From an outsider’s perspective, Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex and Sophie, Countess of Wessex might seem like total opposites. Meghan, for one, is so unpopular with the British royal family that she was excluded from their 2022 Christmas bash at Sandringham House (per the Mirror). Sophie, meanwhile, is beloved at Buckingham Palace, thanks to her famously close friendship with the late Queen Elizabeth. In 2021, one anonymous courtier even told The Sun: "If you’re asking who is Her Majesty’s favourite child, it’s none of them, it’s her daughter-in-law [Sophie]." Because of these two women’s drastically different social situations, it would be easy to assume that they don’t get along. However, the reality is much more complicated than that.
As seen at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, the duchess and the countess neither seem to be best friends nor sworn enemies. Express reported that Meghan and Sophie shared a car during the queen’s procession. And while one royal expert, Neil Sean, reported that Meghan "almost buckled when informed she would be sharing a car with Sophie" (via Fox News), another specialist thought that the car ride went swimmingly. Rachel Bowie, the co-host of the "Royally Obsessed" podcast, opined (per Express): "To see Sophie riding in the car with Meghan … sometimes you have that one strong person in a family who’s kind of keeping everyone together. To me, it seemed like Sophie was that person today." Overall, despite all the royal drama, Meghan and Sophie have managed to coexist in relative peace.
Meghan and Sophie have similar backgrounds
Although Meghan Markle and Sophie, Countess of Wessex have had very different experiences of royal life, the two women have similar pasts. Neither Meghan nor Sophie was born into the royal family, and both spent many years in the workforce. Before marrying Prince Harry, Meghan dabbled in more than one industry. During her school-age years, the future Duchess of Sussex worked a minimum-wage job as an ice cream scooper (per the Mirror). She later tried her hand — literally — at professional calligraphy (via Esquire). Ultimately, though, Meghan made her name acting in the hit TV show "Suits."
Likewise, the Countess of Wessex worked in a number of different areas before becoming a royal. According to Britannica, Sophie worked as a bartender, a concierge at a Swiss ski resort, and a press officer at Capitol Radio. Just like Meghan, Sophie eventually grew into a successful career woman; she even co-founded a public relations company, formerly known as R-J H.
Unfortunately, neither Meghan nor Sophie could continue working after joining the royal family. As Meghan told the BBC in 2017, she had to "transition out of my career but into the [royal] role." Similarly, The Wall Street Journal reported that Sophie was forced to abandon her company just two years after marrying into the family. Per the outlet, a leaked tape revealed that there were too many conflicts of interest between Sophie’s business goals and her royal connections.
Both women champion similar causes
Meghan Markle and Sophie, Countess of Wessex both worked in their younger years, and their similarities don’t stop there. The two royal women also have shared interests, especially when it comes to standing up for girls and women’s rights. In an episode of "The Royal Beat" (via the Mirror), Russell Myers, who serves as the Mirror’s royal editor, noted Meghan and Sophie’s common passion for women’s empowerment. "The similarities between Sophie and Meghan are there to be seen," Myers observed. "Sophie’s working with girls’ education, she’s done a lot of stuff about violence against females in Africa." According to CNBC, Meghan has been fighting for women’s rights since the age of 11. As an adult, the outlet reports that the duchess served as a UN Women’s advocate for political participation and leadership.
Although Meghan and Sophie share similar beliefs about women and girls, they have very different ways of promoting their activism and they also reach different demographics. As Russell Myers shared on "The Royal Beat" (via the Mirror): "Are the Instagram generation going to be as obsessed with Sophie and Edward Wessex as they are with the Sussexes? Obviously not." The royal editor went on to hint that Sophie and Meghan might have even felt some rivalry over promoting the same causes. "With the Sussexes not here, the Wessexes will undoubtedly benefit," he said.
Queen Elizabeth wanted Sophie to mentor Meghan
Meghan Markle might be famous for struggling to adjust to royal life, but she is hardly the first person to feel this way (per The Telegraph). For years, royal newcomers, like Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson, have felt overwhelmed by issues of protocol, press attention, and public criticism. Like her predecessors, Sophie, Countess of Wessex was not spared a challenging transition into the royal household. As body language expert Judi James revealed on the podcast "Pod Save the Queen" (via Express), Sophie "had a bit of a bad start in the royal family, because she was hailed as being the next Diana … And she did begin to attract the same rabid attention."
In some ways, however, Sophie’s experiences with the British media could have helped Meghan. According to the book "Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait" by royal expert Gyles Brandreth, Queen Elizabeth hoped that Meghan and Sophie could even form something of a mentorship relationship. In an excerpt from the book (via the Daily Mail), the queen apparently told Meghan: "Sophie can help show you the ropes." Seemingly, the reason for this was that: "The Queen (who, of course, had seen it all before) understood that Harry’s girl might find adjusting to royal life ‘challenging to begin with’ (as she put it). ‘It is very jolty, but you soon get used to it’ — that was Her Majesty’s experience going back many years."
