The Duchess of Cambridge and the Countess of Wessex are quickly proving they are a Royal sisterhood set for success.
MAY 15th, 2020
n the ensuing days after the ‘Wedding of the Decade’, the Duchess of Cambridge was adjusting to her life as the newest member of the Royal Family. She knew, as did William, that the instant fascination in her life, personality, fashion, and charitable causes would result in almost constant media coverage. Even for Kate – who had been dating William for many years and had already experienced much of the media’s attention, both good and bad – the reality of her future as a Queen-in-waiting was still daunting.
Whilst support was constant from her parents, siblings, and new husband – the life as a Windsor wife is a unique position that only a rare few experience. To fully assist with the Duchess’ adjustment into becoming one the most sought after and photographed women in the world, it was the Queen who orchestrated a partnership that continues to thrive to this day, by placing the Duchess of Cambridge with the woman dubbed her ‘secret weapon’ – The Countess of Wessex.
From their earliest meeting, Kate and Sophie have had an instant and genuine warmth for one another. Friends of both women have consistently described how they enjoy each other’s company and share many of the same interests, buying each other clothes and borrowing jewellery.
But vitally for Kate, Sophie has been an unwavering champion behind-the-scenes, and a wise councillor on navigating her role as a member of the Monarchy. Most recently, when the Duchess of Cambridge pursued her charitable endeavour of the Early Years and the support of young children and mothers, Kate actively sought the advice from the Countess on the vital support of midwives. This stemmed from Sophie’s own charitable campaigns and the trauma through her first two pregnancies.
In 2001, Sophie suffered an ectopic pregnancy and endured the emotional and physical ordeal of having the foetus removed. This was followed in 2003 when her daughter – Lady Louise – was born prematurely after the Countess was diagnosed with a sudden placental abruption. With both her and her daughter’s lives at risk, Sophie underwent an emergency caesarean. It is believed that she lost almost nine pints of blood due to internal bleeding and came close to death.
In response to the horrifying ordeal, The Countess of Wessex has been a staunch advocate for midwifery, and in 2014 returned to Frimley Park Hospital – where she had received her life-saving care – to open a new neonatal unit. There she became visibly moved, breaking down in tears as she was reunited with the midwife who had saved her life.
Knowing the expansive knowledge and personal attachment to the health and well-being of children, Kate actively ran her highly publicised 5 Big Questions Survey – a selection of questions that would be used to form the next steps in her Early Years program – by the Countess.
Although both women have never explicitly stated that they have assisted each other in their engagements, the Duchess has eluded to Sophie’s private advice. In 2018, whilst on a visit to Evelina London Children’s Hospital with Prince William, Kate commented how Sophie “always has the best helpful advice. She always reminds me she’s just a phone call away.”
This rare, yet insightful comment showcases the deep bond between both women, but also how Sophie fully understands the differing path the Duchess will take compared to her own.
Unlike Sophie, Kate will have the world’s attention honed onto her every move until the day she dies, and in recent years there has been accusations of ‘one-upmanship’ between many of the differing palaces. With Sophie, the Cambridges can find solace in a family member who sees no competition, but the understanding that hierarchy is the vital bedrock of the Royal institution. For the Countess of Wessex, William and Kate are the future of the Monarchy – if they succeed, so does everyone else.
Away from the formalities of the institution, Sophie has always felt maternal toward the Duchess. The result has been one of making Kate feel included in a family which has faced its fair share of criticism of being distant to outsiders. In 2012, just one year after her glittering wedding, the Olympics and Paralympics landed in London, with members of the Royal Family attending events throughout the sporting juggernaut. On more than one occasion, Kate was personally invited to join Sophie and her children Louise and James, to cheer on the athletes. The pictures delighted royal fans and showed the Duchess’ fondness for Lady Louise who had been a bridesmaid at her wedding the year before.
The same year, an event which wasn’t as joyful as the Olympics, was the announcement that the Duchess had been photographed topless by the paparazzi whilst sunbathing in a private French villa. The images were printed throughout numerous European magazines, with William and Kate only being informed mere seconds before they were set to meet with the public whilst touring Southeast Asia. Admirably, the Duchess showed a steely determination to carry on as normal, and it is believed that Catherine’s response confirmed to the Queen that her grandson had “picked the right girl for the job”. Whilst such high praises from the Queen were appreciated, and publicly Kate’s infectious smile never faltered, privately she was devastated, humiliated, and felt deeply violated by the photographs.
On her return to Kensington Palace, former staff noted that the Duchess had been delivered flowers and a card as both a congratulations on a successful tour, but also as a message that the sender “had got her back”. The sender in question was the Countess of Wessex, and the touching act of support had resulted in Kate bursting into tears.
Fast-forward another year to 2013 and the birth of Prince George. The Royals were delighted at the news of a baby Prince, and as expected, the immediate family were ecstatic – and so was Sophie. In an interview shortly after the news, the Countess shared her delight saying: “I feel ridiculously happy actually, so excited for them both.”
The warmth between both families has continued, remaining consistent and never wavering. It has therefore set a stable foundation for the next phase in these two ladies working relationship.
Throughout the pandemic, the Royal Family has highlighted the invaluable work of NHS staff and Key Workers. Through videocalls and messages, they have rallied the country through these ever-present dark times. Earlier this week, that rallying cry sounded again when Senior members of the Royal Family took part in an uplifting video thanking nurses all around the Commonwealth in honour of International Nurses Day.
In the four-minute video, posted to the Palace’s social media accounts, it was the interaction between the Countess of Wessex and the Duchess of Cambridge that brought the biggest smile to many faces. Speaking to a Military nurse in Cyprus about the struggles of home-schooling, who then revealed his ex-wife was a schoolteacher, the Countess made the joke that she was “about to be recruited” by the Duchess. The short, yet humorous interaction continued to showcase the genuine comfortability both women exude when in each other’s company – and the public took notice too.
Fans quickly adorned social media praising Kate and Sophie, dubbing their partnership “friendship-goals”. With such a stable and drama-free relationship, it is no surprise that the Queen is actively looking to capitalise on Kate and Sophie’s friendship. With rumours of increased joint engagements, partnering of initiatives and the Countess assisting more publicly with Catherine’s Early Years project, this stable and secure approach inherited by the Monarch’s example, looks set to take precedent. It is hoped, that whilst there has been much controversy over the last few years – with potentially more to come – through the rapport of these two royal women, the Queen may just achieve some peace and quiet.
With their comradery for one another, the Duchess of Cambridge and Countess of Wessex have demonstrated a winning formula for the Royal Family to build upon. They understand their differences, both in positions and interests, and are willing to utilise each other’s advice and teachings. There is no competition, only championing. Whether it be their causes, fashion, families, frailties, or successes; Kate has a support network – “a secret weapon” – more unique than any other royal women who has come before her, and this refraining of upstaging one another has created perhaps one of the most formidable royal sisterhoods yet.
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