Sophie Wessex visits Democratic Republic of the Congo
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Sophie, Countess of Wessex, visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) earlier this month, making her the first member of the Royal Family to travel to the African country. While there, she addressed the devastating impact of sexual and gender-based violence in the region and spoke to survivors about their experiences. Her visit came ahead of the International Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative Conference in London, which is being hosted by the UK Government in November. The Countess will join foreign ministers, international organisations supporting the cause, faith communities and survivors of sexual violence at the conference.
Sophie has long been passionate about supporting women and championing gender equality; she has devoted much of her time to advocating for charities and organisations that aid women in conflict around the world.
Russell Myers, the Daily Mirror’s royal editor, has commended the Countess for her recent efforts, claiming that Sophie is a “safe pair of hands” within the Royal Family, who will be offered more opportunities under King Charles III’s reign.
Speaking during last week’s episode of Pod Save The King, Mr Myers said Sophie’s work flew “very, very much under the radar,” explaining that “she was in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) talking about sexual violence amongst women, something that she’s had a long-standing commitment to.
“It’s a very, very difficult country to operate in, to travel around — but she’s been doing expertly well. She was in Rwanda as well, talking about the opportunities that charities have within the region to be sponsored by British organisations.
“This is something that I think is a really big opportunity for Sophie Wessex and indeed the Royal Family because obviously there are fewer major players within the streamlined, slimmed-down monarchy operation and I think that people want to see her because she’s definitely a safe pair of hands. People want to see her and people like her as well, so all more for Sophie Wessex!”
Sophie’s solo royal tour has seen her travel around Africa for nearly two weeks; as well as addressing the impact of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict, she celebrated World Sight Day (October 13) in Malawi, which has been successful in eliminating the infectious disease, trachoma.
The disease is known to cause blindness and ending avoidable blindness is a cause the Countess has supported for several years, having worked with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) for two decades.
During her visit to Malawi, Sophie revealed that Queen Elizabeth II, her “dear mother-in-law,” was “so happy” to hear the news before her death. Later, in Ethiopia, the Countess took the time to read a book of condolence for the Queen and appeared emotional as she looked at the tributes to the late monarch.
Sophie was known to be extremely close with her mother-in-law and was understood to be one of Her Majesty’s most frequent visitors at Windsor Castle.
In the years before her death, the Queen pushed Sophie and her husband Prince Edward, the monarch’s youngest son, further into the spotlight, with the Earl and Countess of Wessex taking on more and more public engagements. It was a move that was previously encouraged by the late Prince Philip, who also shared a close bond with Sophie.
It had been feared that the Wessexes’ time in the public eye would be reduced under King Charles III, but it has now been said that the Palace is “definitely pushing” Sophie into a senior royal role. Roya Nikkhah, the royal editor for The Sunday Times, told True Royalty TV that the Countess of Wessex is “getting more of a platform”.
She explained: “There is a lot of discussion around Sophie. We are suddenly seeing the Wessexes come to the fore. We are paying them more attention. She is doing the same work she has been doing for years, a lot of work with sexual violence in conflict, and prevention of blindness. She has been doing these things for 10 years or more.
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“But, now in a streamlined monarchy, there are fewer people around, so she is getting more of a platform. The Palace is definitely pushing it because she is a good news story for the Royal Family.”
Focus is of course on the King and Queen and the newly-appointed Prince and Prince of Wales, who have all stepped into their roles with apparent ease. The couples have hit the ground running with multiple royal engagements across the UK.
While Prince William and Princess Kate celebrated the 10th anniversary of Coach Core, an employment and education charity that targets young people not in employment and encourages them to think about their future pathways, the Queen Consort met Chelsea and Westminster Hospital’s pioneering Domestic Abuse team.
Meanwhile, King Charles officially reopened The Burrell Collection following its six-year-long refurbishment; it was first opened in 1983 by the late Queen Elizabeth.
This core group of royals, which also includes Charles’ sister Princess Anne, is known as the ‘Magnificent Seven’ and as the monarchy is streamlined, they are set to carry out the majority of royal engagements.
According to Mr Myers, 2023 will see the royals collaborating more closely with each other as they focus on fewer, but bigger, issues.
He told Pod Save The King: “I’ve said all this all the time and it definitely has been explained to me that there will be a period of collaboration — so whether that is seeing Kate and Camilla out more or Kate and Sophie Wessex out doing more engagements — that will come. I definitely think 2023 will be the year of collaborations.”
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