July 22, 2024
Kate Middleton

Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, loses her balance and falls on to Kate Middleton, Princess of Wales, as the carriages pull away at Royal Ascot (Image: Jason Dawson/JASONPIX)

Prince Edward and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary – and the couple have come a long way since their low-key nuptials in 1999

The Royal Family has a “secret weapon” to which Kate Middleton will be “frequently turning” amid her cancer treatment, a royal expert has claimed.

Since tying the knot in 1999, the popularity of Prince Edward and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, has been on a steady rise. Their wedding was a far cry from the grand Royal nuptials of the Prince and Princess of Wales or the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, opting for a more low-key celebration. This approach has been mirrored in their personal lives and relationship.

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 crucial “secret weapons”. Edward, aged 60, wed Sophie Rhys-Jones, 59, in an intimate ceremony at St George’s Chapel, Windsor on 19 June, 1999, and their bond has only grown stronger since.

Former BBC Royal correspondent, Jennie Bond, has detailed the Duchess’s charm and her down-to-earth nature, which she believes are key to her success. “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,” Jennie revealed.

And Sophie’s kindness extends beyond her immediate family, with reports suggesting she offered support to both Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle during pivotal moments in their Royal journeys.

Serena Williams
The King and Sophie are also close friends ( Image: Getty Images)

“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,” Jennie revealed, claiming Queen Elizabeth II even regarded Sophie as a “second daughter”, after Princess Anne.

“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. 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.

“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. So I have no doubt that Sophie has been someone to whom Catherine has frequently turned. 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 manner in which they handled their wedding, along with their conduct in the subsequent years – despite being part of one of the globe’s most renowned families – has played a significant role in Edward and Sophie’s growing popularity, Jennie told OK!.

“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.

“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. 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 with a chance encounter at London’s Capital Radio back in 1987, but it wasn’t until a fortuitous meeting at a charity tennis match six years later that sparks truly flew. The prince popped the question during a holiday in 1998, leading to a grand engagement announcement in January 1999.

When it came to their nuptials, the couple opted for a laid-back vibe, inviting guests to an “informal” wedding ceremony where evening dress was the order of the day and hats were notably absent. However, one steadfast family member completely disregarded this request, rarely seen without her signature hat. The Queen Mother, then 98, arrived at the service sporting 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, which incorporated several of Queen Elizabeth II’s own 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 fair share of nerve-wracking moments over the years. 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 and performed an emergency Caesarean section.

The couple leaving the hospital with Lady Louise 15 days after she was born ( Image: Getty)

At birth, Lady Louise weighed just 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 couple’s bond has been tested by the deaths of Sophie’s beloved mum, Mary Rhys-Jones, in 2005, as well as the recent losses of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II. However, their love and support for each other have helped them overcome their grief, making their relationship even stronger.

The warmth King Charles feels towards Sophie is clear to see as Jennie explains it’s Sophie’s understated nature that has made her such an important part of the family.

Jennie added: “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. 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.”

The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh married on 19 June, 1999 ( Image: CAMERA PRESS)
When the duchess is not carrying out ceremonial duties, her main charitable areas of interest include supporting young people with disabilities, eradicating avoidable blindness, agriculture, fashion and the prevention of sexual violence in areas of conflict.

Sophie has been on solo tours to places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and recently Ukraine, showing her commitment to global issues.

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

Royal commentator Jennie reflected on the couple’s strong bond, saying, “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.”

Kate Middleton
The Duchess undertakes several visits to dangerous countries, the latest of which was to Ukraine in April ( Image: Getty Images)

The depth of their affection was on full display when Sophie delivered an emotional tribute during Edward’s 60th birthday celebrations in March.

In a speech that moved Edward to tears, Sophie expressed her admiration, “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 said of Edward: “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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