Inside The Relationship Between Kate Middleton & Sophie, Duchess Of Edinburgh

Catherine, Princess of Wales, is perhaps one of the most high-profile members of the British royal family. Having been married to Prince William since 2011, she is generally considered a great influence on the family's reputation in the modern world. Of course, she is not the only senior member of the family to generally be looked at in a positive light, as Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, has also been seen as a real force for good in the family since she married Prince Edward in 1999.

Still, like most families, the royals are not immune to reports of discord within their ranks. From the days of Princess Diana (and all the drama that surrounded her place in the firm) to today, prominent members of the British royal family are often reported to be feuding. Catherine is certainly no stranger to this phenomenon, especially following the release of Prince Harry's memoir, "Spare." The book indicated she and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, had significant issues getting along. Fortunately for the princess, it does not appear that her other relationships within the family are nearly as contentious. In fact, when it comes to her aunt-in-law, Sophie, things seem much more cordial.

Looking back at both women's histories and their similarities, it could be said that they are not just family but friends. Here's how their relationship has developed over the years into one that isn't frosty.

Sophie helped Catherine adjust to royal life early on

Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh officially married into the royal family on June 19, 1999, almost a full 12 years before Catherine and William's 2011 nuptials. With more than a few years of experience already underway as a working royal, Sophie became one of the members who appeared to take the then-newly-minted Duchess of Cambridge under her wing as she learned to adjust to her new life. Despite Princess Catherine now having served as a working royal for over a decade, it seems she still leans on Sophie for support.

"Many of the poses of the two women together show Sophie face-checking Kate with quite strong bouts of watchful-looking eye contact to suggest she's taking a semi-maternal approach," body language expert Judi James told Express of the pair back in 2020. "However, she also has raised brows and what's called a 'pinging' smile that implies she wants to ensure Kate is enjoying herself." James continued, saying: "There is some mirroring when the two women walk together but it's primarily Sophie projecting the stronger signals of relaxed confidence while Kate smiles happily at her side."

The influence Sophie has had on Catherine has paid off, as the princess certainly holds her own in public, and the pair genuinely seem close whenever they are together.

Sophie and Catherine share similar interests – especially when it comes to sports

It certainly helps to have shared interests when forming a bond, and thankfully Catherine, Princess of Wales, and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, have similar hobbies. 

"The royal ladies have similar interests and passions, including their love of sport and fashion," Danielle Stacey, royal correspondent for Hello! magazine, told the publication. "They also share common causes within their royal work, with both Kate and Sophie championing the work of children and young people's charities."

When it comes to sports, Catherine is noted as a royal patron of institutions like SportsAid, The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, The Lawn Tennis Association, and The 1851 Trust. As for the Duchess of Edinburgh, she serves as a patron for England Hockey, the British Cycling Foundation, the British Bobsleigh & Skeleton Association, and the U.K. Armed Forces Winter Sports Association. The two royal women have also been known to enjoy sailing.

They share a connection through the normal ways they met their husbands

Both Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh and Princess Catherine married into royalty, and unlike some of their predecessors, they share a bond over meeting their husbands in relatively normal ways. Sophie managed to meet Prince Edward, the youngest son of the late Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, while building her career in public relations. In fact, their first formal meeting occurred in 1993, when Sophie was hired to discuss a Real Tennis charity event that Edward was also working on. As for Catherine, she met Prince William in 2001 when they were both students at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. The pair were friends at first, but William's interest in his eventual spouse was piqued when Catherine modeled in a student fashion show. 

"Kate hadn't told him exactly what she'd be wearing. So, when she strode out in uh, well, her underwear and a see through dress, I mean, William was gobsmacked," royal correspondent Katie Nicholl told ABC News. "William just turned to [his friend] Fergus and said, 'Wow. Kate's hot.'"

Having met their husbands outside of traditional royal circles likely helped the women cement their bond, as many other women in the family had previously met their spouses through royal or aristocratic connections.

Sophie and Catherine both grew up outside of royal circles

It was easier for both women to meet their husbands in relatively normal ways because they also share backgrounds growing up as non-royals. Prior to marrying Prince Edward, the Duchess of Edinburgh was known as Sophie Rhys-Jones. She was born to her father Christopher Rhys-Jones, a salesman, and her mother Mary O'Sullivan, a secretary who also worked for a charity. Sophie grew up in the West Kent Village of Brenchley and attended Kent College for Girls before going on to attend West Kent College Tonbridge. Following her schooling, she went on to work as a secretary at a London public relations firm and set out on the career path that let her meet Edward.

