‘You wouldn’t pick her out of a crowd’: The Queen’s words about Sophie after they first met… but the Duchess of Edinburgh has proven to be the worthiest of wives for Prince Edward, writes NATASHA LIVINGSTONE

When Miss Rhys-Jones walked down the aisle at St George’s Chapel on a warm day in the summer of 1999, she had already beaten many expectations.

It is said that the Queen’s first words on meeting Sophie – the daughter of a Kent tyre salesman – years earlier were: ‘You wouldn’t pick her out of a crowd.’

In fact, the now-Duchess of Edinburgh has always been ahead of the crowd and has proven herself to be the worthiest of partners for the Queen’s youngest son.

Today, Prince Edward and Sophie celebrate their silver wedding anniversary in their typically subtle manner without formal fanfare.

The palace have released a new photo of the couple, taken earlier this month, and it is thought they might attend Royal Ascot this afternoon.

But their low-key style is perhaps the secret to their success – both as a couple and as working royals.

Today, Prince Edward and Sophie celebrate their silver wedding anniversary in their typically subtle manner without formal fanfare. The palace have released a new photo of the couple (above), taken earlier this month at Bagshot Park

When Miss Rhys-Jones walked down the aisle at St George's Chapel on a warm day in the summer of 1999, she had already beaten many expectations, writes NATASHA LIVINGSTONE. Above: The couple walk out of the Windsor church after the ceremony on June 19, 1999

When Miss Rhys-Jones walked down the aisle at St George’s Chapel on a warm day in the summer of 1999, she had already beaten many expectations, writes NATASHA LIVINGSTONE. Above: The couple walk out of the Windsor church after the ceremony on June 19, 1999

It is said that the Queen's first words on meeting Sophie - the daughter of a Kent tyre salesman - years earlier were: 'You wouldn't pick her out of a crowd'. Above: The pair together at a Buckingham Palace reception in 2019

It is said that the Queen’s first words on meeting Sophie – the daughter of a Kent tyre salesman – years earlier were: ‘You wouldn’t pick her out of a crowd’. Above: The pair together at a Buckingham Palace reception in 2019

Of the late Queen’s four children, Edward is the only one not to have been through a painful divorce.

His courtship with Sophie began with an invitation to a game of tennis.

On July 16, 1993, Prince Edward was meant to be posing for photographs with tennis star Sue Barker to publicise a charity game – but she pulled out at the last moment.

The event’s publicist had to find a replacement, fast, and selected one of his most photogenic colleagues, Sophie Rhys-Jones.

With her golden cropped hair and clear blue eyes, she was a smash hit with the Prince.

One evening, a few months later, he invited her to a game of tennis followed by dinner.

For six weeks they dated like a normal couple, going out for curries and to the theatre.

Edward and Sophie pose together in tennis gear in 1993, the year they started dating

Edward and Sophie pose together in tennis gear in 1993, the year they started dating

Sophie on the Buckingham Palace balcony alongside the Queen and Prince Philip at Trooping the Colour in 2016

Sophie on the Buckingham Palace balcony alongside the Queen and Prince Philip at Trooping the Colour in 2016

Sophie was there too on the balcony on the day of the King's Coronation

Sophie was there too on the balcony on the day of the King’s Coronation

And while, according to Tina Brown’s The Palace Papers, the late Queen was not hugely impressed with Miss Rhys-Jones initially, her opinion soon changed.

Friends said the Queen was pleased with the effect Sophie had on Edward, making him more relaxed and less brittle.

She quickly grew to like Sophie and respected her ‘lack of pretension’.

When the couple did eventually wed in 1999, the service reflected this unfussy attitude.

They were the first royals in living memory to choose St George’s Chapel in Windsor for their wedding.

This started a modern trend followed by the then Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles for their marriage blessing in 2005.

Peter Phillips and his ex-wife Autumn Kelly, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and, most recently, Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank also all got married in the church.

For Edward and Sophie’s nuptials, men were invited in morning dress while women were encouraged to wear evening dress – but no hats (the Queen bent this rule with a lilac fascinator).

Adding to the restrained royal occasion, the couple enjoyed a short carriage ride around the town as bride and groom, but refrained from a grand public show.

As the new Earl and Countess of Wessex, their entry as working royals was not without its difficulties.

In 2001, Sophie was famously caught in a sting operation by the now-defunct News of the World making embarrassing remarks about the Royal Family.

The couple had tried to juggle working careers with royal positions, but the episode proved the combination was impossible – and so the Queen asked her Lord Chamberlain, Lord Luce, to resolve the situation.

Some months later, the couple announced they were solely focusing on full-time royal duties.

Since then, Sophie and Edward have become an essential cog of the modern Royal machine.

Prince Edward carries his father’s title with grace and continues his legacy through the Duke of Edinburgh award.

Sophie typically receives less media attention but has increasingly shouldered royal responsibilities, particularly abroad.

Sophie and Edward were the first royals in living memory to choose St George's Chapel in Windsor for their wedding

Sophie and Edward were the first royals in living memory to choose St George’s Chapel in Windsor for their wedding. Above: The newlyweds are joined by members of the Royal Family on the steps of St George’s Chapel after the ceremony

Following the ceremony, the newlyweds rode in a horse-drawn carriage to the reception at St George's Hall, Windsor Castle, where they enjoyed a buffet-style dinner with their guests

Following the ceremony, the newlyweds rode in a horse-drawn carriage to the reception at St George’s Hall, Windsor Castle, where they enjoyed a buffet-style dinner with their guests

Sophie and Edward have become an essential cog of the modern Royal machine

Sophie and Edward have become an essential cog of the modern Royal machine 

Prince Edward takes the hand of his bride Sophie on their wedding day inside St George's Chapel at Windsor, 25 years ago today

Prince Edward takes the hand of his bride Sophie on their wedding day inside St George’s Chapel at Windsor, 25 years ago today 

Sophie recently became the first member of the Royal Family to visit Ukraine since the Russian invasion. Above: Sophie stands next to Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska in Kyiv on April 29

Sophie recently became the first member of the Royal Family to visit Ukraine since the Russian invasion. Above: Sophie stands next to Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska in Kyiv on April 29

Last year she visited Canada, Ethiopia and Columbia – and recently became the first member of the Royal Family to visit Ukraine since the Russian invasion.

In the wake of the Sussexes’s departure and the health struggles of the King and the Princess of Wales, Edward and Sophie’s diligent reliability is a pillar of stability for the Royal Family.

Their two children – Lady Louise, 20, and Viscount Severn, 16 – appear to have inherited these values, and notably did not take the HRH style title to which they were automatically entitled.

Lady Louise, who made a surprise appearance at Trooping the Colour at the weekend, has also garnered praise for her equally hard-working, humble attitude.

In 2022 she worked in a garden centre while awaiting her A-level results.

So as they mark their silver wedding anniversary today, The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh have much to celebrate. I hope they raise a glass to the next 25 years.

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk