From 'Royal Thorn' to Queen's 'second daughter': The tumultuous journey of Sophie, Countess of Wessex
Despite the hurdles, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, has cemented her reputation as a reliable member of the royal family who was very close to the Queen
BALMORAL, SCOTLAND: The grieving Countess of Wessex was crying while reading the floral tributes and loving left by royal well-wishers left for Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral Castle, where she died peacefully on Thursday, September 9.
Sophie's distraught state conveyed the special relationship she shared with her 96-year-old mother-in-law. Married to the monarch’s youngest son Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Sophie was often described as the 'Queen's Second Daughter.' The duo shared a magical relationship, only seen in books or movies.
Hailed as the "Queen’s favorite," Sophie and her husband live with their two children live just a stone's throw away from Windsor Castle. From sharing a love of the military to walking their dogs together to diving into the ancient documents in the Royal Archives at Windsor, Sophie truly shared some of the most heart-warming moments with Her Majesty.
The relationship between the duo was said to have developed over the years with both women supporting each another through periods of personal loss and becoming close confidants. The seeds of their bond were sown back in 2002 when Queen first lost her sister Princess Margaret and then lost her mother, Queen Elizabeth. At that time, Sophie became close to her and gave her the strength that she needed. Then the late Queen became Sophie’s ‘mama’ after the latter's mother, Mary Rhys-Jones, died of stomach cancer in 2005 at just 71.
Sophie was even close to the Queen's husband, Prince Philip. When Prince he died, the two got grew closer with the monarch often inviting her to take her late husband’s place with her in the back of the car. There is no denying that Sophie, 57, has quietly and unobtrusively become one of the unsung treasures of the Royal Family. "Sophie wasn’t born into aristocracy. She’s always worked for a living. As countesses go, she’s pretty grounded. And that’s something the Royal Family needs," says a royal insider.
However, the relationship between Sophie and her husband was not as warm as the one she shared with the royal family. Initially, just like the Sussexes, who stepped down from their royal duties and shifted to the United States, Sophie and her husband Edward, as a young couple, tried to break out of the mold of the royal family and tried to build a commercially successful career which went hand in hand with their royal duties. However, their plans didn’t work. The couple was branded as a "Royal Thorn" after Sophie was caught in a humiliating ‘sting’ operation engineered by News of the World, while speaking to a ‘fake Sheik’ posing as a potential client. For his part, Edward was lambasted for trying to cash in on his royal links in his commercial ventures. However, the couple decided to shut down their business and devote themselves to their respective royal duties in order to rebuild their reputation in the royal family.
Today, Sophie has garnered an untouchable reputation in the royal family. Not just as the Queen’s favorite, but also as the second most successful woman in the royal family after Princess Anne. She has won plaudits for her work on preventable blindness and the issue of sexual violence in war. Indeed, Sophie, privately educated from a middle-class family in Kent (her father is a retired tyre salesman), had become the real deal and what the Queen considered to be one of the "safest pairs of hands in The Firm."
Talking about the bond Sophie shared with the Queen and her reputation in the royal family, royal author Christina Lamb said, “I spent a few days with Sophie in South Sudan two years ago, just before the pandemic stopped travel, as she visited the war-torn country as part of her work campaigning against sexual violence in conflict. We’d had a tough day visiting survivors of harrowing attacks in a hot, smelly, and overcrowded camp but her face lit up when I asked her about the Queen and if it was true that they had a particularly close relationship.”