Royal’s ‘secret weapon’ who reached out to Meghan Markle and was Queen’s ‘second daughter’

Royal’s ‘secret weapon’ who reached out to Meghan Markle and was Queen’s ‘second daughter’

The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh are being hailed as two of the most important ‘secret weapons’ in the Royal Family, as they celebrate their 25th anniversary

The State Funeral Of Queen Elizabeth II

Meghan and Sophie with the other royals at the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II (Image: Getty)

Since their wedding in 1999, Prince Edward and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh have seen a steady rise in their popularity. Their nuptials were far more low-key than the grand Royal weddings of the Prince and Princess of Wales or the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, setting the tone for their down-to-earth approach to Royal life.

As they mark their 25th wedding anniversary, Edward and Sophie – now the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh – are frequently hailed as two of the Royal Family’s most vital “secret weapons”. The couple, Edward, 60, and Sophie Rhys-Jones, 59, tied the knot in a modest ceremony at St George’s Chapel, Windsor on 19 June, 1999, and their relationship has only grown stronger since.

Former BBC Royal correspondent, Jennie Bond, believes their unpretentious wedding and subsequent behaviour, despite being part of one of the world’s most famous families, has played a key role in their growing popularity. “Understated, unshowy and as down-to-earth as you can be when you are born into the royal family. That’s how Edward and Sophie are today… and it’s how they were 25 years ago on their relatively understated wedding day at Windsor,” Jennie said.

Royal expert Jennie has heaped praise on the Duchess of Edinburgh for her genuine demeanour and her seamless adaptation to Royal duties, both in the public eye and behind closed doors. “Sophie is a natural, humble woman – clearly still very much in love with her husband – and a woman who has grown into her role without fuss or fanfare,” she remarked.

sophie kate laughing at royal ascot

Sophie and Kate share a joke at Royal Ascot (Image: Jason Dawson/JASONPIX)

“Perhaps part of the secret of their successful marriage is that they spent five years in a relationship before tying the knot. And that was pretty unusual at the time,” Jennie told OK!.

“Sophie had seen at first hand the trauma of the Diana years, the breakdown of Charles and Diana’s marriage, the Yorks’ divorce and Anne’s divorce and second marriage.”

“It was probably quite courageous to become another royal bride! But, by the time they got married, both Edward and Sophie were mature enough to know that they were right for one another.”

The love story of Edward and Sophie began when they first crossed paths at London’s Capital Radio in 1987, but it wasn’t until a fortuitous encounter at a charity tennis match six years later that sparks truly flew. Edward popped the question while on holiday in 1998, leading to a public announcement of their engagement in January 1999.

king and sophie laughing

King Charles and Sophie are close (Image: Getty Images)

In a move to keep their nuptials relaxed, the couple opted for an “informal” wedding ceremony, inviting guests to wear evening attire and forgoing the traditional hats during the service.

However, one steadfast family member completely disregarded this request, rarely seen without her signature hat. The Queen Mother, then 98, arrived at the service donning a large, lilac feathered hat.

Edward looked dapper in his morning suit, while Sophie dazzled in a gown designed by Samantha Shaw. She completed her wedding ensemble with the Anthemion tiara, incorporating several of Queen Elizabeth II’s personal jewels.

Today, the couple epitomises duty and devotion, juggling their roles as parents to Lady Louise Windsor, 20, and James, Earl of Wessex, 16. However, they’ve had their share of nerve-wracking moments over the years.

sophie with the Queen

The Queen thought of Sophie as like a second daughter (Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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During her 36th week of pregnancy with Lady Louise, a year after being airlifted to hospital due to an ectopic pregnancy, Sophie experienced severe internal pains. She was admitted to Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey where doctors discovered she was critically ill from blood loss, leading to an emergency Caesarean section.

Upon birth, Lady Louise weighed 4lb 9oz and spent two weeks in a specialist neonatal unit at St George’s Hospital, South West London. As Sophie was too unwell to be moved to be with her newborn daughter, mother and child were separated during these crucial early days.

The tragic losses of Sophie’s cherished mother, Mary Rhys-Jones, in 2005, and the subsequent bereavements of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II have undoubtedly tested the couple’s resilience. Yet, it is their unwavering love and mutual support that has seen them emerge stronger in the face of sorrow.

