Commonwealth Day 2019 with interview by HRH

On the 11th March 2019, people in Commonwealth countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Americas, the Pacific and Europe observed the Commonwealth Day. The day was celebrated with a broad range of activities, including faith and civic gatherings, debates, school assemblies, flag raising ceremonies, street parties, cultural events and a multicultural, multi-faith service at Westminster Abbey.

print screen of BBC video

The theme for 2019 is ‘A Connected Commonwealth’, which offers opportunities for the people, governments and institutions of this richly diverse family of nations to connect and work together at many levels through far-reaching and deep-rooted networks of friendship and goodwill. This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Commonwealth.

HRH’s letter – click on photo to read an online version of the letter

Since HRH couldn’t attend the service as she travelled to New York to take part in Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, The Countess of Wessex has written a letter to the people of Malawi – congratulating them on removing the risk of trachoma. HRH is Vice-Patron of Queen Jubilee Trust, which works across the Commonwealth to end avoidable blindness.

photo shared by the Royal Family via Twitter

Today marks two years since Queen Jubilee Trust’s Vice-Patron HRH visited Malawi to see the work of the Trust’s Trachoma Initiative in action. During her visit, The Countess met Safira, now aged 14. Like many school children across Malawi, Safira has played a significant role in the country’s efforts to eliminate trachoma by teaching her community about the dangers of the disease and how to prevent it. To learn more about Safira, and her story since meeting HRH, click here.

photo DiamondJubileeTrust (@qejubileetrust) shared via Twitter

Malawi is the first country within the Trust’s Trachoma Initiative to have reduced the prevalence of the disease to under 5% of the population – a huge milestone in its journey to wipe out the disease in its entirety. In her letter, The Countess wrote:

I am delighted to hear the news that it is now official: Malawi has removed the risk of trachoma across the country.

For millennia, trachoma has blighted the lives of millions. Slowly and painfully, people lose their sight. They become unable to leave their homes, go to work and provide for their families. Children miss school as they have to stay at home to care for their relatives. Communities are trapped in a cycle of poverty, moving from one generation to the next.

But now trachoma is preventable and treatable. With leadership and a concerted effort over several years, it can be eliminated.

Also today, an interview with The Countess of Wessex on her work to champion the elimination of avoidable blindness across the Commonwealth was aired as part of A Service of Celebration for the Commonwealth on BBC One. You will fine the video on The Commonwealth official website, click here – it’s titled Commonwealth Day BBC One feature. For video of the service attended by the Royal family, click here. For press release by the Trust on HRH’s letter, click here.

When Phillip met Prince Philp – ITV documentary with Earl & Countess of Wessex

Yesterday, ITV has shown another fabulous documentary, this time in praise of The Duke of Edinburgh and the DofE Award’s scheme which he founded in UK in 1956, that has since expanded to 144 nations. During the course of almost 6 months Phillip Schofield explored the work of the DofE Charity through exclusive access to many major celebratory events, he also spoke to members of the Royal Family, including The Duke of Edinburgh and The Earl and Countess of Wessex about their involvement.

https://twitter.com/DofE/status/808430762139774976
© Official DofE tweets

The documentary titled ‘When Phillip met Prince Philip’ was a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man. Having recently completing my very own DofE Diamond Challenge, I felt really proud watching it as now, I feel like in some tiny part, I belong to the DofE Award’s family. I must say I enjoyed the whole programme greatly. My favourite bits as always included those with The Countess of Wessex, but the whole programme was really lovely and very much worth watching.

© ITV – print screen of video

The Countess has met with Phillip Schofield in the Drawing Room of her home, Bagshot Park. That’s what she shared about her father-in-law: He’s constantly reading, keeps bang up to date with current affairs and everything else going on. His knowledge base is amazing. His physical capability is extraordinary. He keeps himself pretty fit and he is active and I think he’s probably of the mind: if you don’t use it, you lose it kind of thing. Everybody in the family really looks up to him and respects him‘.

