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 for the reason that Queen died.
And it ought to come as no shock. Sophie and her mother-in-law had been so shut that she had develop 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 number of time collectively. Sophie and her husband Prince Edward, the Queen’s youngest son, stay with their two youngsters only a stone’s throw away from Windsor Citadel at Bagshot Park. Strolling their canines collectively was a favorite past-time. In addition they shared a love of navy historical past, spending hours poring over historic 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 loss of life 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 together 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 – other than Princess Anne’s husband, Sir Tim Laurence – who was entrance and centre of the intimate household group.
For Sophie, 57, has quietly and unobtrusively develop into one of many unsung treasures of the Royal Household. ‘Sophie wasn’t born into aristocracy. She’s all the time labored for a residing.
‘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 throughout the Royal Household.
The Countess is now the second hardest working feminine royal after Anne, and has gained plaudits for her alternative of labor on preventable blindness and the problem of sexual violence in warfare.
One senior Whitehall supply instructed me that her championing of the trigger has been ‘invaluable’.
‘She just isn’t afraid to shrink back from the questions that should be requested of these in cost and maintain their toes to the hearth,’ they are saying.
Baroness Stedman-Scott OBE, Underneath Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, chatting with me in a private capability, has identified Sophie for 18 years by means of 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 ensure 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 bought an incredible sense of humour, too. We attended an awards ceremony collectively and as we walked in any person wolf whistled [at her]. She simply turned to me and mentioned, “Was that for you?”’
Sophie’s picture, too, has modified over time. The short-skirts and ill-fitting fits from the Excessive Road she favoured as a younger PR govt had been way back allotted with. Prior to now decade she has misplaced weight after going to the health club and taking on biking, and has stepped up her sport within the style 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 strong middle-class household in Kent (her father is a retired tyre salesman) has develop into the actual royal deal and what the Queen thought-about to be one of many most secure pairs of arms in ‘The Agency’.
‘She fell into her function so brilliantly and has been devoted to doing every little thing 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 might ever hope for. Discovering the time and the steadiness to do all of that proper is actually 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 youngsters they usually all really feel the identical, that she is somebody they’ll 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 together with her, might have modified her however 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 every little thing to assist,’ she has beforehand instructed me.
‘You may sit down together with her and she is going to focus and kind all of it out with you. And he or she’s fairly sensible and logical.’
Sophie is dedicated to and fiercely protecting of her youngsters, having endured critical medical issues throughout the delivery of Louise and an ectopic being pregnant.
‘She went by means of rather a lot to have her household and she or he and Edward have by no means relied on nannies. They’ve all the time had a rule that, when working, one in every of them is at residence with the kids so far as attainable,’ Penny Mountbatten says.
And since the Queen lived shut by, she bought to spend a substantial 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 bought to know Sophie on the college run having met by means of their sons.
Sophie, privately educated from a strong middle-class household in Kent (her father is a retired tyre salesman) has develop into the actual royal deal and what the Queen thought-about to be one of many most secure pairs of arms in ‘The Agency’
‘Sophie is totally concerned with all of the dad and mom’ WhatsApp teams’, he says. ‘It should be such a troublesome factor if you find yourself concerned in class stuff as simply one other mum or dad, however however, you’re a member of the Royal Household. You get the impression they’re decided to present their youngsters as regular an upbringing as attainable.’
Royal sources inform me that Sophie has develop 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 subsequent few years are going to be extremely vital for this nation,’ Mark Foster-Brown, an in depth household good friend and chairman of the Wessex Youth Belief, instructed me in an interview earlier than the Queen’s loss of life. ‘Sophie has by no means sought the limelight however as we go into the following part of the monarchy it will likely be completely vital for the [then] Duchess of Cambridge to have a feminine sounding board.
‘And he or she merely couldn’t get higher than somebody like Sophie.’
Few would disagree.