THE Queen will be marking her official birthday on Saturday at Windsor Castle and it'll be the first time celebrating without her beloved husband Prince Philip, who died in April.
But Her Majesty, 95, is said to now rely daily on her daughter-in-law Sophie Wessex, who has been a pillar of support and her “rock” during the last few months.
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Sophie, who is married to Prince Edward, is now one of the Queen’s closest family members and confidantes.
Or as one courtier puts it: “If you’re asking who is Her Majesty’s favourite child, it’s none of them, it’s her daughter-in-law.”
Royal commentator Duncan Larcombe told Fabulous: “Sophie Wessex has emerged as the Queen’s unlikely ‘rock’ as the monarch adjusts to life without Prince Philip.
“Prince Edward’s wife has – according to sources – made it her personal mission to ensure Her Majesty is fully supported by the family.
“Since the Duke’s death in April, Sophie has driven the 10 miles from her Bagshot Park home to Windsor Castle every few days and most weekends to spend socially-distanced time with Her Majesty.
“And on days she can’t get there in person, the Duchess of Wessex has made a point of calling her mother-in-law at least once a day."
Sophie told the Telegraph during lockdown these visits involved the Queen standing on a 20ft high balcony and waving down.
During the annual parade – moved from Horseguard’s Parade in London due to Covid – the Queen will be officially accompanied by her cousin the Duke of Kent.
Duncan added: “But away from the cameras, Sophie is expected to accompany the Queen throughout the day.”
The royal expert said Sophie’s friendship with the Queen stemmed from the times they would spend walking and riding in Windsor Great Park.
He added: “Like so many families during lockdown, Her Majesty was unable to see her favourite daughter-in-law, but as restrictions started to lift, Sophie was one of the few people inside her covid bubble.
“When Philip died, Sophie was an obvious choice to step up and ensure the Queen was being looked after, given she lives minutes down the road.”
Sophie and Prince Edward, who is now 13th in line to the throne, have been married since 1999 and are frequent visitors to the palace.
A source said: “Edward happened to marry someone for whom his mother has great affection. Sophie is much more than a daughter-in-law, more of a daughter.”
Edward — at 57, some 15 years younger than his oldest sibling, Charles — “is very good company, a lot more laid back than he appears in public,” he explains.
“And unlike the rest, he doesn’t ask her for anything or expect things from her."
Sophie is viewed by the Queen as the Royal Family’s safest pair of hands and was even ‘earmarked’ as a royal mentor for Meghan Markle, when she first joined the family.
Sophie, who is mum to 17-year-old Lady Louise Windsor and son James, Viscount Severn, 13, lived just ten miles from Meghan and Harry’s Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage.
In a rare interview with the Sunday Times, Sophie lifted the lid on why she thinks Meghan struggled to adjust to royal life saying the former Suits actress didn’t have long to “adjust” to the role.
Speaking of the couple relocating to LA, Sophie said: “I just hope they will be happy.”
SOPHIE AND PRINCE EDWARD’S ROYAL ROMANCE
When Sophie met Edward in 1987 she was a PR for Capital Radio, but it was six years before they started dating.
They then began a romance in earnest, but went to great lengths to avoid photographers, especially when Sophie began staying overnight at Edward’s three-room apartment in Buckingham Palace. When calling Sophie at her office, the Prince would use the name Richard — not that he fooled her colleagues for long.
Six years after they started going out, Edward proposed, with a £105,000 ring from Crown jewellers Garrard.
Starting a family was not straightforward. In 2001 Sophie suffered an ectopic pregnancy.
In 2003, the birth of daughter Louise was similarly dramatic. The baby was a month premature and Sophie lost nine pints of blood, had a caesarean and was in hospital for 15 days. In 2007 she had another caesarean giving birth to son James.
Last summer, during the break before the second lockdown, Edward, Sophie and their children, now 17 and 13, were among the first to stay with the Queen and Philip at Balmoral, and the last to leave.
On Saturday, the Queen will watch a scaled back Trooping of the Colour at Windsor Castle to celebrate her official birthday.
Celebrations will take place on June 12, with Her Majesty accompanied by her cousin the Duke of Kent – and the dazzling parade will be made up of soldiers who were part of the NHS's coronavirus response.
This year's Trooping of the Colour will have more military personnel than 2020, when its size was restricted due to the pandemic.
But the celebration will still not go ahead in its normal form this year – in line with the Government's ongoing Covid guidance.
At last year's Trooping The Colour parade, the Queen, 95, was by herself at a scaled-back version of the event at Windsor Castle.
To avoid crowds this year, members of the public have been asked to not gather in Windsor – but instead to watch the spectacle from the comfort of their own home.
The Queen has two birthday celebrations each year: one on her actual birth date, and the other on her “official” birthday – a public celebration.
Her real birthday is in April but the "official" celebration takes place in June.
This is because of how temperamental the British weather is.
The tradition for monarchs to have two birthdays was started by George II back in 1748 – because the weather was too bad to hold his Birthday Parade on the actual date in November.
Meanwhile, the Queen is due to meet US President Joe Biden when he comes to the UK for the G7 summit.
She will reportedly travel to Cornwall where the summit is being held and will meet the prime minister of Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan.
She is expected to be joined by Prince Charles and Camilla, as well as Prince William and his wife Kate.
Charles has reportedly told his aides that he is eager to meet Mr Biden to discuss environmental issues.
The Queen sent a private message to Mr Biden following his inauguration in January.
It is not thought the two have met before.
And Brits will be treated to a four-day Bank Holiday weekend to celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee next year, Buckingham Palace revealed.
Her Majesty, 95, will enjoy a four-day bonanza to mark her 70th year on the throne, including a special celebration involving 1,400 parading soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians.
We shared how Meghan Markle has just released a new children's book called The Bench.
And Harry insists he and Meghan DID tell Queen about Lilibet name and she was ‘supportive’ in war of words with Palace.
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