LONDON--The House of Windsor appears desperate toget it right this time. Prince Edward and his girlfriend, Sophie Rhys-Jones, could be heading for the altar this year, and the royals want to make sure the marriage lasts--especially since the Queen's other three children are either divorced or separated. So the family has taken Rhys-Jones into the fold like no previous royal significant other to enable her to adjust to Life With the Windsors. She spends most nights at Buckingham Palace, arising early each morning to avoid the paparazzi and returning to her apartment in west London. On weekends she rides in the royal Daimler with the Queen and Prince Philip to Sunday services at Windsor, or is invited for shoots at Sandringham. Rhys-Jones is also adopting a higher public profile, recently making the news for helping to organize a charity event for Mother and Baby Week. The Queen has even invited Rhys-Jones's parents, Christopher and Mary, to Sandringham. Rhys-Jones's father is a sales representative for a tire company, her mother a freelance typist. They live in a farmhouse in Brenchley, Kent, and have a son, David, who recently lost his job with a frozen-food import firm. According to one account in the British press, Rhys-Jones is generally seen by the royals as "easy, uncomplicated and intelligent." Their only concern is about her job, which is with the London public relations company MCM. To show her willingness to fit the royal mold, Rhys-Jones has cut her hours at MCM to four days from five and said she's willing to increase her work for the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, which Prince Edward now heads. Ironically, it was on her first big PR job--organizing a celebrity tennis tournament in August 1993--that Rhys-Jones met the Prince. So far, Rhys-Jones hasn't undergone a Royal Makeover as extensive as her predecessors Diana Spencer and Sarah Ferguson. But her cropped blonde hair, lopsided smile and Sloane Ranger style bear a remarkable resemblance to the young Princess of Wales. The royal hope is that the resemblance doesn't extend to temperament. The 31-year-old Prince Edward and Rhys-Jones, 30, are said to share similar interests in show business and outdoor sports, as well as a growing circle of friends--including television producer Alistair Bruce; Mary Montagu, daughter of Lord Montagu, and cricketer Jonathan Howell and his wife, Julie. It's been a long courtship in royal terms and the speculation is growing that the couple could become engaged early this summer with a quiet wedding in the fall. But Prince Edward is said to be painfully aware of the failures of his older siblings' marriages. He is reportedly in no rush.
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