In some ways, the Queen isn’t so different from the rest of us. She’s had her fair share of family strife, after all. Not even being one of the most famous and powerful women in the world stops that. And as her sons, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, have each married, the Queen has had to be nice to the women they’ve chosen – whether she liked them or not. But if rumors are to be believed, she’s gotten on with one of her daughters-in-law the best. It may not be who you think it is, either.
Lest we forget, the Queen has had four daughters-in-law in all. There was the late Diana, of course, who was the wife of Charles. Then, in 2005, Charles wed Camilla Parker Bowles. Andrew, on the other hand, was married to Sarah Ferguson before the pair sadly split. And Edward, the youngest child of the monarch, chose Sophie, Countess of Wessex, as his bride.
Naturally, being a daughter-in-law of the Queen comes with a good few privileges. You have access to your mother-in-law’s extensive jewelry collection, for a start. Yes, the Queen often loans out some of the most beautiful items in her stash for special occasions. Diana’s famous Lover’s Knot tiara was borrowed from the royal hoard, for example.
This goes for granddaughters-in-law, too. Kate Middleton has worn plenty of the Queen’s jewels, including the Lotus Flower tiara, the Irish Guards Brooch and – just like Diana – the Lover’s Knot. Prince Harry’s wife, Meghan Markle, hasn’t exactly gone without, mind you. On her wedding day, she sported a tiara that had once belonged to Queen Mary.
Those who’ve married into the Queen’s direct line also appear to have a touching way of referring to the monarch. Reportedly, they know her as “Mama.” Sophie has been heard calling the Queen this at Buckingham Palace, while Diana is also said to have used the nickname. Royal experts think that Kate and Meghan follow suit as well.
But the Queen’s relationships with her daughters-in-law have had ups and downs, to say the least. It’s no secret that Diana was desperately unhappy in her relationship with Charles, and naturally this affected her interactions with the rest of his family. Diana once alleged that when she went to the Queen for help, she received none. This claim suggests that the Princess of Wales wasn’t the Queen’s favorite daughter-in-law – but don’t be so sure just yet.
In any case, after apparently consulting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Queen allegedly advised Prince Charles and Diana to divorce. Diana was said to have been displeased by this intervention, but she did nonetheless split from her husband. Tragically, though, the princess didn’t have long to enjoy the single life. Just a year after she and Charles made their divorce official, she was killed in an automobile crash.
There was a massive outpouring of grief after Diana’s death, leaving the famously stoic royal family caught in the middle of a crisis they’d never seen coming. Eventually, the Queen ordered the flag over Buckingham Palace to be lowered to half-mast – even though it wasn’t tradition to do so.
And it appeared that the Queen had actually regarded her late daughter-in-law well. Delivering a televised speech in the wake of Diana’s passing, the monarch said, “[Diana] was an exceptional and gifted human being. In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness. I admired and respected her.”
It would have been easy for some to consider the speech mere damage control. But a contemporary letter that was eventually unearthed in 2017 revealed the Queen had been genuinely upset about Diana’s death. She had written to her lady-in-waiting Lady Henriette Abel Smith, “It was indeed dreadfully sad, and [Diana] is a huge loss to the country.” Perhaps, then, that puts Diana back in running as favorite daughter-in-law. But what about Camilla?
Famously, Charles’ marriage to Diana was complicated by his affair with Camilla. And, reportedly, the Queen disapproved of this liaison – as you’d imagine any mom would. That doesn’t look good for Camilla, then, in the favorite daughter-in-law stakes.
Yes, the Queen is said to have privately expressed a strong dislike for Camilla. In his 2018 book Rebel Prince: The Power, Passion and Defiance of Prince Charles, journalist Tom Bower claimed that the ruler had once referred to her future daughter-in-law as “that wicked woman” after having “several martinis” behind closed doors. Yikes.
Still, this didn’t stop Charles from marrying Camilla – several years after Diana’s death, of course. What did the Queen think? Well, the wedding presented a difficult dilemma in more ways than one. There was the fact that both bride and groom were divorcees. And as the current monarch, the Queen is head of the Church of England, which disapproves of divorce. So, she couldn’t exactly be seen in public to be advocating a remarriage.
