The Queen did away with centuries of Royal Family tradition in a bid to make Sophie, the Countess of Wessex feel more welcome and prepared with the life she would be asked to live when married to Prince Edward, a new documentary revealed. Contrary to previous royal girlfriends, the PR executive received full-access to Buckingham Palace years before Her Majesty’s youngest son officially proposed. Royal author Ingrid Seward told Channel 5’s ‘Edward&Sophie: The Reluctant Royals?’: “The Queen decided that she wanted Sophie to understand what marrying into the Royal Family meant.
“What she did, which had never happened before, is give Sophie a pass to Buckingham Palace. It’s like being given the keys to the front door.”
By the time Edward and Sophie began dating in the early 1990s, the Queen had witnessed the weddings of her three eldest children collapse under the strain of public and royal pressure.
Royal experts suggested Her Majesty had wanted to ensure Sophie could get used to the major changes she would be asked to make if she joined the Royal Family.
Commentator Richard Kay said: “I think this was partly the Queen a) reflecting the changing times.
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“This was the early 90s, not the early 80s. And also the fact that Edward was her youngest son and that she could be more indulgent to him.”
Historian Dr Anna Whitelock echoed the assessment, suggesting Sophie had also been allowed into a new sphere of royal life because of the positive impression she had struck with the Queen.
Dr Whitelock said: “By all accounts, Sophie was being drawn into the very heart of the Royal Family which, I think, is testament to how she was perceived by the Queen in particular.”
As the only unmarried child of the Queen and Prince Philip, news of a potential engagement sparked the attention of the public and the press which soon began to question Prince Edward about his relationship with Sophie.
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“No. I’m not saying anything at all. I’m going to keep quiet and if everybody stops asking the question then who knows what might happen.”
According to Ms Seward, the royal had wanted to keep details of his relationship with Sophie under wraps but ultimately realised he could not.
Sophie helped set a new precedent for royal girlfriend with her unfettered access to the palace and family outings, a path Prince Harry and Princess Eugenie both followed with their respective partners twenty years on.
Buckingham Palace ultimately confirmed Prince Edward had become engaged to Sophie in 1998, nearly five years after they first met. The pair tied the knot at St. George’s Chape in Windsor on June 19, 1999.
They have since welcomed two children, the Lady Louise and James, Viscount Severn after both gave up their careers to work as full-time royals in support of the Queen.