Duchess Sophie shares rare insight into 'sad and emotional' royal first

Duchess Sophie staring at the British Cycling National Track Championships 2024

Sophie, The Duchess of Edinburgh is opening up about her secret trip to Ukraine. Penning a first-person account in The Sunday Times, the royal detailed her arrival in Kyiv, which took place at the end of April.

Explaining that her trip came "at the request of the British government," Duchess Sophie arrived in the Capital after it emerged that there had been an "estimated 169 cases of conflict-related sexual violence in Ukraine." Sophie, 59, is the first British royal to visit Ukraine since the start of the war.

Duchess Sophie at London College of Fashion
Duchess Sophie has reflected on her "sad and emotional" trip to Ukraine (Getty)

Aiming to shed light on the devastating consequences of conflict-related sexual violence, Sophie's time in Ukraine included a visit to a UN survivor relief centre, followed by a meeting with Ukraine's first lady, Olena Zelenska, and President Zelensky.

"He [President Zelensky] also inquired after the King's health, which gave me the opportunity to hand him a letter from His Majesty," recalled the wife of Prince Edward. "I think he was quite touched and said he would save it for a private moment later to read."

Among her other stops, Duchess Sophie travelled to Kyiv's St Sophia Cathedral, the suburbs of Bucha and Irpin, and the British ambassador's residence, before heading to Warsaw on her return trip home.

Duchess of Edinbugh wearing green coat and tan bag at Katherine Low Settlement
During her trip, the Duchess met with President Zelensky and delivered a letter from King Charles (Getty)

"Since returning to the UK, many people have said how brave or courageous I was for going. I am neither," states the mum-of-two.

"The brave people are those who have endured extreme violence and survived. The courageous are those who have reported the crimes committed against them. I am glad to have made the journey. Inevitably it was sad and emotional, and the painful stories and images, as with all my visits to places of conflict, will live with me."

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On International Women's Day in 2019, Sophie publicly announced her commitment to champion the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda and the UK's Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI), at a reception for Women Peacebuilders at Buckingham Palace.

At the time, she said: "As someone who firmly believes in the equality of men and women, I feel drawn to your cause and to do what I can to help raise further awareness of your work.

The Duchess Of Edinburgh Visits Salisbury
Sophie is a champion the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda and the UK's Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) (Getty)

"To help give voice to women and girls who are being denied their fundamental rights as humans and are being subjected to harm and violence as a result of conflict, to promote those who seek to play a part in finding peace, and to support others as they attempt to rebuild their lives.

"Therefore I am publicly committing myself to doing what I can to champion and support WPS and PSVI and make this a central pillar of my work in the coming months and years."