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New photo of Countess of Wessex to mark 50th birthday

The Countess was born in Oxford and raised in Kent Credit: PA

The Countess of Wessex has been photographed looking relaxed and smiling in a special portrait image released to mark her 50th birthday.

The milestone has been commemorated with the simple black and white picture showing Sophie seated and wearing a white shirt.

The Countess will celebrate her birthday on Tuesday but will not be taking the day off but has two engagements in London with her husband the Earl.

The Countess at Ascot last year Credit: PA

The Countess was born Sophie Rhys-Jones and like the Duchess of Cambridge, hails from a middle-class background.

Her father was a former car salesman and she was brought up in a Kent village near Tunbridge Wells.

She has been a member of the Royal Family for more than 15 years after marrying the Earl at St George's Chapel in Windsor on June 19 1999.

They were brought together by a mutual passion for the ancient sport of real tennis and romance blossomed between Edward, 50, and Sophie, 49, a former public relations woman, who once worked for Capital Radio.

The royal couple on their wedding day Credit: PA

Sophie and Edward later stepped down from their individual careers to become full-time royals.

They now work supporting a range of charities and good causes and bringing up their two children, Lady Louise Windsor, aged 11, and seven-year-old Viscount Severn.

The royal couple with their two children in 2013 Credit: PA

Southampton Uni staff recognised in Honours

Two members of staff from the University of Southampton have been recognised in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.

Cyrus Cooper, Professor of Rheumatology, has been awarded an OBE for services to medical research, and Colin Miles, a Facilities Manager within Physical Sciences and Engineering, has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to higher education.

Cyrus Cooper, Professor of Rheumatology Credit: UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON

Professor Cooper's key research contributions have been the discovery of the developmental influences that contribute to the risk of osteoporosis and hip fracture in late adulthood and vitamin D supplementation in the elderly, as immediate preventative strategies against hip fracture.

Professor Cooper comments: “I’m surprised and delighted to be recognised with this very special honour. I am fortunate to have been involved in working on the causes and prevention of musculoskeletal disorders, a major cause of ill health and disability. Throughout my career I have been privileged to work with outstanding colleagues in both academia and the clinical setting, who are very much part of this achievement."

The University's Vice-Chancellor has praised Colin as an outstanding University manager Credit: UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON

Colin Miles has devoted over 35 years to the University of Southampton as Facilities Manager within Physics and Astronomy at the University.

He provides technical support for teaching and research requirements in the University’s state-of-the-art research labs, and manages technical staff across various disciplines, such as mechanical and electronic workshops, teaching labs, procurement and research group technicians.

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MBE awarded to South West residents in New Year list

Mrs Margaret Carol Ann HANNIBAL - Poole, Dorset, 63 yrs old Director of Operations, MOSAIC. For services to Bereaved Children and their Families in Dorset

She is the founder and manager of MOSAIC, a charity providing support to bereaved children and their families across Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole. She previously worked as an administrator in a hospice for people suffering from cancer, which inspired her to set up MOSAIC.

Hector COLE - Chippenham, Wiltshire, 75 yrs old Master Arrowsmith. For services to Heritage Crafts.

He is the foremost arrowsmith in the UK and is internationally recognised as one of the world's leading authorities on medieval blade-smithing and arrow smithing. During his childhood he spent time with the village blacksmith, learning the basic skills of forging and fire management in the small Lincolnshire village where he grew up.

Dorset residents recognised by Queen in honours list

Among those honoured in today's New Year's Honours list are plenty of people who have contributed to life throughout Dorset.

Isabel de Pelet, founded the Guggleton Farm Acts Project in Stalbridge and has been given a BEM for her services to artists in Dorset.

Hugh Fogarty, from Poole, was been given a MBE for his work with the Royal Lifeboat Institution.

Sue Kirkham, from Lymington, has been given an MBE for services to education.

Dr Simon Fraser, from Poole, has been awarded a Knights Bachelor for his services to chemistry and innovative research.

Colin William George Weston, from Dorchester, has been given an MBE for his services to the police and Magistracy in Dorset.

Helen Knights, from Poole, has been awarded an MBE for his services to Dorset Home Start and to the community.

MBE honours given to residents across South East

LT COL DAVID EDWARD LANGFORD, 69, for services to the community in the Isle of Wight. Since retirement he has thrown himself into community life and event organising on the Isle of Wight. The list of his appointments and service is almost endless; for instance, he is currently a Deputy Lord Lieutenant and he served as the High Sheriff of the Isle of Wight from 2007-08.

MISS KATHERINE MARY POWLEY, 52, (OXFORDSHIRE) County Network Coordinator and Streetworks Manager, Oxfordshire County Council. For services to the community in Oxfordshire.

MRS MARGARET MARY ALFORD, 64, (WEST SUSSEX) For services to the community in Ashington, West Sussex

MRS VIRGINIA ANNE BARNACLE, 52, (EAST SUSSEX) For services to Brighton Sailing Club and Brighton Surf Life Saving Club and to the community in Brighton, East Sussex.

MRS EMMA CALLAN, 30, (KENT) Counsellor, Waymark Counselling Trust and Arcadia Counselling Service. For services to the community in Canterbury and Herne Bay, Kent.

MR MICHAEL DAVID MOGRIDGE,80, (OXFORDSHIRE) Secretary, Oxfordshire Branch, SSAFA. For voluntary service to SSAFA

MRS JEANNE DOROTHY MARY WILDE (HAMPSHIRE) For services to the community in Burley, Hampshire

MR JOHN CHARLES WILLIAMS,86 , (BERKSHIRE) For services to the community in Hungerford, Berkshire

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