Sophie, Countess Of Wessex Is Often Compared To This One Royal

Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Princess Diana were part of the same generation of royal brides, yet their experiences with palace life couldn't be more different. Diana, for one, entered the royal family when she was just 19 years old after meeting Prince Charles just over a dozen times in person. Meanwhile, Sophie was a fully-grown, 34-year-old woman when she tied the knot with Prince Edward. And, in huge contrast to Diana, Sophie had been allowed to gradually transition into royal life over the course of a six-year courtship. These dissimilarities between the two women ultimately led to vastly different outcomes: While Diana's marriage to Charles resulted in tragedy and heartbreak, Sophie's union with Edward proved successful. 

However, despite all of these differences between Sophie and Diana, the two women were compared constantly by the media, the public, and even the royal family itself. In the documentary "Prince Edward & Sophie Rhys-Jones: The Reluctant Royals?" (via YouTube), Richard Kay explained: "The press immediately latched on to the fact that, here was another blond, young woman, entering the life of a member of the royal family. It was sort of, Diana, mark two." Apparently, however, neither of the women was flattered by the media attention. In Kay's words, "Diana hated the comparisons. So did Sophie — Really hated them."

Sophie of Wessex looked like Princess Diana

Much of the comparison of Princess Diana with Sophie, Countess of Wessex undoubtedly started with the women's obvious physical resemblance. Both Diana and Sophie were known for having short blond hair, small noses, and delicate smiles. They both had piercing blue eyes, which they liked to match with their jewels and makeup. In terms of physical structure, the two also showed similarities, being relatively slim with broad shoulders. 

Unfortunately, however, this resemblance was not missed by the British media, which didn't hesitate to body shame Sophie in comparison to the former Princess of Wales. In the documentary "Diana & Sophie: The Tale of Two Royal Marriages" (via YouTube), royal expert Judy Wade listed the differences between the pair, ruthlessly hinting that Sophie was somehow less attractive than her so-called twin. "Sophie's shorter. She ... hasn't got the wonderful peachy complexion that Diana had. She's got quite a lot of freckles. She's much more of a simple, natural, outdoor girl ... And she's got quite a short torso, so she doesn't show off clothes as well as Diana did. She needs to dress more carefully," Wade said.

This culture of body negativity surrounding Sophie was so profound that the media characterized her as a less-than-Diana version of Diana. One 1999 article from the New York Post read: "Sophie, described by the British press as a less-striking Diana lookalike, met Edward in 1993." The article then noted, "Sophie ... has loathed the Di comparisons."

She was said to dress like Princess Diana

During the 1990s, Princess Diana was a major style icon. Regardless of what she wore — whether it be a blond pixie cut or an oversized sweater — women across the world did the same. Interestingly, for quite some time, Sophie, Countess of Wessex seemed to be among the ranks of Diana-inspired fashionistas. Some of her most Diana-inspired looks included colorful blazers, wide-brimmed hats, and even floral dresses paired with circular sunglasses. 

One of the most obvious instances of this occurred when Sophie wore a red Tomasz Starzewski dress with a plunging neckline. Her attire clearly recalled a similar gown donned by Diana at a 1990 Gala in Washington DC. Speaking in the documentary, "Diana & Sophie: The Tale of Two Royal Marriages" (via YouTube), royal commentator Judy Wade noted that Sophie "has done, you know, chosen dresses, red dresses that were almost identical to things that Diana wore."

While it might seem strange for Sophie to have worn the same styles as her brother-in-law's ex-wife, it would also be hard to judge the countess' past decisions by today's standards. As body language expert Judi James shared on the podcast "Pod Save the Queen" (via Express), Sophie's decision to replicate some of Diana's style choices wasn't unusual for women in the '90s. "People maybe don't remember, but she did look a bit like Diana, and she tended to dress a bit like Diana – but then, didn't we all," James recalled.

The British media mocked Sophie's Diana-inspired style

Regardless of the vast number of women who copied Princess Diana's style, the British press zeroed in on Sophie, Countess of Wessex's fashion choices and, ultimately, portrayed her as a "want to be" Diana. In an episode of the podcast "Pod Save the Queen" (via Express), body language expert Judi James recalled the way that the media attacked Sophie for her resemblance to the former Princess of Wales. "[Sophie] had a bit of a bad start in the Royal Family because she was hailed as being the next Diana ... But then, people expected her to be like Diana. And she did begin to attract the same rabid attention," James revealed.

Some of this attention, unfortunately, detracted from the importance of Sophie's royal duties. When the countess went to Bahrain on an official visit in 2004, a piece in the Daily Mail accused her of imitating Diana's style: "From the simple white head-scarf she put on for a visit to a mosque in Bahrain, to the way she held her upward gaze as the cameras clicked and whirred, [Sophie] was the image of Diana on a similar outing nine years ago." Unfortunately for Sophie, this comparison was not a compliment. The article went on to hint that Sophie was working overtime to copy the late princess, musing bitterly, "You really have to wonder just how much a study Sophie has made of Diana's life."