Sophie’s empathy extends beyond her immediate family, as she reportedly offered a helping hand to both Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle during pivotal junctures in their Royal journeys.

edward sophie outside

Sophie and Prince Edward on the day of their engagement (Image: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

Royal author Jennie reveals: “Sophie has become one of the most loved members of the royal family, forging a deep and mutually affectionate relationship with both of her in-laws, the late Queen and Prince Philip,” highlighting how the Queen herself saw Sophie as akin to a “second daughter”, alongside Princess Anne.

Jennie shared insights into Sophie’s open-hearted nature, saying: “Sophie is delightfully open about her love for her husband, she is close to Catherine and has no doubt been a great support to her in her health crisis.”

Despite a significant age difference, Sophie and Catherine share much common ground, quickly establishing a strong friendship. “Even though a 17-year age gap seems a lot to bridge, the two women have a lot in common and became firm friends quite early on. Sophie knew exactly what lay in wait for Catherine as she joined the family and she knew it wouldn’t always be easy.”

Described as inherently kind and generous, Sophie has played various roles for those around her from mentor to confidante, or simply a friend to laugh with.

“By nature, Sophie is a kind and generous person who has always been happy to act as sounding board, mentor, confidante… or sometimes just another girl to share a giggle with,” says Jennie. “So I have no doubt that Sophie has been someone to whom Catherine has frequently turned.

sophie with child in Ukraine

Sophie meets with children as she visits the family center of the NGO Save Ukraine (Image: Getty Images)

“They’ve often been seen enjoying a private joke in public and certainly seem more like sisters than aunt and niece by marriage. Sophie has retained a girlishness about her, while Catherine perhaps because of her very senior role in the family sometimes seems mature beyond her years.

“I’m sure both Sophie and Edward would have been in close contact with William and Catherine throughout her illness, offering moral support as well as practical help by stepping up to take on extra royal duties while both she and the King recover.”

The affection King Charles holds for Sophie is evident, as Jennie explains that it’s Sophie’s unassuming nature that has made her an integral part of the family.

Jennie said: “She is seen as a safe pair of hands when carrying out her royal engagements either with the rest of the family or by herself.

Edward and Sophie with baby Lady Louise

Edward and Sophie with baby Lady Louise (Image: Getty)

“She doesn’t complain, she doesn’t demand, she just gets on with supporting the King when asked, and with pursuing her interests the rest of the time. She often does this under the radar, expecting no special treatment and is now absolutely part of the core working royals.”

When not performing ceremonial duties, the Duchess’s main charitable focuses include supporting young people with disabilities, eradicating avoidable blindness, agriculture, fashion and preventing sexual violence in conflict zones.

Sophie has been a pillar of strength and compassion, embarking on solo tours to some of the world’s most challenging environments such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and recently Ukraine.

Away from the public eye, Sophie and her husband Prince Edward lead a tranquil life at Bagshot Park in Surrey, cherishing moments with their children and three beloved dogs – Teal the labrador, Mole the cocker spaniel, and Teasel, a labrador puppy.

 

on their wedding day

The couple were originally styled as the Earl and Countess of Wessex (Image: Getty)

Royal commentator Jennie reflected on the couple’s quarter-century journey together, stating: “Sophie’s longstanding and loyal love for her man speaks volumes. They have a very secure marriage and seem to support one another in everything they do.”

The depth of their bond was touchingly showcased when Sophie delivered an emotional tribute for Edward’s 60th birthday celebration in March.

In a speech that moved Edward to tears, Sophie expressed, “Like my father-in-law, my husband never seeks compliments for himself. So when acknowledgment has come his way it has always been a total surprise to him, which is why I am grateful for this chance to, for once, be able to publicly celebrate and compliment him.”

She continued with heartfelt admiration, “He is the best of fathers, the most loving of husbands and still is my best friend. So here’s to you my darling Edward and may I along with all your family and so many friends and many others wish you the happiest of birthdays!

“In many ways Edward and Sophie have managed to be the most private of couples,” Jennie praises. “They look like a strong and stable team but without being particularly tactile in public or showy and the strength of their marriage speaks for itself.”

 

 

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