Prince Edward and Sophie head to Manchester to read book of condolence

The Earl and Countess of Wessex were in Manchester today, where they thanked well-wishers for their support and tributes to the late Queen.

The visit comes a day after the couple, joined by their children, attended a Service at Westminster Hall for the Queen. Edward, along with his siblings, walked behind their mother’s coffin.

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The couple started in the Central Library, where they viewed the book of condolences in which the residents of Manchester had been writing their messages for the Queen and the Royal Family.

They then headed outside into St Ann’s Square where they viewed the floral tributes in St Ann’s Square and greeted the crowds who had gathered outside, hoping to pass on their condolences to the couple. 

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Sophie shared a particularly heartwarming moment with one member of the pubic, hugging a young royal fan named Josh. Josh, who has sensory autism, passed a bouquet of flowers to the Countess when she first walked round. Just before Sophie was leaving, she saw the young individual holding his arms out. She went over to the youngster to give him a second hug.

Josh spoke to Sky News where he said seeing the Countess made him ‘happy’ and also revealed his love for the Queen’s handbag and Paddington Bear.

His mum Sue said what it meant to her son, who is non-verbal, and revealed HRH had said: ‘Nice to meet you. Do you want me to take your flowers?’

The Earl and Countess of Wessex chat to crowds in Manchester (@RoyalFamily)

Sue added: ‘It was quite emotional to be honest. I’m trying to hold it all in. I wanted to lay some flowers but I wasn’t expecting Sophie to come over and take them off him. It was a nice moment.’

The Countess of Wessex supports a number of learning disability organisations, which might explain her ease with the young man.

Meanwhile, Prince Edward was seen crouched down as he laid a floral tribute to his mother from the crowd.

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The cards and messages at St Ann’s Square will be saved and later archived at Manchester Art Gallery, as the Arena bombing tributes were.

Council employee Juliet Felstead, 27, who is leading a team of volunteers overlooking the site, spoke to Edward She said: ‘He was just really grateful for all of the volunteers who have been out over the week to oversee the tributes.

‘They were both touched by all the messages and the kindness that has been shown. We have seen a steady stream of people, with many sharing their memories of the Queen, including some ex-service personnel. It’s meant a lot to people.’

During the visit to Manchester, the Earl and Countess were also invited by the Dean of Manchester, the Very Rev Rogers Govender, and the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, to each light a candle in the Cathedral.

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The couple were also shown photographs of the Queen’s last visit to the Cathedral, which marked the 600th anniversary celebration of the collegiate church in July 2021.

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