Sophie Wessex is the Queen’s ‘favourite daughter-in-law’ and she’s ‘trusted’ in ways Kate and Camilla aren’t – The Sun

WHEN the Queen is in residence at Sandringham, the staff who are on duty on a Sunday amuse themselves by placing bets on who will accompany the Sovereign in the Rolls Royce when it makes its short stately journey from the house, to morning service at St Mary Magdalene Church.

No money exchanges hands in this below-stairs contest, because nine times out of 10, the footmen and pages on the weekend roster know exactly who will be in prime position in the cream leather comfort of the Rolls back seat – Sophie Wessex.

“If Sophie Wessex is staying at Sandringham then you can pretty much guarantee the Queen will ask her – usually last thing on a Saturday night – if she would like ‘a lift’ to the church,” reveals a former royal equerry.

“And the same happens at Balmoral. The Queen likes to be completely calm before church and she finds Sophie’s presence soothing.

"Who gets the backseat is also one of those quirky royal ways that signals who is in favour – for example Princess Anne may be staying at the same time, but how often do you see her in the Rolls?”

The car-sharing rigmarole – when the journey starts with Sophie helping to smooth a Tartan blanket over the Queen’s lap – is indeed a subtle pointer to the place that Sophie, 54, now occupies as the monarch’s favourite daughter-in-law.

Not only does the Queen enjoy Sophie’s company but, remarkably for someone who got things so badly wrong when she was newly married to Prince Edward and was insisting on still working in public relations, she is now viewed by the Queen as the Royal Family’s safest pair of hands.

"She is trusted and relied on by the Queen in a way I couldn't say applied to the Duchess of Cambridge or the Duchess of Cornwall," says a senior royal aide.

"She is like another daughter to Her Majesty, they are that close.

Sophie is like another daughter to Her Majesty, they are that close

“The Queen is also mindful that Sophie’s marriage has survived where her other children’s relationships have failed – and she knows that is in no small way down to Sophie’s dedication – she is aware, as his Edward’s mother, what a tricky creature he can be.

“And not only has Sophie flourished as a dedicated, albeit still relatively junior member of the Royal family, she has brought up two teenagers who are well-balanced, sporty, amusing and delightful.”

Indeed, as Fabulous Digital has revealed, the Wessex’s daughter Lady Louise Windsor, 15, has become the monarch’s favourite grandchild and, along with her eleven-year-old brother James (Viscount Severn) proved HM’s most welcome house guests at Balmoral because of the way they enthusiastically took part in all that was on offer at the Queen’s Highlands retreat.

Incidentally, the Countess is very close to her daughter, not least because of the trauma of her birth in 2003. Louise was a month premature and Sophie lost nine pints of blood, and was in Frimley Park hospital for 15 days.

Sophie, who was not born to life in a stately home – she was brought up in the Kent commuter belt where her father Christopher Rhys-Jones worked as an executive for a tyre company and her late mother Mary was a secretary – has herself embraced those rural pursuits beloved of the royals.

“In her early days of marriage Sophie set herself a series of tasks – she’s quite driven and focused like that – of learning how to ride properly, how to fish, how to shoot game and, more recently carriage driving,” observes one friend who knew her before, and after her royal marriage.

"She was not a natural rider – she’s had lots of lessons from the grooms at Windsor – but she’s certainly assured enough to accompany the Queen in gentle hacks around the Balmoral estate or Windsor Great Park.

Who are the Queen's daughters-in-law?