How did the Queen solve this conundrum? She simply didn’t go to the first part of her son’s second wedding. She did, however, attend the blessing ceremony and the reception afterward. And she reportedly gave a speech that dispelled rumors of discord, telling the guests, “I’m very proud [of Charles and Camilla] and wish them well. My son is home and dry with the woman he loves.”
Now, relations between the Queen and Camilla seem to be better than ever. The Queen referenced her daughter-in-law in the speech she gave at the 70th birthday party of Prince Charles, for instance. She has also given Camilla important roles in the royal family, making Charles’ wife the inaugural vice-patron of the Royal Commonwealth Society. Could the Duchess of Cornwall actually be the Queen’s favorite?
Perhaps, but there’s also Sarah Ferguson – the one-time wife of Prince Andrew – to consider. She and Andrew tied the knot in 1986, and for a while the woman nicknamed “Fergie” seemed to be the new star of the royal family. Diana even informed her biographer that she believed Sarah had usurped her position as key attraction.
But those glory days didn’t last. In 1992 Sarah and Andrew separated. Then she was caught in a compromising position with another man. And when photos of the lurid incident were published in the press, the Queen was reportedly furious. Sarah was with the monarch at Balmoral at the time, and she was apparently told to remove herself from the building.
Nonetheless, Sarah was able to bounce back into the Queen’s good books – and that may all be down to one unusual request. In 2011 the duchess told Harper’s Bazaar, “When I met with Her Majesty about [the divorce], she asked, ‘What do you require, Sarah?’ And I said, ‘Your friendship,’ which I think amazed her, because everyone said I would demand a big settlement.”
Sarah isn’t necessarily popular among the rest of the royals, though. Allegedly, Prince Philip refuses to go anywhere near her. And although the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duchess of York both attended Harry and Meghan’s wedding, she was notably positioned where he couldn’t see her. Charles reportedly doesn’t like his former sister-in-law, either.
In fact, Fergie is sometimes referred to as the Queen’s least liked daughter-in-law. But who’s the favorite? Well, by several accounts, that would be Sophie, Edward’s wife. Born a non-royal named Sophie Rhys-Jones, the young woman married the prince in 1999 and received the title Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex.
Unlike the other royal daughters-in-law, Sophie more or less stays out of the spotlight. Her wedding to Edward wasn’t even shown on television – it was that low-key. And Edward remains the only child of the Queen to have stuck with his first marriage. In fact, there’s never been a hint of discord between him and Sophie – as far as we know, anyway.
So, how can we tell that Sophie is the Queen’s favorite? Well, in 2019 The Sun spoke to some royal insiders about the pair’s relationship. And an unnamed source said to the newspaper, “If Sophie Wessex is staying at Sandringham, then you can pretty much guarantee the Queen will ask her – usually last thing on a Saturday night – if she would like ‘a lift’ to the church.”
“And the same happens at Balmoral,” the insider continued. “The Queen likes to be completely calm before church, and she finds Sophie’s presence soothing… Who gets the backseat is also one of those quirky royal ways that signals who is in favor. For example, Princess Anne may be staying at the same time, but how often do you see her in the Rolls?”
Another source – this one described as a “senior royal aide” – also spoke to The Sun about Sophie, saying, “She is trusted and relied on by the Queen in a way I couldn’t say applied to the Duchess of Cambridge or the Duchess of Cornwall. She is like another daughter to Her Majesty. They are that close.”
“The Queen is also mindful that Sophie’s marriage has survived where her other children’s relationships have failed,” the anonymous aide added. “And she knows that is in no small way down to Sophie’s dedication. She is aware, as Edward’s mother, what a tricky creature he can be.”
The insider continued, “And not only has Sophie flourished as a dedicated, albeit still relatively junior, member of the royal family, [but] she has [also] brought up two teenagers who are well-balanced, sporty, amusing and delightful.” In fact, Sophie’s daughter, Lady Louise Windsor, is reportedly one of the Queen’s favorite grandchildren.
How did Sophie manage to win the Queen’s favor in the first place? Well, an alleged friend of the countess gave a possible explanation to The Sun. They said, “In her early days of marriage, Sophie set herself a series of tasks – she’s quite driven and focused like that – of learning how to ride properly, how to fish, how to shoot game and, more recently, carriage driving.” These were apparently all things of which the royals approved.