The public hoped Sophie of Wessex would be the 'next Diana'

While Sophie, Countess of Wessex attracted a lot of negative attention from the press, not everybody criticized the new princess. On the contrary, many members of the public looked up to Sophie and even hoped that she would fill the void that Princess Diana had left behind upon her departure from the royal family. In the documentary "Diana & Sophie: The Tale of Two Royal Marriages" (via YouTube), royal expert Judy Wade discussed the impact of Diana's divorce on the public's perception of Sophie. "It just so happened that there was a gap in the ranks for a young attractive woman, and Sophie's filled it. You know, Diana has disappeared now."

Indeed, in 1999, when Sophie and Prince Edward got engaged, the royal family was coming out of two fairytale weddings gone wrong. Prince Charles and Diana had officially called it quits just three years before in 1996 — the very same year that Prince Andrew formally separated from his wife, Sarah Ferguson. In that sense, the public was looking toward Sophie for some good news. Royal editor Rebecca English described the situation best in the documentary "Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones: The Reluctant Royals" (via YouTube): "I think it was a real sense of excitement, and a feeling of, well, at last, we are going to see a lovely, joyful royal wedding, after, you know, some of the really sad stories we've seen ... in recent years."

Sophie was too unique to fill Diana's shoes

Despite these expectations, Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Princess Diana were each their own, unique woman. The reality was that Sophie could never fill the gap that Diana had left behind — nor did she necessarily want to. As royal expert Judy Wade told documentary-makers in "Diana & Sophie: The Tale of Two Royal Marriages" (via YouTube), "There is absolutely no danger whatsoever that Sophie is the new Diana. A lot of people in Australia or in America seem to think she is. Because she's filled the gap that's left by Diana, which ... There's just no comparison between the two."

One of the main differences between Sophie and Diana was, naturally, their personalities. Whereas Diana was said to be dramatic and deeply emotional, Sophie is rumored to have a more lighthearted and practical disposition. In the podcast "Pod Save the Queen" (via Express), body language expert Judi James opined that these personality differences are evident in each woman's respective composure. With regard to Sophie, James said, "we don't see a whole array of emotions that we used to see with Diana." According to the expert, this major difference between the two princesses could very well be a good thing for Sophie. The way that James sees it, Sophie's attitude means that she can get "on with her job, being seen, but not turning anything into a kind of soap opera."

Even Princess Diana noted the resemblance

Although Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and Princess Diana certainly had their unique character traits, it seems that Diana was aware that Sophie, in some ways, resembled her. According to Judy Wade's interview for "Diana & Sophie: The Tale of Two Royal Marriages" (via YouTube), the former Princess of Wales was reportedly not thrilled to have Sophie as her look-alike. As Wade shared in the documentary, Sophie had "done too many things that, I know, used to irritate Diana. She cut her hair like Diana's. She even went to lose weight and keep fit at the Chelsea Harbor Club, which was Diana's ... famous fitness center ... She just seemed to be aping Diana."     

Per Wade's account, however, Diana wasn't always livid to see Sophie incarnate some of her own best traits. On the contrary, the princess was said to view the whole situation with a sardonic sense of humor. "Diana was sort of partly amused and partly irritated by it," the royal expert shared. Aparently, Diana expressed her amusement by telling a pointed joke when Sophie would walk into the room. As Wade divulged in the documentary, "[Diana] used to say, 'Oh, look, here comes my double.'"

As if this tiny comment weren't cutting enough, the Princess of Wales was rumored to have an additional unflattering nickname for Sophie. One 1999 article from the New York Post even alleged that Diana referred to Sophie as "Little Miss Goody Two Shoes." 

Sophie of Wessex didn't like being compared to Princess Diana

Princess Diana was not the only royal woman to resent the way that the press pounced on her physical resemblance with Sophie, Countess of Wessex. Sophie herself went so far as to ask the press to stop comparing her to the People's Princess. In a 1999 sit-down with the BBC (per The New York Post), Sophie clarified her perspective: "The comparison [with Diana] is something that I've had ... On an aesthetic basis, I'd wouldn't think anyone can be unhappy being compared with someone such as her. [But] we are very different people."

The Countess of Wessex echoed these sentiments in a separate interview that she gave, following a 2001 scandal involving her public relations company. As reported by the Daily Mail, even during that sit-down, Sophie continued to ask the world to cease the Diana comparisons. "The public have put me on the plinth vacated by Diana ... I don't deny that we do look alike ... but I couldn't ever compete with Diana's image. I am not Diana," Sophie reportedly said.

According to one royal expert, this sense of competition is what weighed on Sophie. In the documentary, "Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones: The Reluctant Royals" (via YouTube), royal expert Ayesha Hazarika affirmed, "Diana was seen as one of the most glamorous women ... on the planet. And I think that was quite hard for Sophie because lots of people made quite unfavorable comparisons."

