Gary Barlow and Gareth Malone accompanied by members of the London Youth Choir, perform a very special version of 'Sing'. The evening will be a spectacular celebration featuring exceptional performers, world class theatre, outstanding singers and hilarious British comedy. Stars lined up to appear are Disco Soul R&B sensations Nile Rodgers & Chic, Brit Award winner George Ezra, multi award-winner Ellie Goulding, Eurovision star and singer Sam Ryder, and powerhouse pop star Becky Hill. After winning a record-breaking seven Olivier Awards, the dazzling cast of the musical Cabaret take to the stage with an exclusive performance. Plus, Disney's Newsies perform a sensational extract from their Tony award-winning musical, which opens in London later this month. Returning to the RVP stage with a death-defying display from their latest show Kurios are Cirque Du Soleil. Hollywood star Rita Wilson and Grammy Award winner Gregory Porterwill perform a stunning duet, plus Frank Skinner, David Baddiel and The Lightning Seeds entertain the audience with a very special rendition of their hit 'Three Lions'. The evening will also feature magic from the phenome...
Editorial use only Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jonathan Hordle/ITV/Shutterstock (13645029g) From Lifted Entertainment, part of ITV Studios.THE ROYAL VARIETY PERFORMANCETUESDAY 20TH DECEMBER 2022on ITV1Pictured: Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie, Countess of Wessex arrive at the Royal Albert Hall ahead of the Royal Variety Performance 2022, at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Thursday December 1, 2022.Photographer: Jon HordleMulti award winning comedian and actor Lee Mack is to host The Royal Variety Performance 2022 from the magnificent Royal Albert Hall in London. The event will be held in the presence of The Earl and Countess of Wessex. In honour of Queen Elizabeth II long association with The Royal Variety Performance there will be a unique celebration as world-renowned composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, award-winning Gary Barlow and Gareth Malone accompanied by members of the London Youth Choir, perform a very special version of 'Sing'. The evening will be a spectacular celebration featuring exceptional performers, world class theatre, outstanding singers and hilarious British comedy. Stars lined up to appear are Disco Soul R&B sensations Nile Rodgers & Chic, Brit Award winner George Ezra, multi award-winner Ellie Goulding, Eurovision star and singer Sam Ryder, and powerhouse pop star Becky Hill. After winning a record-breaking seven Olivier Awards, the dazzling cast of the musical Cabaret take to the stage with an exclusive performance. Plus, Disney's Newsies perform a sensational extract from their Tony award-winning musical, which opens in London later this month. Returning to the RVP stage with a death-defying display from their latest show Kurios are Cirque Du Soleil. Hollywood star Rita Wilson and Grammy Award winner Gregory Porterwill perform a stunning duet, plus Frank Skinner, David Baddiel and The Lightning Seeds entertain the audience with a very special rendition of their hit 'Three Lions'. The evening will also feature magic from the phenome...

Jonathan Hordle/ITV/Shutterstock Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex

Can't get enough of PEOPLE's Royals coverage? Sign up for our free Royals newsletter to get the latest updates on Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and more!

The Royal Variety Performance fell amid King Charles' petition to have his youngest brother and their sister Princess Anne become Counsellors of State. These royal representatives can stand in for the monarch in official duties if he is abroad or unwell. The update came as current Counsellors of State Prince Harry and Prince Andrew cannot be called upon, as they are no longer working members of the royal family.

Just a few days later, the Counsellors of State Bill received royal assent in Parliament, making Edward and Anne Counsellors of State for Charles for life.