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If you haven't already heard of Sophie, Countess of Wessex yet, you will very soon. She's the wife of the Queen's youngest son Prince Edward, and is even rumoured to be one of Her Majesty's 'favourite' family members. According to reports, the Queen leant on Sophie when she lost Prince Phillip, her husband of 70 years, in April this year.
Royal expert Duncan Larcombe told The Sun at the time: “Sophie Wessex has emerged as the Queen’s unlikely 'rock' as the monarch adjusts to life without Prince Philip. Prince Edward’s wife has – according to sources – made it her personal mission to ensure Her Majesty is fully supported by the family.”
Sophie (née Rhys-Jones) - who is regarded by the royals as a 'safe pair of hands' - has also played more of a crucial role in the family ever since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle swapped their royal duties for a life in LA, and has given a few rare interviews of late.
Now that it seems we're going to see a lot more of her, here's everything you need to know about Sophie Wessex...
She has many responsibilities...
As a full-time working member of the royal family, Sophie splits her time between supporting the Queen and visiting charities and organisations, 70 of which she is Patron of. Sophie's work is focused on the disabled community and children's charities, including NSPCC and Childline. Most recently, Sophie received a Guide Dogs patronage from the Queen's cousin Princess Alexandra, who had held the role for 60 years.
Sophie is also patron of London College of Fashion, where she champions the college's commitment to 'Better Lives': where fashion is used to drive change, build a sustainable future and improve wellbeing.
In 2019, Sophie pledged her support in favour of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda and the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI), which tackles the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls. Last year, Sophie fearlessly travelled to South Sudan to campaign against sexual violence in conflict.
Her children have a 'normal' upbringing...
Although her and Prince Edward's daughter, Lady Louise Windsor, 16, and son, James, Viscount Severn, 12, are 12th and 13th line to the throne respectively, they will both have to work to make their own way in the world. Sophie has said previously that she hopes her children, who do not use HRH titles, will go to university.
She used to be a successful PR businesswoman...
Like Meghan Markle, Sophie had carved out a successful career prior to becoming a full-time working royal in 2001; she worked for a variety of firms, including Capital Radio, where she was employed for four years, as well as PR companies The Quentin Bell Organisation and MacLaurin Communications & Media. She also founded her own PR company RJH Public Relations which she ran with Murray Harkin for five years.
On her transition from businesswoman to a full-time royal, Sophie told The Sunday Times: "Certainly it took me a while to find my feet. The frustration was I had to reduce my expectations of what I could actually do. I had to take a really big step back and go, OK, they want you to be the icing on the cake, the person to come in to thank their volunteers and funders, not necessarily to tell them how to run their communications plan."
Over 200 million people watched her marry Prince Edward
No biggie then! The Wessexes have now been married for 21 years after tying the knot at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle back on the 19 June 1999 (they met at a tennis match six years prior). Sophie's wedding dress was a silk organza number by Samantha Shaw, featuring 325,000 crystals and pearls. She was also loaned the Anthemion tiara from the Queen's personal jewellery collection.
She's had her fair share of drama...
Many members of the royal family, especially Meghan and Harry, have been vocal about press intrusion. Sophie has also been victim to the unyielding tabloids; just a month before her 1999 wedding, The Sun published topless photos of her.
On top of that, in 2001, according to the Daily Beast, Sophie was secretly taped by the News of the World, where she mocked Tony Blair and called the Queen "old dear". Buckingham Palace responded by saying the stories were "wholesale inaccuracies" and suggested that "no serious journalist gives this story the time of day".
Sophie struck up a firm friendship with Meghan Markle
It's no wonder that the pair were close as they share many similarities: as well as both having careers before joining the royal family, Sophie and Meghan are from middle-class families. (Sophie's mother is a secretary and her father is a sales director for a tyre company.)
According to royal reporter Katie Nicholl, who spoke to Grazia, Sophie was "earmarked as a royal mentor for Meghan by the Queen". The pair spent time together at Royal Ascot one year and were neighbours when Harry and Meghan lived at Frogmore Cottage, which is 10 miles apart from Sophie's home Bagshot Park.
She has her own separate ties to royalty
It's reported that the Countess of Wessex is a descendant of King Henry IV of England, ruler of England from 1399 to 1413, and also has Welsh and Scottish ancestry.
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