The media eventually accused Princess Diana of copying Sophie

Although the vast majority of comparisons between Princess Diana and Sophie, Countess of Wessex painted Diana in a favorable light, that wasn't always true. Some tabloid articles portrayed Diana as a relentless copycat who wouldn't stop stealing other women's looks. 

One prime example of this was a piece published in the Daily Record in 1996 (via The Free Library). The article, which hit the press around the same time as Diana's divorce from Prince Charles, accused the People's Princess of copying Sophie's hairstyle: "Princess Diana has confirmed her reign as Britain's copycat queen after her amazing hairdo bust-up with Sophie Rhys-Jones. The girl who stole the nation's heart when she walked up the aisle as a fairytale princess is now busy stealing the looks and styles of just about everyone she meets." The article went on to accuse Diana of imitating Sophie because she was "jealous." It also made the point that Sophie tried out her new haircut in August of 1995 when, apparently,  "Di still had her short, layered mumsy look."

While it's unlikely that Diana actually copied Sophie, it's worth noting that both women selected hairstyles that were wildly popular at the time. As hair expert Nicole Petty told Express, "The pixie cut was a major hair trend of the 90s." And, according to the expert, Sophie had a reason to style her hair this way, as it helped "balance out her features."

The royal family didn't like the comparisons between Sophie and Diana

Princess Diana and Sophie, Countess of Wessex weren't the only ones left frustrated by the way they were compared by the press. Some reports indicate that senior members of the royal family were also not very keen on the media's portrayal of Sophie as the new Diana. One 1999 article published by the Associated Press noted the royal family's take on the comparisons, writing: "Though Miss Rhys-Jones is considerably shorter ... than the princess, the resemblance is very much there and — much to the chagrin of the bride-to-be and royal family — incessantly noted in the British press."

One possible explanation for the royal family's reaction pertains to the Windors' sour relationship with Diana, following her divorce from Prince Charles. According to Andrew Morton's book, "Diana: In Pursuit of Love" (via Google Books), the royals came to view their once-dear Diana as "tainted and troublesome." Interestingly, Morton notes, these members of the firm specifically hoped that the world would see how different Sophie was from Diana. As the biographer wrote, "From the royal family's perspective, Sophie ... was a living rebuke to the Princess of Wales, proof positive that a low-born commoner could rub shoulders with them." In that sense, it was possible that senior family members disliked the comparisons between Sophie and Diana because they wanted the world to see just how well Sophie was fitting in.

Sophie of Wessex felt 'intimidated' by Princess Diana

The royal family's negative view of Princess Diana wasn't the only reason that Sophie, Countess of Wessex would have had to resent the comparisons. Some sources indicate that the two women had somewhat tense interactions, which could have further soured the comparisons for Sophie.

According to the book "Diana: In Pursuit of Love" (via Google Books) by royal expert Andrew Morton, Diana once "intimidated" Sophie at a family luncheon. Per Morton's account, "As the Queen and the rest of the family sat round drinking tea and making polite conversation over sandwiches and small cakes, Diana cupped [Sophie's] face in her hands and silently stared at Edward's girlfriend." Apparently, Sophie was so taken aback by the episode that, "She walked out of the room — after first asking the Queen's permission as royal protocol demanded."

Regardless of Diana's intentions during this episode, it remains clear that the two women were hardly best buddies. Indeed, a 1999 piece in the New York Post put it best when it opined that this lack of friendship just exasperated the sense of negativity that Sophie felt toward the media comparisons between her and Diana: "Sophie, 34, has loathed the Di comparisons because she and the princess had a strained relationship."

Some experts maintain that Sophie was a better fit for the royal family

Regardless of the physical similarities between Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and Princess Diana, the women ultimately had very different experiences of royal life. Princess Diana, for one, famously struggled to adapt to her public role. As her biographer Andrew Morton told the Daily Mail, "I think she felt she was a prisoner trapped inside the system. She felt voiceless. She felt that the image we had of this kind of fairytale princess was a grotesque lie." Meanwhile, Sophie has become a key member of the royal family and was even dubbed by BBC anchor Jennie Bond as "the royal family's secret weapon" (via Express).

Interestingly, Sophie's ability to have a successful royal career could pertain to her ability to put the crown before all else. In her book "Prince Edward" (via Express), royal biographer Ingrid Seward posited that Sophie had an easier transition into royal life because she was willing to accept the dynamics within the firm. "Any romance with a member of the Royal Family is conducted on their terms. If Sophie had any reservations or complaints, she prudently kept them to herself," Seward wrote. Apparently, per the biographer, Sophie was also more committed to trying to play a certain role: "Sophie was careful not to upstage her royal paramour. She was there at his side if he wanted her there." This sense of duty ultimately helped the duchess integrate into this complicated family.