“[Sophie] was not a natural rider. She’s had lots of lessons from the grooms at Windsor,” the friend added. “But she’s certainly assured enough to accompany the Queen in gentle hacks around the Balmoral estate or Windsor Great Park.” That said, Sophie apparently drew the line at her young son going shooting. “She was probably the only mother in the family that would dare over-rule her husband,” the pal observed.
And according to another courtier, Sophie even managed to coax the Queen into seeing The Crown – the Netflix series based on her life and rule. They said, “It was only when Sophie mentioned that everyone seemed to be talking about [The Crown] – and why didn’t they give it a try, with the proviso that if they didn’t like episode one then they wouldn’t carry on – that [the Queen] agreed for it to be shown at Windsor Castle one weekend.”
“[The Queen] sat down to see it one Saturday at teatime when she and Sophie often have a ‘TV date’ to watch old films,” the courtier explained. “This time, Edward was with them but not Philip, who refused to be involved. And the three of them loved it, although apparently the Queen kept interrupting to point out when things were wrong. But then I suppose you would if it was about your life, wouldn’t you?”
It may help, too, that Sophie and the Queen apparently have a shared interest in military history. And Sophie’s supposed friend told The Sun that this was “a key to the pair’s closeness.” They added, “They’ve watched countless films together… At weekends, the pair are sometimes gone for hours, poring over documents in the Royal Archives, which are kept at Windsor Castle.”
“Sophie is hugely well-read on her military history,” the anonymous insider added. “She’s proud of her knowledge of military campaigns, and she and the Queen can chunter on for hours about whether this general or that admiral made the right move in some battle or other. If Philip is around, he just raises his eyebrows and goes into another room.”
Best of all, Sophie has only had one major scandal since marrying into the royal family. In 2001, not long after her wedding, an undercover reporter recorded meetings with the countess. And unfortunately for Sophie, she was caught on tape making some unflattering comments about various British politicians, including the prime minister of the time, Tony Blair.
To make matters even more awkward, Sophie had also talked about the royal family. And while most of what she said was actually quite complimentary, she suggested that Charles would not be allowed to wed Camilla so long as the Queen Mother was in the picture. She similarly speculated that the British people wouldn’t accept Camilla as a queen.
Since then, however, Sophie has been scandal-free. Some think, then, that she could offer advice to younger royals such as Kate and Meghan on how to maintain a royal life. The countess’ friend told The Sun that “as someone who found her early days as a royal bride testing to negotiate, [Sophie would] simply suggest that Meghan slow down – there’s no rush.”
Sophie has apparently met Meghan and had a talk with her in the time before she and Harry chose to step down as senior royals. Another insider explained to The Sun, “Sophie was one of the first to invite Meghan, on her own, to Bagshot for tea. They got on perfectly well, but Sophie could feel [that] they were never going to become the best of friends.”
Kate may be another story. In a 2020 documentary titled Edward & Sophie: The Reluctant Royals, journalist Rebecca English said, “One friend tells me that as we move into the next phase of the monarchy, it will be critical for the Duchess of Cambridge to have a female sounding board. They genuinely couldn’t think of anyone better to provide that than loyal, trustworthy Sophie.”
In the documentary, it was even speculated that as Harry and Meghan have moved away from their royal duties, Sophie and Edward may be handed bigger public-facing roles in the future. Journalist Ayesha Hazarika opined, “They’ve probably been the couple that’s given the Queen the least amount of grief – certainly in recent years. Edward’s the only child that hasn’t gotten divorced.”
The Queen is said to get on fine with Kate and Meghan, however, even despite the Duchess of Sussex’s move to LA. The monarch appears to support Meghan’s decision, in fact, although initially there were reports that she was angry. As for Kate? Well, supposedly the Queen has come to rely on her more and more.
The Queen may also be looking to Sophie to shoulder more responsibility. In January 2020 royal reporter Phil Dampier told the Daily Mail, “Sophie would be perfect to take up some of the slack, and I think she has the potential to be a royal superstar given the chance.” So, we may be seeing much more of her in the future – if rumors are to be believed, anyway.