The Countess of Wessex is emulating the Queen as she steps up her royal duties, according to a royal expert.
Sophie, who is married to the Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, has risen through the royal ranks in the past year in particular, as she helped fill some of the gap left by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
The royal, who turned 56 on Wednesday, has long been a trusted pair of hands for the Queen, and it’s likely her role will keep growing in 2021.
Claudia Joseph, an author and journalist who has written several royal biographies, said: “I think Sophie has proved that she is a safe pair of hands for the Royal Family in times of crisis.
“She has stepped into the breach since the Sussexes moved to the States and Andrew was caught up in the Epstein scandal.
“She is very close to her mother-in-law and has emulated her example, carrying out engagements on Zoom during lockdown, as well as quietly volunteering at food banks and charity shops. I’m sure she will continue to support the Queen during 2021 in her own understated manner.”
Edward and Sophie have carried out royal duties as working members of the family since 2002, when they gave up their paid jobs to work for the Queen.
But they don’t have their own household in the same way as Prince William and his wife Kate.
Watch: Wessexes join beach clean volunteers
Instead, their work is shared via the main Royal Family accounts on Twitter and Instagram.
On Wednesday, as the countess marked her birthday, the accounts wished her a happy day and shared details of the work she had been carrying out earlier in the week.
On Twitter, the Royal Family explained she had been taking part in a webinar with London School of Economics’ (LSE) centre for Women, Peace and Security (WPS).
The tweet said: “The WPS agenda promotes the meaningful participation of women in peace processes.
“Her Royal Highness discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict (PSVI) initiative, and how the pandemic has presented new challenges for survivors.”
Sophie explained during the call, where she spoke to survivors about their experiences, how she became involved with the centre’s work.
She said: “I started to listen and learn to try and understand if I could play some small part. The more I listened and the more people I met it just drew me in.
“When somebody has revealed something deeply personal, they have trusted you with their story. Every story I am told is pushing me forward. I feel obligated to tell people this is happening - it is their story to tell and I support them.”
A very Happy 56th Birthday to HRH The Countess Of Wessex, who among her many military appointments is the Colonel In Chief of the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps and the Royal Corps of Army Music. @RoyalFamily @qarancassn @Corpsarmymusic @BritishArmy @armystrings pic.twitter.com/oQMuTCJfi1
— The Army in London (@ArmyInLondon) January 20, 2021
Edward and Sophie live in Bagshot Park, close to the Queen’s Windsor home, with their two children, Lady Louise Windsor and James, the Viscount Severn.
She has previously spoken about the advantages of living so closely to the Queen, mentioning that she and her children have been able to pop in on Her Majesty for tea with more ease than other members of the Royal Family.
She told Sky News: “We’re a lot more fortunate because we live so much closer to the Queen.
“So, when she spends a lot of time at Windsor at weekends, our children are more fortunate because they can go over and have tea with her on a regular basis.
“We’re over there most weekends riding, so she sees quite a lot of us - lucky her!”
Sophie’s work has focused on vision-related charities, and she is also a passionate advocate for women’s rights.
She has previously carried out an historic royal trip to Lebanon and then became the first Royal Family member to go to South Sudan in March 2020.
During that trip, for International Women’s Day, she said in a speech: “My message to the men is to encourage you all to listen to your women folk and to support them to take their place at your side.”
The Countess of Wessex has shown her support to @Girlguiding and @BBCCiN and completed her own #ActYourAge challenge. HRH, President @Girlguiding, put on her apron to earn a Pudsey badge and baked 55 cheese & bacon scones earlier this week! 🧀🥓 pic.twitter.com/mbvoV8U1R7
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) November 12, 2020
With coronavirus lockdown restrictions back in force, the countess will have to make do with quiet birthday celebrations, though she has proven herself a dab hand in the kitchen through lockdown, so a sweet treat will be no problem.
In November, to show her support to Girlguiding UK, she baked 55 cheese and bacon scones, part of the Act Your Age challenge.
The teatime treats were delivered to the Hope Hub in Camberley after she baked them, which provides support to homeless people in Surrey.
Watch: Who is Prince Edward?