Duchess Sophie’s life-changing moment that lead to royal romance with Prince Edward almost didn't happen

The Duchess of Edinburgh reportedly stepped in at the last minute and made quite an impression on Prince Edward at a charity photocall

 Prince Edward, Duke of Edinburgh and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh attend day two of Royal Ascot 2024
(Image credit: Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

Duchess Sophie’s life-changing moment that led to her royal romance with Prince Edward almost didn't happen.

Some royal love stories are incredibly well-known, from Prince William and Kate’s first meeting at university, to the late Queen Elizabeth describing Prince Philip as her "strength and stay". However, some people might not know all the details about how love came to blossom between certain members of the Royal Family, including the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh. Before becoming a working royal, Duchess Sophie had a successful career in public relations and whilst she is understood to have first met her future husband in 1987, they only got together thanks to a life-changing moment that brought them back face-to-face years later.

As per The Mirror, Sophie’s then-boss is said to have had the idea to have a photocall at Queen’s Tennis Club for the Prince Edward Summer Challenge. Presenter and former tennis professional Sue Barker was reportedly unable to attend the event at the last moment and Duchess Sophie apparently came to the rescue.

Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh and Prince Edward, Duke of Edinburgh during Trooping the Colour at Buckingham Palace on June 15, 2024 in London

(Image credit: Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

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She valiantly took Sue’s place and was photographed alongside Queen Elizabeth’s youngest son. This was a life-changing moment for her as after clearly making quite the impression, Prince Edward allegedly went on to later invite Duchess Sophie to Buckingham Palace for a game of tennis and dinner with him.

This is a rather unique first date and from there Duchess Sophie and Prince Edward’s relationship went from strength to strength. The couple announced their engagement in January 1999 and married at St George’s Chapel in Windsor that June, with the bride wearing a pearl necklace and earrings designed by the Prince.

Duchess Sophie also quickly won the hearts of her parents-in-law Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip after she and Prince Edward got together, so much so that the Queen reportedly granted her a huge privilege.

Prince Edward and Duchess Sophie surrounded by their families outside St. George's Chapel on their wedding day in 1999

(Image credit: Photo by pool/Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

Opening up in the 2020 documentary, Edward & Sophie: The Reluctant Royals, the Editor-in-Chief of Majesty magazine, Ingrid Seward, claimed that Queen Elizabeth made the unprecedented move of allowing Sophie access to Buckingham Palace.

"The Queen decided that she wanted Sophie to understand what marrying into the Royal Family meant. What she did, which has never happened before, is she gave Sophie a pass to Buckingham Palace, so it’s like being given the key to a front door," Ingrid said, as per The Mirror.

Specialist in the history of the British monarchy Dr Anna Whitelock described this as Sophie being "drawn into the heart of the Royal Family" and believes it’s a "testament to how she was perceived by the Queen in particular". 

Prince Edward, Duke of Edinburgh and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh attend day 2 of the 2024 Royal Windsor Horse Show

(Image credit: Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

The Queen and Duchess of Edinburgh are understood to have had a very close relationship and Sophie has remained very much at the "heart" of the British Royal Family ever since. During an appearance on ITV's Love Your Weekend as he marked his 60th birthday in March, Prince Edward spoke glowingly about how "lucky" he is that he and Sophie "found" each other.

"She's been an absolutely brilliant rock and I'm incredibly lucky that I found Sophie and that she found me. Hopefully we've been a really brilliant partnership," he declared. "We're very lucky, we've got two, of what we would think are particularly brilliant children, who are forging such different paths for themselves. I think that's also equally fascinating."

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!