Carol Vorderman cried watching Sue Barker's final Wimbledon
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Sue Barker received an emotional goodbye last weekend as her 30-year Wimbledon presenting career came to an end. The 66-year-old retired after three decades hosting coverage of the legendary grass tournament. Barker’s final working moments at SW19 came as she discussed Novak Djokovic’s victory over Nick Kyrgios in the men’s final. The Serb went a set down against the Australian on Centre Court before winning 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-3).
Watching the final with Barker and 15,000 other fans were Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and their son, Prince George, who were seated in the Royal Box.
Barker is no stranger to rubbing shoulders with royalty, having chatted to Kate about her love of tennis for the BBC in 2017, and having met the Queen the year before as she received her OBE.
However, the broadcaster once faced a royal snub as she was barred from meeting Prince Edward, the Queen’s youngest son.
The BBC presenter was cut from a meeting with the Earl of Wessex in 1993, which led him to meet his eventual wife, Sophie Rhys-Jones, who is today the Countess of Wessex.
Royal author Ingrid Seward, recalled Barker’s meeting with the royal being cancelled in her 1995 book, ‘Prince Edward: A Biography’.
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She wrote: “It was not Sophie Rhys-Jones who Prince Edward was supposed to meet that morning at Queen’s tennis club in London.
“Britain’s former number one player, Sue Barker, was booked to appear with Edward at a photocall being held in aid of the Prince Edward Challenge which was raising money for local charities around Britain.”
When Sophie married Edward, she worked in public relations and successfully co-ran her own firm.
Her ex-PR boss Malcolm MacLaurin told Ms Seward that Sky Sports was against Barker being involved with the project.
At the time, the tennis star was just coming to the end of a three-year stint with the broadcaster before joining the BBC later that year.
Ms Seward wrote: “With less than 24 hours to go, MacLaurin did not have enough time to find a celebrity replacement for Barker.
“Driven by necessity, he press-ganged one of his own employees into coming along to be photographed with Edward, in Barker’s stead. The girl he chose was Sophie Rhys-Jones.
“Thus in effect it was Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-born media tycoon who owns Sky and is so distrusted by the Royal Family, who inadvertently brought about the meeting between Prince Edward and the woman who was to play such an important part in his life.”
The day Edward and Sophie met, the Queen’s son quietly acquired her contact details, according to Ms Seward.
The author added: “Edward had surreptitiously asked her for her telephone number that day they met.
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“Sophie, an independent career girl with the experience and confidence to know when to follow her heart, responded to his princely attentions.
“Within a few weeks the couple were virtually living together.”
Following their chance meeting, the Wessexes’ relationship also marked a turning point for Her Majesty, according to Ms Seward.
She said: “That Edward should wish to have his girlfriend beside him as much as possible was perfectly natural.
“That the Queen should allow it to happen under her roof marked a significant change in attitude and approach.”
‘Prince Edward: A Biography’ was written by Ingrid Seward and published by Century in 1995. It is available here.
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