Although Princess Catherine was also a commoner before marriage, she did grow up wealthy. Her parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, own a successful party supplies company, Party Pieces; however, they met while both working in aviation. The wealth they went on to amass largely came from their work ethic — and it paid off. Their children were able to attend prestigious schools, such as St. Andrews prep school and Marlborough, a private boarding school. Catherine worked for the family company as well as Jigsaw, a clothing retailer, before marrying William.

Both women faced issues with the press ahead of their marriages

Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh and Princess Catherine were both hounded by the British press early on in their relationships, and they eventually received interference on their behalf from their future husbands.

In an open letter in 1993, Prince Edward implored the press to give his relationship privacy, citing that the attention given to other family members hadn't really proved to do anything positive for their own marriages, as 1992 saw the official dissolution of his sister Princess Anne's marriage to Captain Mark Phillips and his two brothers' separations (Prince Andrew's from and Sarah, Duchess of York, and Prince Charles' from Princess Diana). "I am very conscious that other members of my immediate family have been subjected to similar attention and it has not been at all beneficial to their relationships," he wrote (via the Los Angeles Times). "Therefore please will you call an end to your harassment of both Sophie and me and allow us to try to carry on our lives as normal."

William made a similar move in 2007 on Catherine's behalf. A letter issued on his behalf read, in part: "Prince William is very unhappy at the paparazzi harassment of his girlfriend. He wants, more than anything, for it to stop."

Both women have handled scandals with grace

While both Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh and Princess Catherine are seen as positive influences on the royal family, they haven't gone untouched by scandal. However, the way they each handled their respective issues with aplomb has not only shown how similar they are and their understanding of their roles in the institution but why they are both revered.

Catherine began dealing with reports of a serious rift with friend Rose Hanbury in 2019 after rumors alleged the Marchioness of Cholmondeley had engaged in an extramarital affair with Prince William. Though swift denials about the affair came in the form of threats of legal action against publications that reported on the allegations, the princess managed to follow the old royal adage of "never complain, never explain," rising above it all. She and Rose were even spotted attending a church service together a year later (via Cosmopolitan).

Handling scandal with grace is also a skill Sophie possesses, having been touched by her own unfortunate circumstances in 2001. In her case, she was secretly recorded by a reporter who posed as an Arab Sheik. She was caught making indiscreet comments about the royal family and some politicians, seemingly abusing her connections to the royals. This led to both her and Edward stepping away from their professional careers and joining the firm full-time. These days, the scandal is hardly what is remembered about them, as their work and relationship with the late queen took center stage.

Catherine and Sophie bond over their shared interest in fashion

Another way Catherine, Princess of Wales and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh have bonded over the years is through their shared love of fashion. Both women are known for their exquisite taste when it comes to apparel and accessories, and are rarely criticized for their fashion choices during public outings, which is likely due to the similar tastes they also share in clothing. In fact, their parallel tastes have even led to instances where Sophie has actually acted as a secret shopper for Catherine. Designer Donna Ida revealed to the Daily Mail in 2019 that Sophie actually purchased a jumpsuit from her brand, and specifically asked to get one for Catherine as well.

"My friend, a stylist, is best friends with Sophie Wessex, and Sophie buys from us," Ida said. "She got our [£295] black Sadie jumpsuit for herself and then asked for one for Kate. She said: 'Kate wants one, can I get one as well?'"

Catherine has also been credited for influencing Sophie's style as well, with styling director Rosie Hartman telling Express in 2022 that there were "echoes of Kate's style" in newer items in Sophie's wardrobe that she hadn't worn previously and that her "close relationship with Kate has influenced her fashion choices."

They both balance their royal duties with being hands-on parents

Another trait that Princess Catherine and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, share is their desire to be more hands-on as parents and give their children much more normal lives, even though they're royal. When it comes to her children — Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor and James, Earl of Wessex — Sophie herself has stated that she and Prince Edward planned to raise the two as normally as possible, and this extended to not giving them their rightful HRH titles, allowing the two to make their own decisions later.

"We try to bring them up with the understanding that they are very likely to have to work for a living ... Hence we made the decision not to use HRH titles. They have them and can decide to use them from 18, but it's highly unlikely," Sophie told The Times in 2020.

