Sophie Wessex: ‘it was hard finding my own path in the Royal Family’

In another open interview with Camilla Tominey, Sophie, The Countess of Wessex has revealed her surprise at being featured on best-dressed lists, her involvement with her patronages and how it was to find her own way in the most famous Royal Family on Earth.

Just last week, Sophie gave an interview speaking about her daughter’s sight problems.

It was in 2002, the year of The Queen’s Golden Jubilee, that Sophie became a full-time Royal.

“Initially, when I first started to do full-time engagements, I sort of had to start paddling my own canoe a bit and carving out my own style,” she says. Tominey’s interview for the Sunday Express says she seemed to struggle for words here.

Sophie is credited for her impeccable taste nowadays. Picture by Ben Stevens / i-Images

Sophie is credited for her impeccable taste nowadays. Picture by Ben Stevens / i-Images

“You can’t expect people to think you’re going to suddenly know what you’re doing. It took time [to learn how to be a full-time Royal].”

This turn to full-time royal work followed a fake-sheikh scam for the PR company owner.

The Countess, who turned 50 this year, has had just over a decade of experience in her role. She is now patron of hundreds of charities and organisations including Dyslexia Action, Mencap, the National Autistic Society, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, and Vision 2020.

“It’s not like being in a business situation, where you can learn about your clients because you’re working with them all the time. When you’ve got a lot of different charities, it takes time to get to know what each individual charity does.

“I would say to somebody, well, you know, you should be talking to this person over here. Putting people together is what I really love doing and standing back and seeing what magic they can create together.”

Sophie credits this ability to her former PR career, and it seems to be a valuable skill set she has.

“I suppose because I’ve tried hard to learn from what I’ve been doing over the years, I would like to be able to speak with a certain amount of authority about certain subjects.

“While recognising that I don’t know everything and certainly couldn’t claim to have all of the answers, I try to cajole and push and help from a different perspective and bring people together who might be able to move things forward.”

Tominey also notes that the Countess’ charities are often focused around difficult or distressing themes.

“I’m drawn to those causes by the mere fact that they are difficult. A lot of them do find themselves under the radar. They’re hard to raise money for. But they are good fun as well.

“I spend a lot of time visiting special needs schools and meeting people with learning difficulties and physical incapacity – and it is hugely rewarding.”

Much like her brother-in-law, The Duke of York, Sophie is amazed at the advancement in technology. Mohamed Al-Ali, 24, could only communicate with his family by moving his eyes up- or downwards. Since two years ago, he has been using the same kind of specially adapted computer as Stephen Hawking.

“Technology has completely changed the whole world for disability. Imagine Mohamed being able to say, ‘Mummy’ for the first time? Imagine being able to say, ‘Actually that blue shirt that you constantly dress me in is not the shirt I like at all.’ Actually having an argument with her.

“That said, I’m sure his mother probably knows his personality very well and she has learnt to communicate with him outside the technology, but just imagine the number of people who have gone before, without the technology, who have been inside their heads cognitively aware and simply not able to communicate.”

The Queen is joined by The Countess of Wessex at The Royal Windsor Horse Show. Picture by Andrew Parons / i-Images

The Queen is joined by The Countess of Wessex at The Royal Windsor Horse Show. Picture by Andrew Parons / i-Images

The conversation moves to Sophie’s mother-in-law, The Queen. Since becoming a full-time Royal, the Countess and Monarch have become close: with The Queen splitting her week between Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, Sophie is not far away, just a 10-minute drive, living at Bagshot Park. Some have suggested that she has somewhat replaced The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret as a confidant in recent years.

“Watching The Queen in certain situations – she’s a great listener. And you see her considering what people are saying and you can see the information going in, and she clearly has a great desire to learn all the time. I think that’s amazing at 89, with all she’s seen and done in her life.”

Since the beginning of this decade, the Countess has certainly upped her effort in the fashion stakes – however, it is something she wasn’t always interested in.

“It was all about my clients, not me,” she says, referring to her days in PR, and her attempt to not make fashion part of her job. “It’s still not about me, it’s about my charities but I recognise that I’m on display. I remember having a chat with somebody and them saying, ‘You know you’ve got to recognise that this is part and parcel of what you’re doing.

“When you walk into a room, yes people are going to talk about what you’re doing there, but they’re also going to want to know what you’re wearing.” I sort of wrestled with that one for a little while and slightly caved in at the end of the day.”

Now, Sophie is recognised for her impeccable taste in hats, with Jane Taylor being her favourite (“I’ve been going to Jane for years”), and is even being recognised in the fashion world. This year, she was featured in Vanity Fair’s ‘Best Dressed List’ alongside Amal Clooney and Samantha Cameron – quite a surprise for her.

“I know, how surprising was that! I kept on reading the names, thinking, are they sure they’re not thinking of someone else?”

She says her age has helped, she tries, “to do what I can with what I have…I know what I like and what I don’t like, but I have never had a stylist.”

“Being busy with children, with work and everything, I have to try to fit it in all around but that’s what working mothers do.”

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1 comment

Susan Clarke Sun 18 October, 2015 - 4:51 pm

Whatever your secret is believe me carry on cos its working just fine,
best wishes to you and your daughter.


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