Meghan was hesitant to accept Sophie’s help
The queen may have hoped that Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Meghan Markle would be close, but things didn’t exactly pan out that way. Per Gyles Brandreth’s book "Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait" (via the Daily Mail), Meghan wasn’t keen on creating close ties with Sophie. As Brandreth wrote: "Meghan made it clear that she did not feel she needed Sophie’s help. She had Harry." Apparently, Meghan’s reaction left Queen Elizabeth feeling worried about the duchess’s transition into the firm: "The Queen was a little concerned at that … [but she] put it down to pre-wedding nerves."
While it might seem odd for Meghan to reject Sophie’s support, it’s also important to remember that the Duchess of Sussex, admittedly, knew little about royal life before signing up for the gig. In the Netflix documentary "Harry & Meghan," the former "Suits" actor confessed to feeling shocked in the face of basic royal protocol (via Today). Describing the first time she met Queen Elizabeth, Meghan told documentary-makers: "I remember we were in the car, driving, and [Prince Harry’s] like, ‘You know how to curtsy, right?’ And I just thought it was a joke." In that sense, it is possible that Meghan didn’t initially understand that she could ever need Sophie’s mentorship. In the docuseries, however, Meghan did ultimately lament her total lack of preparation for the royal role. "There is no class," she said (via People).
Sophie continued to be present for Meghan
Although Meghan Markle and Sophie, Countess of Wessex never fostered the mentorship relationship that Queen Elizabeth dreamed of, the two women remained on peaceful terms. The Sun reported that following Meghan’s 2018 wedding to Prince Harry, Sophie made a point of reaching out to the newly-minted duchess. As a Wessex family insider told the outlet: "Sophie was one of the first to invite Meghan, on her own, to Bagshot for tea." While the same anonymous source added that Meghan "was not in the market for words of advice," this sense of standoffishness did not prevent Sophie from being present for Prince Harry’s wife. On the contrary, Sophie continued to appear at Meghan’s side, even as the Duchess of Sussex received criticism from the press.
In 2019, when Meghan gave birth to Archie, the duchess departed from the royal tradition of showing her newborn to the paparazzi on the Portland Hospital steps — a decision that resulted in significant media backlash (via Yahoo Life). As the press roared at Meghan’s dismissal of protocol, Sophie showed up in private for the new mom, according to The Times. The outlet reports that the countess was the first royal to go to Frogmore Cottage to see Meghan and Archie after his birth. As one source told The Times, Sophie is "normal" and "empathetic" in comparison to other members of Britain’s most famous family.
Sophie could relate to Meghan’s situation
Perhaps one of the main reasons that Sophie, Countess of Wessex continued to support Meghan Markle had to do with the countess’ own struggles adjusting to royal life. As Sophie revealed in an interview with The Times, she didn’t fit in with her royal in-laws right away. "Certainly it took me a while to find my feet," the countess confessed. According to an excerpt from the documentary "Edward & Sophie: The Reluctant Royals?" (via Express), the former businesswoman also had a difficult time dealing with the media. As royal biographer Ingrid Seward told filmmakers: "Poor Sophie, the press followed her everywhere. They followed her coming out of her flat, walking down the steps. They followed her going to buy her lunch. They really did give her a bit of a hard time."
Perhaps because of the intensity of this experience, Sophie has taken an opportunity or two to defend the American actor. In an interview, Sophie noted that Meghan had significantly less time to get acclimated to royal life when compared to other women in the firm. "I’d had five years to adjust. … For our six-month engagement I was even staying in Buckingham Palace," Sophie explained (via Yahoo Life). That being said, the way the countess saw it, not even her own high level of preparation guaranteed her a smooth transition. "Not that you necessarily know how it will pan out," Sophie added.
Sophie was kind to Meghan at the queen’s funeral
It’s no secret that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have a rocky relationship with the rest of the royal family. And just as with any other family, this bad blood comes to light at important gatherings. In the Netflix documentary "Harry & Meghan," the Sussexes described feeling tension at royal events, like the 2020 Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey. As Prince Harry revealed in the series (via Yahoo News): "I felt really distant from the rest of my family, which was interesting because so much of how they operate is about what it looks like, rather than what it feels like. And it looked cold, but it also felt cold."
Interestingly, this sense of frostiness initially seemed present at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral. As royal expert Rebecca English wrote in the Daily Mail: "The Duchess of Sussex … looked decidedly self-conscious from my vantage point … There was something self-consciously awkward about her posture, demonstrating the depth of the rift between herself and the rest of the royal family." Per English’s analysis, Sophie, Countess of Wessex soon swooped in and offered Meghan a social lifeline. "Fortunately Sophie … leaned over after a few minutes to exchange a few words. It gave Meghan … a reason to move slightly closer to her husband’s aunt." This gesture, while small, offered Meghan a sense of belonging at an event where she had otherwise few allies.