Despite the fact that she is raising a future king, Catherine reportedly also feels strongly about giving her children — Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis — as normal of a life as possible, with a friend telling People in 2019 that Catherine "desperately wants that normality for her own kids" similar to how she was raised. "She wants to emulate her upbringing, living in the countryside with a close-knit family," the friend said.

Catherine and Sophie are both passionate amateur photographers who have been trusted to capture royal family moments

Princess Catherine and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh also both share a passion for amateur photography, as well as a level of skill when it comes to capturing moments for the family, as they have both been entrusted to do so in the past. Following the death of Prince Philip in 2021, Queen Elizabeth II's office shared a cherished photo of the monarch and her husband at the Balmoral estate (via Twitter). The image was shot in 2003 and it was noted by royal experts that the image had been shot by Sophie.

As for Catherine, her love of photography and eye for capturing special moments in the family is well-documented. Her images have included ones of her in-laws, but she has most notably been the photographer behind most of the behind-the-scenes images that have been shared featuring her husband and children.

The royal family seems to have implicit trust in her for capturing moments on camera, with the most recent example shared on what would have been the late Queen's 97th birthday on April 21. The image, which was shared on Instagram — featured the monarch at Balmoral during the Summer of 2022. In it, she is surrounded by Sophie's children, Lady Louise Windsor and James, Earl of Wessex, as well as several of her great-grandchildren.

Each woman hasn't been afraid to occasionally bend royal rules

There has never been a secret that members of the royal family have to adhere to rigorous and strict protocols and rules when it comes to almost everything they do, including their demeanor in public and their fashion choices. While some rules are set in stone and others may have simply been preferences the family followed for the sake of Queen Elizabeth II, most of the women, especially, make sure to follow them. Of course, that doesn't mean that Princess Catherine and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh have been afraid to occasionally stray and do their own thing.

Sophie notably broke an unofficial rule regarding taking selfies during a 2020 trip to Sierra Leone, when she was snapped in an image with staff workers at the Aberdeen Women's Clinic in Freetown. Catherine has also been known to feature in selfies from time to time while meeting with subjects, but she is also much more daring when it comes to breaking royal rules overall.

Not only does she and her husband, Prince William, often break a rule that prohibits heirs from traveling together, but on several occasions, she has been spotted with her nails painted in colors that are not neutral. This most recently occurred as the royals celebrated Easter in 2023, the first without the queen, where Catherine was seen sporting a red manicure (via People).

They have both focused on making health and wellness a part of their platform

When it comes to their patronages, Princess Catherine and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh share a passion for important causes related to health and wellness. While each woman has different areas to focus on within the wide spectrum regarding health, they are similar in how much time they spend promoting their support. In addition to focusing on children's causes, Catherine is also an advocate for mental health and awareness and even helped form "Heads Together" with Prince William and Prince Harry, which helps shine a spotlight on different mental health initiatives through the Royal Foundation.

As for Sophie, she's also a major advocate for health. She puts her focus on causes that help to eliminate avoidable blindness, support women's health, tackle sexual violence, and explore menopause in the workplace. In a 2021 virtual chat for Wellbeing of Women, she explicitly called for there to be a more public discussion about women's health, calling out that much of the dialogue is kept shrouded in secrecy. 

"We all talk about having babies, but nobody talks about periods, nobody talks about the menopause. Why not?" she questioned (via CBC). "It's something that's incredibly normal, but it is something that is very hidden and I think it's time to say enough. We need to ... bring this out onto the table."

Overall, they seem to genuinely like spending time together

Regardless of similarities or differences between the two women, they genuinely seem to have a great relationship and like spending time together. Rarely do photographs of royal events emerge without Princess Catherine and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh smiling and laughing when spending time together. The two are also known for being supportive when in public together, and still managing to have a good time as they help each other in otherwise harrowing situations.

In 2017, Catherine managed to save Sophie during an incident at the Royal Ascot. As Sophie entered a carriage that she, Prince Edward, Catherine, and Prince William were riding in, she stumbled and started to fall forward toward the princess (via Time). Catherine quickly caught her and helped steady her so she could take her seat, and the pair were seen laughing about it after it occurred. 

A similar occurrence came in 2018, during Princess Eugenie's wedding to Jack Brooksbank, as the family gathered outside. The wind started to cause the hem of Catherine's pink dress to fly up, but with the help of Sophie, she managed to keep herself looking more discreet (via Express). Again, the two were seen smiling after the event, proving that no matter how embarrassing a situation, they have one another's backs the same way true friends do outside of royal circles.