Hunkered down on her heels, eyes red-rimmed as she studied the floral tributes and loving messages, the Countess of Wessex appeared misplaced in thought.
Her deep sorrow was evident on this and each different picture of her seen within the days because the Queen died.
And it ought to come as no shock. Sophie and her mother-in-law had been so shut that she had change into like a ‘second daughter’.
Certainly, after dropping her personal mum, Mary Rhys-Jones, to abdomen most cancers in 2005 at simply 71, she had taken to affectionately calling the Queen ‘Mama’.
They spent a variety of time collectively. Sophie and her husband Prince Edward, the Queen’s youngest son, dwell with their two kids only a stone’s throw away from Windsor Fortress at Bagshot Park. Strolling their canine collectively was a favorite past-time. Additionally they shared a love of army historical past, spending hours poring over historical paperwork within the Royal Archives at Windsor.
Hunkered down on her heels, eyes red-rimmed as she studied the floral tributes and loving messages, the Countess of Wessex appeared misplaced in thought
The seeds of their fond relationship had been sown in 2002 after the Queen misplaced first her sister, Princess Margaret, then her adored mom, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mom, inside weeks. It was such a consolation to have one other female relative in her life.
The shattering demise of her beloved Philip final 12 months introduced the Queen and Sophie even nearer, with the monarch typically inviting her to take her late husband’s place along with her at the back of the automobile.
This deep-rooted affection and respect explains why, because the Queen’s nearest and dearest gathered in Scotland final week to mourn her sudden passing, Sophie was the one non-blood relative – except for Princess Anne’s husband, Sir Tim Laurence – who was entrance and centre of the intimate household group.
For Sophie, 57, has quietly and unobtrusively change into one of many unsung treasures of the Royal Household. ‘Sophie wasn’t born into aristocracy. She’s all the time labored for a dwelling.
‘As countesses go, she’s fairly grounded. And that’s one thing the Royal Household wants,’ says one royal insider.
There may be even a swell of chatter that Sophie and Edward – who’re set to be made the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh in step with Philip’s needs – could possibly be ‘promoted’ to William and Kate’s second in command. How far they’ve each come after the shakiest of begins. In some respects, Sophie and Edward had been the Harry and Meghan of their day.
After dropping her personal mum, Mary Rhys-Jones, to abdomen most cancers in 2005 at simply 71, she had taken to affectionately calling the Queen ‘Mama’
Just like the Sussexes, they insisted on attempting to interrupt the mould and forge profitable industrial careers – she in PR and he in TV manufacturing – in tandem with their royal duties.
Then Sophie was sensationally caught up in a humiliating ‘sting’ operation engineered by the Information of the World after speaking with a ‘Pretend Sheik’ posing as a possible consumer. Her taped indiscretions about senior politicians had been extremely embarrassing.
For his half, Edward was lambasted for attempting to money in on his royal hyperlinks in his industrial ventures. Not like the Sussexes, Sophie and Edward wound down their companies and dug in to royals duties, rebuilding their reputations inside the Royal Household.
The Countess is now the second hardest working feminine royal after Anne, and has gained plaudits for her selection of labor on preventable blindness and the problem of sexual violence in conflict.
One senior Whitehall supply instructed me that her championing of the trigger has been ‘invaluable’.
‘She is just not afraid to shrink back from the questions that have to be requested of these in cost and maintain their ft to the hearth,’ they are saying.
Baroness Stedman-Scott OBE, Below Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, chatting with me in a private capability, has recognized Sophie for 18 years by a charity serving to the long-term unemployed. ‘When she first came visiting us she didn’t need any fuss or fanfare and I simply instructed them to verify the place was tidy and the bathroom was clear. She turned up on her personal and sat chatting. She’s such a pure,’ she enthuses.
There may be even a swell of chatter that Sophie and Edward – who’re set to be made the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh in step with Philip’s needs – could possibly be ‘promoted’ to William and Kate’s second in command
‘She’s additionally received a fantastic sense of humour, too. We attended an awards ceremony collectively and as we walked in any individual wolf whistled [at her]. She simply turned to me and stated, “Was that for you?”’