  • Sophie, Countess of Wessex
    Sophie, 54, is married to the Queen's youngest son, Prince Edward.
    The pair met at a charity tennis event in 1993 and dated for six years before marrying at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on June 19, 1999.
    They have two children: Lady Louise Windsor – who is thought to be the Queen's favourite grandchild – and James, Viscount Severn.
  • Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
    Camilla, 72, is married to Prince Charles, who is the Queen's eldest son.
    The pair's controversial relationship began when they met at a polo match in 1970, before breaking up when the future King joined the navy.
    The pair reunited years later following the breakdown of Charles' marriage to Diana and their relationship continued following Diana's tragic death in 1997. The pair were married in 2005.
    Speaking about the Queen and Camilla's relationship, royal expert Penny Junor said: "She had been very fond of Camilla in all the years she had been married to Andrew Parker Bowles – but it was Camilla who had been responsible, wittingly or not, for all the disasters that had befallen Charles since his marriage.
    “The Queen had wanted her gone before Diana’s death and felt no differently after it."
    However, the Queen gave a touching tribute to Camilla in Charles' 70th birthday speech: "Sustained by his wife Camilla, he is his own man, passionate and creative."
  • Sarah Ferguson
    Sarah – also known as "Fergie" was married to the Queen's son, Prince Andrew.
    The pair married at Westminster Abbey in July 1986 and became parents to Princess Beatrice in 1988 and Princess Eugenie two years later.
    However, they divorced in 1996, with the Palace announcing that Fergie would no longer carry out public engagements on behalf of the Queen.
    Despite this, Fergie and Prince Andrew, who is the Queen’s third child, remain close and they still share homes in Windsor, at Royal Lodge, and Switzerland.
    According to reports, the Queen always supported Sarah, 59, telling Prince Philip: “Whatever you say about her she’s a good mother.”

“Not that she was entirely willing to accept the royal way of doing things – for example she thought that at eight years old James was too young when Edward wanted him to go on a Boxing Day pheasant shoot at Sandringham.

"She was probably the only mother in the family that would dare over-rule her husband.”

But then right from the start of her relationship with Edward, Sophie has never allowed herself to be brow-beaten by royal tradition, particularly if she feels some practices are anachronistic and no longer relevant in today’s world.

Sophie set herself a series of tasks of learning how to ride properly, how to fish, how to shoot game and, more recently carriage driving

Her friend observes that Sophie is certainly not concerned, in the way some royal women usually are, about slipping down the official rankings.

"For several years after marrying Edward, she was the second lady in the land to the Queen.

The subsequent arrivals of three new royal duchesses — Camilla in 2005;  Kate in 2011 and Meghan last year — meant Sophie has dropped down to fifth.

Sophie is rumoured to have introduced Her Maj to The CrownCredit: Rex Features

She will, on the death of Prince Philip, also assume the rank of a royal duchess when, as is expected in royal circles, the Queen bestows the title of Duke of Edinburgh on Edward.

In what other royals would undoubtedly see as a further blow to their prestige, Sophie’s full-time police protection was restricted to only being allowed when she is on official duties.

This change infuriated her husband when it was imposed in 2012 as a cost-cutting measure (as it was on Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie) but then, as her friend remarks, “Edward has always been rather more conscious of shall we say, the Divine Right of Kings, than his wife.”

She adds: “Sophie was fine about it; in fact she preferred not having a police presence 24-hours a day; it meant she could collect the children from school on her own, without any fuss.”

The Queen and Sophie at the Royal Albert Hall for a concert to celebrate her 92nd birthdayCredit: Getty – Pool
Sophie waves to well-wishers as she accompanies the Queen to churchCredit: Albanpix

Sophie also had the confidence to suggest that the Queen might actually enjoy watching The Crown – others, including her Private Secretary, had previously tried persuading HM that she ought to sample the lavish Netflix series based on her reign.

Says a courtier: “It was only when Sophie mentioned that everyone seemed to be talking about it – and why didn’t they give it a try, with the proviso that if they didn’t like episode one then they wouldn’t carry on – that she agreed for it to be shown at Windsor Castle one weekend.

“She sat down to see it one Saturday at teatime when she and Sophie often have a ‘TV date’ to watch old films.

Sophie also had the confidence to suggest that the Queen might actually enjoy watching The Crown

"This time Edward was with them – but not Philip, who refused to be involved – and the three of them loved it, although apparently the Queen kept interrupting to point out when things were wrong – but then I suppose you would if it was about your life, wouldn’t you?’

