Sophie and Edward: what key role after death of Prince Philip could mean

Sophie, who updated public on grieving royal family, and Edward look set to take on increasingly high profiles

In the immediate aftermath of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death, the royal who most regularly visited Windsor, gracing television screens and newspaper photographs, was the Countess of Wessex.

Through Sophie, 56, wife of Prince Edward, 57, the public learned how the royal family was navigating its grief.

Sanctioned to speak to media, she revealed how the Queen was coping and how the duke had died peacefully. And it was through Sophie that the Queen released, on the eve of the funeral, her treasured, private photograph of herself with Philip on the Balmoral estate.

Personal photograph of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh released to the media by Sophie
The personal photograph of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh released to the media by Sophie. Photograph: Countess of Wessex/PA

It all speaks to the high esteem both Sophie and Edward are held in by the Queen. It also speaks to the prospect that, with the royal family much diminished by the departure of the Sussexes, the Wessexes will play an increasingly high-profile role.

“Harry and Meghan would have formed a major part of the masterplan for Charles’s slimmed-down monarchy. Removing them creates huge problems,” said Joe Little, the managing editor of Majesty magazine.

The Wessexes have had their “sticky moments”, such as when Sophie, then running her own PR company, was caught in a tabloid sting making unflattering remarks about politicians, and when Edward was criticised over his TV production company. But that was 20 years ago.

“They made mistakes. Anyone can fall into bear traps,” said the royal author Penny Junor, “but they just kept on, carrying on doing the work and making no song and dance about it.”

Sophie is close to the Queen, as she was to Philip. It is understood Lady Louise, the Wessexes’ daughter, will inherit the duke’s driving carriage, having been taught carriage driving by her grandfather.

Experts say there is now a dearth of royals to cover the increasing number of engagements and patronages, and no one would be surprised if Sophie is asked to step up. Of core senior royals, only seven work full-time: Charles, Camilla, Anne, Edward, Sophie, William and Kate.

Working royals

There are others, less high profile, who are seen occasionally. But Princess Alexandra is 84, the Duke of Kent is 85. The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester are, by comparison, a sprightly 76 and 74 respectively. “But people would be hard pushed to recognise them in the street,” said Little.


Non-working senior royals include Harry and Meghan, who have permanently stepped down from royal duties, and Prince Andrew, who has stepped back, “and it’s fair to assume he won’t be re-entering the fold any time soon, if ever”, said Little.

Non-working royals

Andrew’s daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, do not currently perform royal engagements in their own right, though their father, it is said, has pushed for them to do so. And then there are Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, who do their own thing.

Sophie’s PR background makes her a natural communicator, and she is at ease around cameras. “She also has the longevity, has been part of the royal scene since the mid-90s, so is more experienced than Kate,” said Little.

Junor said Sophie had been “an asset for some time”, working hard over the years but not garnering as much attention as younger royals. Edward has been busy with the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme he took over from his father. He will one day have his father’s title, too, when Charles becomes king.

Edward is the only one of the Queen’s children not divorced. As he sat together with his wife and their two children in the quire of St George’s Chapel, they looked the part. “Right back to the Queen Mother, and the two little princesses, the whole idea was that the monarchy was a model family,” said Junor. It is now the Wessexes and the Cambridges who most appear to exemplify that model.

“Edward and Sophie are a very unroyal royal couple,” said Junor. “They have no airs and graces. They are very low key. And they don’t have a sense of entitlement.

“So, maybe we will see more of them. The public, I think, like them.”


Caroline Davies

The GuardianTramp

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