The Duke of Edinburgh’s death in April left a “giant-sized hole” in the lives of the royal family, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, has told the BBC.
Speaking to Radio 5 Live, she said the pandemic had “slightly skewed things”, making it hard to spend as much time with the Queen as she would like.
In a wide-ranging interview with Naga Munchetty, she was asked about taking on a more high-profile royal role.
She also spoke about her work supporting victims of rape in war.
The countess was speaking to the BBC, ahead of the United Nations’ international day for the elimination of sexual violence in conflict, on Saturday.
In the emotional interview recorded two months after the death of her father-in-law, Prince Philip, at the age of 99, she said she expected the family would take longer to grieve because of the pandemic.
“It’s only when you would do the normal things that you would have done with them, and you suddenly realise that they are not there, that you really start to have an ‘oh my goodness’ moment.
“Just talking to you now, it’s a bit of an ‘oh my goodness’ moment,” she said, holding back tears.
Sophie, 56, who is married to the Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward – the Earl of Wessex, is a full-time working member of the royal family and until recently has been one of the more low-profile members.
But, since her nephew, Prince Harry, and his wife Meghan moved to the US, senior royals including the Queen, Prince Charles, Camilla, Prince William, Catherine, Prince Edward and Sophie have been dubbed the Magnificent Seven.
Asked how she felt about her elevated profile, Sophie said: “There is increased interest in us as a family but, if it raises more awareness of the issues I care about, then that can only be a good thing.”
Her wish is to be an advocate for women who do not have a voice – such as survivors of rape in war – and make sure the subject does not drop off the agenda.
She described rape as one of the most pernicious weapons of war and said it was used to subjugate whole communities. “People have to atone for it and that has to start at the top,” she added.
She suggested there could be a case for teaching about the subject in schools.
Sophie also spoke about conversations she has with her teenage children about consent, and inappropriate sexual behaviour.
She said her 17-year-old daughter, Lady Louise, has “a natural curiosity” about her work with rape survivors and wanted to learn more.
But she said it was “slightly harder” to have the conversation with her 13-year-old son, Viscount Severn, who is at the age where he is “more aware of girls around him”.
“Interestingly, he’s quite conscious of this whole issue of inappropriate behaviour between girls and boys. I think that’s partly to do with schools and partly what they chat about on social media.
“I think it’s about having honest, open conversations as a family, but also hopefully in school settings as well,” she added.
She said she hoped her daughter would be able to keep her life as private as she wanted it to be.
“I hope that she and her friends will protect her from anything that somebody might want to do. But I have to let her live her life. It’s not mine to live,” she said.
In the interview, Sophie also admitted to having the “odd wobble” during lockdown.
“I just couldn’t see an end to it – I couldn’t visualise how this was all going to pan out.
“Life, all the normal things that we could do, had just… it was like sand through your hands – we all got very good at managing disappointment,” she said.
So what was her TV show of choice to help her through it? Line of Duty, like so many others – and she correctly guessed H’s identity.
Now, she said, her family were waiting for the pandemic to end.
“Every time there is a new variant, we just have to hold our breath and hope that the vaccines are good enough to stand up against them.
“So, how am I? Like everybody else I suppose: just taking one day at a time.”