Sophie Countess of Wessex: How Edward learned from Charles and Andrew’s mistakes
Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Prince Edward celebrated 20 years of marriage last week, and released a sweet photograph to mark the anniversary of their 1999 royal wedding. The royal pair met in in 1993, at the height of a period of instability for the Royal Family. Princess Anne divorced, while Prince Charles and Prince Andrew separated in 1992, followed by their high-profile divorces in 1996.
However, Prince Edward learned form the mistakes of his brothers in the way he introduced Sophie to the pressures and complexities of royal life.
Royal biographer Ingrid Seward, in her 1995 book “Prince Edward”, delves into the early days of the Earl and Countess of Wessex’s royal romance.
Ms Seward writes: “The failures of the marriages of his beloved sister Anne and then, in rapid and ever more embarrassing succession, Andrew and Charles, made him even more determined to put caution before commitment.”
The mistakes of the past prompted Edward to slowly and carefully introduce Sophie to royal life.
This came in contrast to Diana, who courted Prince Charles for six months before he proposed, and Fergie who dated Andrew for less than a year before their engagement.
Added to this, the Queen took a new approach to welcome Sophie into the Royal Family.
She writes: “That Edward should wish to have his girlfriend beside him as much as possible was perfectly natural.
“That the Queen should allow it to happen under her roof marked a significant change in attitude and approach.
“Both Sarah and Diana had moved into the Palace, but not until they were formally engaged.
“Even then they were carefully accommodated at the other end of the principal floor so that appearances could be maintained.
“Those strictures were set aside for Sophie. She was free to stay with Prince Edward wherever and whenever she wanted to.
“It was an eminently sensible way of familiarising Sophie with a forbidding family of enormous complexity.
“The Princess of Wales and Duchess of York only discovered how difficult royal life could be after they were engaged and already en route to the altar.
“Sophie was being given a careful and subtle introduction, a fact which did not escape the notice of Diana and Sarah.
“Both would later complain (with more than an edge of resentment in their voices) that they had received no such help as they struggled to get to terms with their new situation.”
Sophie’s introduction to royal life has parallels with Kate Middleton’s, who similarly co-habited with Prince William when their relationship became serious.
While Edward and Sophie waited six years to get married, Kate and William dated for 10 years before they tied the knot.
Edward also paved the way for Prince William, and his brother Prince Harry, when he sent a strong signal of royal protection about his new partner.
His move was highly unusual at the time, but the same step was taken by both William and Harry when they first started seeing Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle.
When rumours circulated in December 1993 that he and Sophie were planning on marrying the prince stated: “I am taking this unusual step of writing to you directly in the hopes of stopping your reporters and photographers from destroying that part of my life that I am entitled to regard as private and more importantly, Sophie’s life.”
Prince William used similar language in 2007, when, just like with Sophie and Edward, rumours about an impending engagement announcement surfaced.
Meanwhile, in 2017, Prince Harry also released a robust privacy statement.
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