Watching The Crown (and HM has now seen the first two series and, like her subjects, is awaiting the third series in November) was a rare deviation from the war films and historical documentaries which usually make up the viewing choice when Sophie drives over from Bagshot to Windsor to join her mother-in-law on Saturday or Sunday evenings.

“This fascination with military history,” observes her friend, “is a key to the pair’s closeness. ‘They’ve watched countless films together and at weekends the pair are sometimes gone for hours, poring over documents in the Royal Archives, which are kept at Windsor Castle.

Sophie, Edward and Lady Louise at Meghan and Harry's weddingCredit: PA

“Sophie is hugely well read on her military history, she’s proud of her knowledge of military campaigns, and she and the Queen can chunter on for hours about whether this general or that admiral made the right move in some battle or other.

"If Philip is around he just raises his eyebrows and goes into another room.”

Indeed when Sophie opened the restored chapel at what been the Army's first purpose-built military hospital in Hampshire last year, it soon became apparent that the royal visitor had a deeper knowledge of military history than many of the officials to whom she was being introduced.

Sophie’s fascination with military history is a key to the pair’s closeness

This calm, incisive, self-assured and thoughtful countess is a long way from the awkward figure who, early in her marriage, was still running her own public relations consultancy.

She created a 'royals for hire' storm when she posed beside a Rover 75 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, having secured a £250,000 contract to publicise it.

When Sophie finally gave up her PR company and committed herself to a life of full-time royal duties, there was doubt over whether she would ever be able to erase the memory of such indiscretions.

“What helped to remove that doubt,” says one royal observer, “was that the Queen had long spotted certain qualities in Sophie as a royal consort — probably before even her youngest son did.”

In fact it was the Queen – said to be slightly irritated at how long Edward was taking with the romance (it was six years, and Sophie was 34 by the time she made it up the aisle at St George’s Chapel at Windsor) that HM uniquely arranged for Sophie to have her own pass to enter Buckingham Palace.

This enabled her to stay overnight in the royal apartments, where Edward had his suite of rooms, whenever she wished.

The Queen had long spotted certain qualities in Sophie as a royal consort

Sophie herself has acknowledged that the Queen found her “different" because she had known another life in commerce before marrying her prince.

As she said in a speech: “I am rare because I am one of the few ladies in the British Royal Family who has had a professional business career and her own company.”

So, given Sophie’s seemingly unassailable position as the sovereign’s favourite – are there any lessons for the latest female member of the Royal family?

Just like Sophie, it all began so well for Meghan Markle, whose obvious love for her prince – culminating in a fairytale royal wedding at Windsor – endeared her to the public.

But despite the birth of their son Archie, Meghan, and her husband Harry risk losing public support thanks to the private jet scandal and their seemingly 'woke' views.

So what would Sophie advise? Her friend, choosing her words carefully, says: “I think she would, both as a former expert on public relations, and as someone who found her early days as a royal bride testing to negotiate, simply suggest that Meghan slow down, there’s no rush.

A pal of Sophie's thinks she'd tell Meghan Markle to 'slow down' and 'concentrate more on Windsor'Credit: Getty Images

“She would say: 'Don’t become too focused on being a moderniser;  you’re not going to be able to save the planet all in one go, or change the way the royals operate. Concentrate more on Windsor, less on Hollywood.'”

In reality Meghan is unlikely to turn to Sophie for such advice. Another member of the Wessex circle informs me: “Sophie was one of the first to invite Meghan, on her own, to Bagshot for tea.

"They got on perfectly well, but Sophie could feel they were never going to become the best of friends.

"Let’s just say that Meghan seemed to have her own agenda and was not in the market for words of advice, however well-intentioned.”

In other royal news, we told you the Queen is ‘hurt and disappointed’ that Meghan skipped the ‘merry chaos’ of the Highland Games, reports claim.

We also revealed you could be Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s closest neighbour if you snap up this four-bed terraced home for £2.95m.

And we showed you the Queen’s ‘favourite grandchild’ Lady Louise Windsor makes rare public appearance with her mum Sophie Wessex.

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