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

From 'Royal Thorn' to Queen's 'second daughter': The tumultuous journey of Sophie, Countess of Wessex
Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and Queen Elizabeth II were very close and the former is considered to be among the most successful members of the royal family (Owen Humphreys, Kirsty O'Connor - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
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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.

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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.

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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.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex looks messages and floral tributes left by members of the public after attending a service at Crathie Kirk church near Balmoral following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 10, 2022 in Crathie near Aberdeen, United Kingdom. Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born in Bruton Street, Mayfair, London on 21 April 1926. She married Prince Philip in 1947 and acceded to the throne of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth on 6 February 1952 after the death of her Father, King George VI. Queen Elizabeth II died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland on September 8, 2022, and is succeeded by her eldest son, King Charles III.
A tearful Sophie, Countess of Wessex, looks at the messages and floral tributes left by members of the public after attending a service at Crathie Kirk church near Balmoral following the death of Queen Elizabeth II (Owen Humphreys-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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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.

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Sophie, Countess of Wessex looks on as Queen Elizabeth II greets the audience at the Royal Albert Hall for a star-studded concert to celebrate her 92nd birthday on April 21, 2018 in London, England.  The Queen and members of the royal family are guests of honour at the celebration, which is being billed as The Queen's Birthday Party.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex looks on as Queen Elizabeth II greets the audience at the Royal Albert Hall for a star-studded concert to celebrate her 92nd birthday on April 21, 2018 in London, England. The two have shared a close relationship for years (Andrew Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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.

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(L-R) Prince William, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Michael of Kent, Princess Michael of Kent and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh watch the fly past from the balcony of Buckingham Palace at Trooping The Colour on June 12, 2010 in London, England. Trooping The Colour is the Queen's annual birthday parade and dates back to the time of Charles II in the 17th Century when the colours of a regiment were used as a rallying point in battle.
Prince William, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and Queen Elizabeth II became close confidants after the death of the latter's husband Prince Philip (Samir Hussein/Getty Images)

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.

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Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex travel by carriage after the Most Noble Order of the Garter Ceremony on June 16, 2014 in Windsor, England. The Order of the Garter is the senior and oldest British Order of Chivalry, founded by Edward III in 1348. Membership in the order is limited to the sovereign, the Prince of Wales, and no more than twenty-four members.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex travel by carriage after the Most Noble Order of the Garter Ceremony on June 16, 2014 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Arthur Edwards - WPA Pool /Getty Images)

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."

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Sophie, The Countess of Wessex smiles as she arrives with her husband Prince Edward January 29 2002, at the Carlton Tower Hotel in London, to open the Duke of Edinburghs Awards Bridge Evening, an annual event to raise funds for the long standing community awards scheme sponsored by Prince Edwards father, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Sophie, The Countess of Wessex smiles as she arrives with her husband Prince Edward January 29 2002, at the Carlton Tower Hotel in London (Sion Touhig/Getty Images)

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.”

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