Royals

Sophie, the Duchess of Edinburgh’s spectacular rise

The royal’s popularity is no surprise to those who know her best

The King’s plans to slim down the monarchy mean those working royals left carrying the load are having to take on extra work.

And one of those proving time and time again why she is such an asset to the royal family is Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh.

The mum-of-two has worked tirelessly as a representative of the monarchy since marrying Prince Edward 24 years ago, but has stepped up even further since the death of the Queen last year.

And in recent weeks, she’s added even more engagements to her already full schedule, supporting important causes like a children’s hospice and a blindness prevention charity.

Evidence of her growing status in The Firm includes the appearance she made last week at an event alongside Prince William. The fact she accompanied the future king to the screening of Rhino Man, a documentary about wildlife conservation in South Africa, goes to show that she’s increasingly valued and no longer considered to be a “second tier” royal, says a palace insider.

Prince William is her plus-one!

(Image: Getty)

Former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond agrees that Sophie’s star is on the rise and deservedly so.

“It is much more evident now that Sophie is a key member of the list of working royals,” she tells. “I think people have really taken her into their hearts, especially after she showed her obvious grief at losing Prince Philip and the Queen.”

Jennie says people have warmed to Sophie, 58, not just because of the close bond she had with her parents-in-law and her work ethic, but because of the way she relates to people.

“She has a common touch – perhaps because she lived a normal life before marrying Prince Edward. She connects with the people she meets and looks as if she really wants to chat. Sophie is absolutely one of the new female stars of the show – elegant, engaging and empathetic.”

She doesn’t hesitate to do everything, from driving tractors to cuddling puppies – as she has done at recent engagements – and that also endears her to the public.

So does her determination to shine a light on important causes that have previously had very little royal attention.

Sophie promised four years ago that she would do her utmost to help women who’ve been subjected to sexual violence during conflict and has kept her word, including making a recent secret visit to Iraq, where she listened to the harrowing stories of women who’ve suffered horrendous experiences.

Sophie’s four-day visit to the Middle Eastern country last month was kept under wraps for security reasons until she was back in the United Kingdom. She’s the first member of the royal family to visit the capital, Baghdad, and was asked to make the trip by the British Foreign Office – despite the fact it advises against all travel to the majority of provinces in Iraq because of the potential danger.

On a mission to champion vulnerable women.

(Image: Getty)

Sophie spent two days in Baghdad, hearing about the challenges facing Iraqi women and girls, and the ongoing work to protect and promote their rights, including visiting a school and a family planning centre.

The toughest part of the trip was talking to Yazidi survivors of conflict-related sexual violence at a camp for displaced people in Duhok. The duchess learned not only about the horror of what had happened to them, but the stigma they’ve faced since. In nearby Erdil, she heard from a woman whose children, all born as a result of rape, had been taken from her, and her efforts to be reunited with them.

Sophie – who worked in public relations before joining the royal family – also had a meeting with the two men running Iraq, Prime Minister Mohammad Shia Al Sudani and President Abdul Latif Rashid, and spoke to them about their country’s plans to help survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

In 2019, Sophie announced her support for two initiatives that recognise the impact of conflict on women and girls, and aim to rally global support to stop sexual violence being used against them. In a speech, she said she was “publicly committing myself to doing what I can to champion” the Women, Peace and Security agenda, and the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative.

Since then, she has travelled to countries where the use of sexual violence as part of conflict has taken a terrible toll on thousands of women, like Kosovo, South Sudan, Lebanon and Sierra Leone. Last year, she made history when she became the first royal to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where she focused on the ordeals suffered by many women during fighting.

In the course of the visits, she has spoken with many women about the challenges they face in bringing their attackers to justice and trying to overcome the stigma that results. She said in 2021 that hearing their stories has taken her to “some very dark places” but the women inspired her to keep raising awareness. “Every story I am told is pushing me forward. I feel obligated to tell people this is happening.”

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