Sophie, Countess of Wessex: Everything you need to know

Naomi Gordon
Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images

From Harper's BAZAAR

Rumours have been rife amongst royal insiders that Sophie, Countess of Wessex is set to take on more official duties now that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are stepping back as full-time working royals.

Royal fans will be aware that Sophie Wessex, who has been married to Prince Edward, the Queen’s youngest son for 21 years, is already a full-time working member of the royal family. She and Edward have two children - Lady Louise Windsor, 16, and James, Viscount Severn, 12, who are 12th and 13th line to the throne, respectively.

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The countess currently splits her time between her work in support of the Queen and official visits to a large number of her own charities and organisations.

She is also rumoured to be one of Her Majesty's favourite royals, and has earned a reputation within the fold as being the "ultimate safe pair of hands".

What else do we know about the Countess?

Balancing a career with royal life and battling press invasion

Like Meghan, Sophie had a successful career before joining the royal family, and has also been subjected to press intrusion and derogatory coverage by tabloid newspapers.

In 1999, a week before Sophie's wedding to Prince Edward, The Sun published topless images of her taken during a press trip with DJ Chris Evans in 1988. They were sold by former friend and radio DJ Kara Noble, who was later fired over the furore.

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The countess - who was a publicist for Capital Radio at the time - was fully backed by Buckingham Palace, who condemned the paper’s actions as “premeditated cruelty” and “a gross invasion of privacy”.

While balancing her job and her new position as a senior royal, Sophie was targeted by a tabloid again when she was entrapped in secretly recorded private meeting by a reporter from the now-defunct News of the World who was posing as an Arab sheikh.

It was claimed that during their taped conversation, Sophie had insulted politicians and the royal family, and referred to the Queen as the “old dear”.

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Again, the palace supported Sophie and denied claims that she had insulted royal family members. A statement from Buckingham Palace read (via BBC News): "The Countess of Wessex, who is trying to pursue her own career, is obviously vulnerable to set-ups such as this."

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A year later in 2002, Sophie gave up her profession to commit fully to official engagements on behalf of the royal family.

What work does Sophie do?

The Royal Family website cites that the countess' interests include supporting people with disabilities, the prevention of blindness in developing countries, agriculture and fashion.

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Similarly to Meghan - who has been vocal in championing women's rights and gender equality, both before and during her role as a senior royal - Sophie also advocates women’s issues. On International Women's Day last year, she 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.

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She is also Patron to over 70 charities and each year, carries out hundreds of visits to schools, universities, military bases and charity headquarters in order to learn more about their work, and to highlight it to the wider world.

So it would seem that Sophie is too busy to take on more engagements.

The Telegraph's Arts and Royal Correspondent Hannah Furness has suggested that it's down to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to become "more visible" in Harry and Meghan's absence.

"We're told that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will continue with their patronages in a private capacity, and I'm sure their vocal support for things like women's rights, mental health and the environment will continue from afar," Furness told Harper's Bazaar UK.

"The Cambridges are the ones who will need to be more visible in their absence - rather than older members of the family who already work hard but don't get much attention."

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On Sophie's packed schedule, Furness continued: "Sophie has a fairly full workload, as well as two children at home and causes of her own. Many of them are the day-to-day royal work of unveiling plaques, cutting ribbons and generally thanking the public for good works: the sort of thing that falls to the older generation and rarely gets much attention.

"Other members of the family will have to keep the show on the road and ensure that their already hard work is kept in the public eye."

Why doesn't Sophie have a duchess title like Meghan and Kate?

There was recent speculation that Sophie's countess title could change to duchess if she were to take on more duties. She's held the prestigious Patron title since 2003, and is a full-time member of the royal family after all.

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However, royal sources have previously claimed that Sophie missed out on the title of duchess and princess when she married, because Prince Edward took on the title of the Earl of Wessex, which he requested.

Edward was due to be made the Duke of Cambridge, but according to The Express, he liked the character of Lord Wessex in the film Shakespeare in Love, so his mother decided to humour him.

Edward was then made an earl, the first member of the Royal Family to be made so since Tudor times.

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Sophie was subsequently given her title based on being the wife of an Earl and not as the wife of a Prince.

But Furness informed us: "Sophie's title won't change now, but at her 1999 wedding to Prince Edward it was made clear that he would one day take the Duke of Edinburgh's title so she is likely to become a Duchess at some point in the future."

Sophie's close bond to the Queen

Sophie and the Queen are said to have developed a close friendship over the last two decades, with Sophie becoming one of the monarch's most trusted confidantes.

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During a reception to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Trust last year - of which she is Vice Patron - Sophie revealed that her term of endearment for the Queen is "mama".

In her speech honouring the work done by the Queen through the Trust, Sophie said: "Mama, when I have returned from my travels I have been so proud to share with you the work I have witnessed being carried out under the umbrella of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and the care of so many people working so hard to save and cure sight."

Earlier on in her address, Sophie had referred to the Queen as Her Majesty, before disclosing the touching nickname for her mother-in-law as she closed her speech.

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The countess' close proximity to the Queen in Windsor also means that she and her children can often spend quality time with Her Majesty and Prince Philip.

“Sophie has since earned a reputation as the ultimate safe pair of hands, forming a close bond with the Queen and said to be a real favourite in the palace," Furness continued. "Living close just down the road in Windsor, she, Prince Edward and their children are regular visitors to see the Queen and Prince Philip.

"She's taken on a cycling challenge for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, and has bonded over a shared love of horses - Lady Louise now drives carriages just like her grandfather. The Queen admires her quiet dedication to duty and her family."

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