In an interview with The Sunday Times, The Countess of Wessex has spoken about royal family life, and her children’s future outside of ‘the Firm’.
Sophie, 55, said that it is ‘highly unlikely’ that her children, Lady Louise Windsor, 16, and James, Viscount Severn, 12, will use their HRH titles when they turn 18, and that they will almost certainly have normal careers.
As grandchildren of the Monarch through the male line (Prince Edward), Louise and James are entitled to use the HRH style, like their cousins Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie of York.
“We try to bring them up with the understanding that they are very likely to have to work for a living,” the Countess said.
“Hence we made the decision not to use HRH titles. They have them and can decide to use them from 18, but I think it’s highly unlikely.”
When the Wessex children were born in 2003 and 2007, the Earl and Countess decided that their children would be styled as the children of an Earl, but Louise and James are legally entitled to be called Princess Louise of Wessex and Prince James of Wessex.
As they turn 18, they would be allowed to change this and take their full titles, but that is not what the family expect because they probably won’t be working Royals.
Speaking of her first labour, the Countess said it was ‘very scary’; she lost nine pints of blood during the premature birth.
Lady Louise was born with a severe squint, which was corrected with surgery in 2014. “It’s still not perfect, but none of us are,” the mother-of-two says.
Sophie was asked about her transition into the Royal Family. “Remember I’d had five years to adjust,” she commented, remarking on her and Edward’s relationship before their engagement in 1999, “and for our six-month engagement I was even staying in Buckingham Palace. Not that you necessarily know how it will pan out.”
It seems she was quizzed on Prince Harry and Meghan’s departure from the Royal Family. “We all try to help any new member of the family,” Sophie expressed.
“I just hope they will be happy,” came her response about their move to the US.
It has been suggested that it is the Wessexes that will pick up the slack in royal engagements with the Sussexes’ departure, but Sophie seems to deny this. “We’ve all got our own little portfolios. I don’t see anything changing, but if we’re asked to do more… I don’t know, because it hasn’t really happened.”
“I am pretty busy already, so I’m not sure how much more I can do. There are only so many hours in the day. People may pay more attention to what I am doing, but I remain as busy as I have ever been.”
The Countess spoke to Christina Lamb from her Bagshot Park home, just a few miles from Windsor.
“Certainly it took me a while to find my feet. The frustration was I had to reduce my expectations of what I could actually do [in her royal work],” she said of giving up her career in PR.
“I couldn’t turn up at a charity and go, right, I think you should be doing this, because that’s what I was used to doing in my working life.
“I had to take a really big step back and go, ok, they want you to be the icing on the cake, the person to come in to thank their volunteers and funder, not necessarily to tell them how to run their communications plan.”
Lamb also followed Sophie to South Sudan in early March, in which the focus of the visit was sexual war crimes. The article goes into detail about the damage seen in the war-ravaged and corrupt country. “I’ve never been anywhere so devastated,” the Royal commented of Malakal, the second city.
“It starts with educating a girl and hopefully ends with a woman leader” – @JuliaGillardGPE
— British Embassy Juba 🇬🇧🇸🇸 (@UKinSouthSudan) March 5, 2020
“You read your brief, but don’t really know what to expect, then get there and oh my God, this is just a drop in the ocean, what can I do?
“At my most depressed times, I think what’s the point, but then, like today, they ask. ‘Please can we have more torches.’ Even if I made the tiniest difference… if we can get them torches, encourage the men, then it was worth going.”
“If I can prod the consciences of those who may be able to do more to try and prevent it, and can help get justice for survivors, I will do everything I can.”
We are told of a conversation with one local, Gabriel, who initially was against supporting equality but then joined the Male Engagement Project, which seeks to improve men’s treatment of women.
“My family thought I was crazy [to help collect water, a ‘woman’s’ job]. But after I joined I realised women are human beings like me, so now I send my wife to school.”
“My fear was if we give women equality they will control everything, but I realised ‘No if you do these things, she will feel good about you.'”
Sophie explained that she doesn’t tell her husband ‘the intimate details’ of what she sees in this particular area of work, but that The Queen is ‘interested in my trips, particularly in Commonwealth countries’.
The Countess of Wessex was asked about Diana, Princess of Wales’ work in Angola with her landmines campaign.
“I’m not able to raise the profile by that extent. I’m not going to be able to change things the way she did, but I hope it keeps it from sliding off the agenda. I won’t let it, it’s too important.”
After her return home, and another catch up with the journalist, she confirms: “I have to compartmentalise.”
She is asked if she is a feminist. “Now there’s a question,” she said. “I suppose I probably am. I believe in equality for everyone.”
Lamb asked if this was practiced within the Wessex family: “Actually, we do,” came the reply. “I wasn’t well when I got back, so my husband has been doing the school-run.
“If one of us goes away, we try to make sure the other is around.”
Speaking of royal life with Prince Edward, the Countess confirmed that he does cook. “Yes, sometimes. He is very good at barbecues, and the children love those. He takes our son fishing, does a lot of riding with our daughter, he is very engaged as a father.”
Sometimes photographers snap Edward and Louise riding through the grounds of Windsor. Lady Louise is also a keen carriage driver, which she possibly learnt from The Duke of Edinburgh.
Moving to the topic of ‘normal’ upbringings for her kids, the Royal said: “What’s normal? They go to a regular school. They go to friends for sleepovers and parties. At weekends we do lots of dog walking and stay with friends.
“I guess not everyone’s grandparents live in a castle, but where you are going is not the important part, or who they are.
“When they are with The Queen, she is their grandmother.” It is understood the Monarch has a close relationship with the Wessex children because of their close proximity to Windsor Castle, where she spends her weekends.
Sophie said her daughter was ‘quite clever’. “I hope she goes to university… whereas James I don’t know.”
Unsurprisingly, she refused to be drawn on Prince Andrew’s recent scandal: “I can’t comment on that.”
Turning to the role of the Royal Family in 21st century, she was taken aback. “Gosh! I would hope the consistency of us being there, The Queen being such an amazing Monarch as she has been for so long. I think we’ll all be busy post this virus. There will be many people affected who are going to need.a lot of support. The whole country will need it moving forward.”