Sophie’s picture, too, has modified through the years. The short-skirts and ill-fitting fits from the Excessive Avenue she favoured as a younger PR government had been way back distributed with. Prior to now decade she has misplaced weight after going to the health club and taking over biking, and has stepped up her sport within the trend stakes.
She has enlisted the assistance of stylist Pandora Delevingne (mom of mannequin and actress Cara) and now favours collections by Suzannah London and Emilia Wickstead to flatter her physique and English rose complexion.
Certainly, Sophie, privately educated from a stable middle-class household in Kent (her father is a retired tyre salesman) has change into the true royal deal and what the Queen thought of to be one of many most secure pairs of palms in ‘The Agency’.
‘She fell into her position so brilliantly and has been devoted to doing all the pieces proper,’ long-term good friend, Penny Mountbatten, ex-wife of the Queen’s cousin Lord Ivar Mountbatten, instructed me. ‘Similtaneously conducting all her royal duties, she’s a hands-on mum [to Lady Louise, now 18, and James, Viscount Severn, 14] and essentially the most loyal and supportive good friend you may ever hope for. Discovering the time and the steadiness to do all of that proper is basically fairly genius. I feel she’s simply exceptional.’
Sophie, she stresses, has a core group of girlfriends from her pre-royal days. ‘She retains all of them very shut. She is godmother to fairly just a few kids and so they all really feel the identical, that she is somebody they will name any time for recommendation or steering,’ she provides.
‘Being the Queen’s daughter- in-law, and one which has such a very shut relationship along with her, might have modified her nevertheless it didn’t. She’s by no means forgotten her roots.’
One other good friend, jewelry designer Belinda Scott, whose daughter, Camilla Hadden, was a bridesmaid for Sophie and Edward once they married in 1999, agrees. ‘She is a fiercely loyal good friend who’d drop all the pieces to assist,’ she has beforehand instructed me.
‘You’ll be able to sit down along with her and she is going to focus and kind all of it out with you. And she or he’s fairly sensible and logical.’
Sophie is dedicated to and fiercely protecting of her kids, having endured critical medical problems through the start of Louise and an ectopic being pregnant.
‘She went by lots to have her household and he or she and Edward have by no means relied on nannies. They’ve all the time had a rule that, when working, certainly one of them is at dwelling with the kids so far as attainable,’ Penny Mountbatten says.
And since the Queen lived shut by, she received to spend an excessive amount of time with Louise and James once they had been rising up, typically watching Mr Tumble on CBeebies once they had been little.
Former England cricket captain Sir Andrew Strauss has received to know Sophie on the college run having met by their sons.
Sophie, privately educated from a stable middle-class household in Kent (her father is a retired tyre salesman) has change into the true royal deal and what the Queen thought of to be one of many most secure pairs of palms in ‘The Agency’
‘Sophie is totally concerned with all of the mother and father’ WhatsApp teams’, he says. ‘It should be such a tough factor if you find yourself concerned at school stuff as simply one other mum or dad, however alternatively, you’re a member of the Royal Household. You get the impression they’re decided to offer their kids as regular an upbringing as attainable.’
Royal sources inform me that Sophie has change into one thing of a confidante for the brand new Princess of Wales, who sees that Sophie admires the best way by which she is balancing royal duties with motherhood. And Sophie has William’s seal of approval, too.
‘The following few years are going to be extremely vital for this nation,’ Mark Foster-Brown, a detailed household good friend and chairman of the Wessex Youth Belief, instructed me in an interview earlier than the Queen’s demise. ‘Sophie has by no means sought the limelight however as we go into the following part of the monarchy it will likely be completely important for the [then] Duchess of Cambridge to have a feminine sounding board.
‘And she or he merely couldn’t get higher than somebody like Sophie.’
Few would disagree.