The two women aren’t close friends
Just because Sophie, Countess of Wessex has been kind to Meghan Markle doesn’t mean that they are best buddies. As one anonymous insider divulged to The Sun, from the very beginning, Sophie and Meghan didn’t really click. Apparently, after the pair’s first tea together at Bagshot, Sophie understood that there would a bit of distance between them. "They got on perfectly well, but Sophie could feel they were never going to become the best of friends," the royal insider explained. Part of this distance, according to the source, was Meghan’s unconventional view of the royal family: "Let’s just say that Meghan seemed to have her own agenda."
While it’s impossible to confirm rumors of any so-called "personal agendas," some body language specialists believe that Meghan Markle and Sophie, Countess of Wessex seem incompatible. One such expert is Judi James, who told Express that the two women don’t carry themselves like best buddies. "Watching Sophie and Meghan together it’s hard to imagine the pair would naturally become close friends," James revealed. According to the body language analyst, Sophie and Meghan’s physical stances indicate that their personalities aren’t similar. "These poses define them as two very different characters, which might not work in a friendship," James explained. She later added that "Meghan is superbly confident in her own right so it’s important that Sophie shows no sign of pushing things if her advice or help isn’t needed."
But Meghan and Sophie could be allies
It’s probably fair to say that Meghan Markle and Sophie, Countess of Wessex aren’t planning to get away on a girls’ weekend any time soon. However, that doesn’t mean that the two women won’t support each other. According to a conversation between Express and body language expert Judi James, it’s possible that Sophie and Meghan are actually royal allies. As James noted in her interview: "Meghan seems to become slightly more formal with her body language when she appears with Sophie but Sophie’s eye-gaze and expressions suggest she’s happy to adopt what looks like a quasi-parental role to ensure Meghan feels happy and comfortable." James went on to analyze how the pair’s body language at the Queen’s funeral hinted at similarities between the two women: "Their mirrored, synchronised body language often suggests they could also be rather like-minded about a lot of things."
Perhaps Sophie has undertaken this "quasi-parental" role because she is known as something of a peacemaker within the royal family. As one of her former aides told The Telegraph, Sophie often plays the role of "mediator." Interestingly, the countess’ ability to bring different people together is what drew Queen Elizabeth to her in the first place. "That’s why [Sophie is] the Queen’s favourite daughter-in-law," the former aide alleged. "She’s down to earth and just gets on with it."
Sophie has stepped up to fill Harry and Meghan’s roles
When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exited royal life, they also stopped fulfilling their royal duties, as reported by the BBC. In their place, the couple left a gaping hole. After all, as royal commentator Victoria Arbiter wrote in 9Honey: "While there’s widespread public support for the Sussexes’ desire to embrace a more independent life, there’s also no denying the irreplaceable void their absence will create." According to the commentator, one of the biggest issues with "Megxit" is that the couple has left the firm without the fresh young royal faces that palace fans love so much. "It’s a stark reminder that, as we look to the future, William and Kate will be the only working royals of their generation," Arbiter added.
As Prince Harry and Meghan have taken a step back, Sophie, Countess of Wessex has stepped up her royal role. The Mirror reported that Sophie will take on more royal duties, as she has inherited many of the late Queen Elizabeth’s patronages. As a royal insider told the outlet: "The Queen’s decision to pass on these patronages [to Sophie] reflects the closeness of their bond." The same source also hinted at Sophie’s expanding royal role: "Sophie’s growing popularity with the public is also evident and she will take on a larger public profile in a new-look monarchy of King Charles."
Sophie wishes the Sussexes well
Following the Netflix series "Harry & Meghan" and the scandalous accusations that came from it, senior members of the royal family feel resentment toward Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. As royal expert Katie Nicholl told Entertainment Tonight, Prince William is most likely struggling with everything that his brother alleged on air. "Any reconciliation is really quite far down the line," Nicholl explained. "William will be taking this very personally. I think he’s incredibly upset, and feels very badly betrayed by his brother." As for King Charles, the new monarch is reportedly concerned that the rebellious couple has harmed the firm. One royal insider even told Us Weekly: "While [King Charles is] putting on a brave face, behind closed doors he’s concerned that the docuseries will cause irreparable damage to the monarchy."
In contrast to other royals, however, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, seems to wish Meghan and her husband well. As of the publication of this article, Sophie hasn’t made any statement pertaining to the couple’s Netflix series. However, in a rare 2020 interview with The Times, Sophie did express her feelings about Harry and Meghan’s choice to distance themselves from the royal family. "I just hope they will be happy," the countess shared.