Sue Barker withdrawal from photocall triggered Prince Edward and Sophie’s first meeting

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Raducanu had everything working against her says Sue Barker

Former tennis champ Sue is one of the nation’s best loved TV sports presenters and Wimbledon would not be the same without her. She is once again fronting the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage this year, including today’s shock departure for Roger Federer in the quarter-final. She has an impressive career, from reaching world number three and a Grand Slam title under her belt, she went on to present Wimbledon from 1994.

After being axed from A Question of Sport, which she has hosted since 1997, this gig will likely mean even more to her.

However, Sue is also indirectly responsible for the royal marriage of Edward and Sophie, after having to withdraw from an event.

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Sue was set to meet the Queen’s youngest child for a photocall in aid of the Prince Edward Challenge back in 1993, but Sky Sports opposed Sue’s appearance to promote another brand.

With less than 24 hours to go, the PR firm did not have enough time to find another famous face for the event.

READ MORE: Prince George’s private tennis session with Federer: ‘Good swing’

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Sue Barker having to withdraw from the photoshoot caused Sophie and Edward to meet (Image: Getty / YouTube (Wimbledon))

sue barker

Sue Barker playing tennis in 1982 (Image: GETTY)

Instead, they persuaded one of their employees to stand in for her, and that was Sophie Rhys-Jones.

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Ingrid Seward spoke to Sophie’s former PR boss Malcolm MacLaurin for her book ‘Prince Edward’, who revealed the chance encounter.

She wrote: “It was not Sophie Rhys-Jones 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.

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sue barker andy murray

Sue Barker interviewing Andy Murray in 2013 (Image: GETTY)

“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.

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“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 of his life.”

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Sophie and Edward in 1994 (Image: GETTY)

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Sophie and Edward got engaged in 1999 (Image: GETTY)

She added that Edward “surreptitiously” asked for Sophie’s phone number that day and the rest is royal history.

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Within just a few weeks, they were “virtually living together”.

That the Queen allowed this showed a huge change in her attitude and approach.

By contrast, both Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson did not move into the Palace until they were formally engaged.

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Sophie Wessex and Edward: ‘Spotlight’ on couple says expert

Even then, they were living at the other end of the principal floor so that appearance could be maintained.

These strict rules were thrown to the side for Sophie, who was free to stay with Edward wherever and whenever she wanted to.

According to Ms Seward, both Diana and Sarah ‒ affectionately known as Fergie ‒ resented Sophie’s gentle introduction to royal life.

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Both of them had only discovered what it would really entail after they were engaged and had no choice but to continue along that course.

They reportedly complained with “more than an edge of resentment in their voices” that they had not received the same help when they struggled to get to terms with their new situation.

Sophie and Edward dated for around six years before getting engaged and finally tied the knot in 1999.

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They went on to have two children: Lady Louise Windsor, 17, and James, Viscount Severn, 13.

Their marriage has already outlasted all Edward’s siblings’ marriage, perhaps in part due to the gentle beginning.

‘Prince Edward’ was written by Ingrid Seward and published by Century in 1995. It is available here.

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