How Sophie rose up the ranks after replacing Meghan Markle (2024)

The British monarchy has undergone substantial change over the last few years, with the death of the beloved Queen Elizabeth and the departure of the Duke and duch*ess of Sussex, who left the UK for a new life in the US.

But amid all the disruption, one hard-working member of the royal family has seen her star continue to rise - the duch*ess of Edinburgh.

Behind the scenes of royal health crises for King Charles and the Princess of Wales and the enduring rift between Prince Harry and Prince William, Sophie, 59, has been working her way up the ranks in The Firm - as a family member often dubbed the late Queen's 'favourite' royal.

From attending glittering banquets to standing next to Queen Camilla on the Buckingham Palace balcony for Trooping the Colour, her promoted status is made known in official royal events and engagements.

But she was afforded the opportunity to move to the inner circle whenPrince Harry andMeghan Markle announced that they were leaving the Royal Family in exchange for a more star-studded lifestyle inMontecito, California.

Meghan Markle is pictured alongside Sophie, who was then Countess of Wessex, on Remembrance Day in 2019

The duch*ess of Edinburgh's status was highlighted recently when she was 'promoted' to the top table at the State Banquet for the Japanese royals last week. Above: Sophie sat next to Emperor Naruhito of Japan

The Duke and duch*ess of Edinburgh are now among the few working royals under the age of 70 (alongside the Prince and Princess of Wales). With a glaring gap in the monarchy after the young and glamorous Duke and duch*ess of Sussex stepped down, Sophie has become a key and crucial member of The Firm.

This was demonstrated when Sophie was 'promoted' to the top table at the lavish State Banquet for the Japanese royals last week, where she was placed right next to Emperor Naruhito at Buckingham Palace.

Emperor Naruhito and King Charles have a long friendship spanning decades and her placement at the banquet suggests that Sophie is well-liked and highly trusted by the monarch.

Although they are not known to be in regular contact these days, Sophie and Meghan are not dissimilar in their beliefs and have long championed similar causes, including ending gender-based violence and advancing girls' education.

During her time as a working royal, the duch*ess of Sussex visitedActionAid in Johannesburg to raise awareness of sexual violence in schools, met with women to speak about gender inequality in Cape Town and became close with ladies who survived the Grenfell fire, helping them launch a cookbook.

She also more recently spoke on International Women's Day in March about being bullied online when she was pregnant and spoke at aWomen in Leadership eventNigeria during herquasi-royal tour of the nation.

Similarly, Sophie flew to Sierra Leone in 2020, where she visited a Women's centre, and addressed sexual and gender based violence, supported survivors, and championed the role of women in peacebuilding.

Two months later, the duch*ess travelled to the Republic of South Sudan and visited various initiatives to protect the safety of girls and women.

She also made a surprise visit toIraq in 2023 as part of her work championing the survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

Royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams, who described Sophie as 'cheerful, dedicated and attentive', said that she has always been 'the achiever.'

'[The duch*ess of Edinburgh] is down to earth which is pivotal, but without attracting adverse publicity,' he said.

'It is Sophie who has been the achiever. In recent years she has visited Kosovo, South Sudan, Iraq and Ukraine as well as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other African countries meeting victims of gender-based sexual violence.

'Sophie is active on the ground in this area, as shown in her visit to Sierra Leone in 2020, which is an excellent example of what working members of the royal family can achieve.

Sophie is pictured sitting alongside Meghan in a carriage for Royal Ascot in 2018

Royal expertRichard Fitzwilliams highlighted that Sophie is a close confidante of King Charles and the late Queen

Over time, Sophie was viewed by the Queen as The Firm's safest pair of hands (the pair are pictured together in 2018)

Royal expertRichard Fitzwilliams likened Sophie to Princess Anne (both pictured in 2022) as she just 'gets on with it'

However, in contrast, he suggested that the duch*ess of Sussex is a very different character to the duch*ess of Edinburgh; claiming that while Meghan is 'self-obsessed', Sophie prefers to 'get on with it'.

He told FEMAIL: 'Sophie was famously a confidante of the late Queen and King Charles knows he can trust her implicitly.

'Her temperament is very different to Meghan's. The latter, though not without talent, is self-obsessed and reportedly temperamental.

Read More Inside Meghan Markle and duch*ess Sophie's up and down relationship

'Sophie is attached to nearly 70 organisations. Meghan only had a few patronages, Harry had a few more [and] they chose to give them up to make a new life elsewhere.

'Sophie and Edward do not seek publicity or praise. Like Princess Anne, they get on with it, are trusted, do a lot of good and not just for themselves, as the Sussexes do often appear to do.'

Meghan and Sophie appear to have had a rocky relationship since 2018, when the duch*ess of Sussex officially joined the royal family after marrying Prince Harry.

To help her settle in, it was claimed that the late Queen suggested Sophie asa 'sort of mentor' to Meghan.

But the duch*ess of Sussex 'felt she had Harry' and didn't need further help from anadvisor.

Royal expertGyles Brandreth told Palace Confidential in 2022:'The Queen wanted Meghan to make a success of the marriage and of her new role, and indeed did everything that she could to encourage that.

'I think she suggested to her that Sophie Wessex, who certainly was a favourite with her, and had been through it because she had married into the royal family, and married Prince Edward, might help her, be a sort of mentor.

'I don't think Meghan was interested in that. She felt she had Harry, she didn't need to be offered a mentor... The Queen was very keen at first,' he concluded.

It was claimed that Sophie (pictured at the garden party at the Palace of Holyroodhouse) was suggested as a 'mentor' for Meghan Markle to help her settle into the Royal Family

Sophie had previously been duty-bound to Meghan as she was of a higher rank to her (pictured at theCommonwealth Day Service in 2020)

Sophie and Edward are pictured alongside King Charles and Queen Camilla for Trooping the Colour last month on the Buckingham Palace balcony

Sophie,who was formerly theCountess of Wessex, had previously been duty-bound to defer to Prince Harry's wife who, as a duch*ess, was of a higher rank.

But as of last year, her husband,Prince Edward, was given the title of Duke of Edinburgh, which also made Sophie a duch*ess.

A friend of the couple told the Mail on Sundaylast year: 'Sophie is relieved. She no longer has to curtsey to someone in the family who has not only left Royal duties but has spent the past three years criticising the institution that Sophie works so hard to support.'

The duch*ess of Edinburgh was welcomed into the Royal Family after tying the knot to Prince Edward back in 1999, and the couple have since welcomed two children, Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.

How Sophie rose up the ranks after replacing Meghan Markle (2024)
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