© ITV – print screen of video

The Countess praised The Duke for the way he has always supported the Queen: ‘ I love seeing pictures of him picking little children up and bringing them over the rails to be able to go and present flowers to the Queen. But he’s always there for her… I think for her to know that he is there and takes a genuine interest obviously in everything that she does must be fantastic. He’s been a fantastic life partner for her”.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4026358/Philip-playful-prince-Unseen-Royal-home-videos-Duke-Edinburgh-larking-aboard-Britannia-bowling-COW-PATS-young-Prince-Charles.html
© ITV – via Daily Mail

Sophie also said: ‘I think it must be a fairly lonely place being the Queen. As a female in the top job it’s important I think to have somebody that you can lean on, that you can discuss things with, that she can be open and honest with behind closed doors. For her to have found somebody like him, I don’t think she could have chosen better. And they make each other laugh which I think is a half of a battle, isn’t it’.

© ITV – print screen of video

As a grandfather: ‘He’s wonderful and he takes a real interest in the children. I think they make him laugh. Louise’s doing a bit of carriage driving now, which I think he’s quite pleased about‘.  And as for his famous barbeques, ‘a grouse isn’t worth eating unless it’s come off of his bbq‘.

© ITV – print screen of video

Phillip also met with Prince Edward in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, ‘they sat on a ‘brilliantly placed bench, in the midde of nowhere‘. That’s what Earl got to say about his father: ‘He never talks about himself  but you get him to talk about all those organizations he’s helped. And he’s got a brilliant mind. He’s always amazingly innovative, so when people would come up with ideas or suggestions to him, he would always turn them into something ten times better‘.

https://twitter.com/DofE/status/808424409061085184
© Official DofE tweets – Prince Edward received his DofE Gold Award in June 1986 at St James’s Palace, from his father. Here’s how Prince Edward recalls this important day: “How well I recall the day I received my gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Few, if any, of the trials, tribulations, frustrations and surprises I have encountered in my work with the DofE compare with the five years it took me to gain that gold award – from Scotland to New Zealand to Cambridge. Five years of coping with numerous sporting injuries as I struggled to complete the last section, finally resorting to the most gentlemanly game I could find – Royal Tennis”.

“Then, on the great day itself in June 1986, I arrived at St James’s Palace along with another 749 relieved and excited recipients. At long last, standing in the Throne Room, my father finally gave me the certificate that proved I had done it, I had got the gold award and all those struggles were over, the hours, the pressure, the forms. No more . . . How completely and utterly wrong I was . . . ” For full article with this quote, click here.

About the DofE Award: ‘You know my father has always described it as a do it yourself kit for growing up, which always is a bit of flippin (?) but actually it’s true… I think I probably realized that the more you put into something, the more you’re gonna get out. And if you’re given a challenge or a task, you got to try and do it to the best of your ability and life is full of challenges, so… I mean I’ve been given a few challenges over the years… So you learn from those experiences and hopefully if I do it that way that sounds like a reasonable chance of succedeing’.

© ITV – print screen of video

I also got very emotional seeing a bit about The Countess completing her Diamond Challenge and being greeted so warmly by her family and friends. There was also a lovely moment (footage) from Westminster Abbey, between The Duke and his son & Prince Edward and Sophie, during service celebrating DofE Award’s 60 years. Like I said, the whole documentary is really worth watching. If you are in UK, here’s your link. For more info about this doc, please visit Daily Mail, click here. Express coverage can be found here. Hello’s feature is here. I hope those who watched it enjoyed it as much as me.

Today, The Countess of Wessex as President of National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Patron of Childline attended a Carol Concert at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. For now, nothing has been shared and I have been working on the quotes from the documentary, so my post on ‘Merry Little Christmas’ concert will be up tomorrow.

Sophie sends her first official tweet + some adorable pics!

Today Sophie has sent her first official tweet ever. The tweet is a result of HRH finishing her DofE Diamond Challenge. Sophie wrote: “Happy to be home after a week I’ll never forget. I want to personally thank you all for your support and encouragement – SW”. The Royal Family included equally lovely picture of The Countess and her diamond pin.

https://twitter.com/RoyalFamily/status/780393520372809728
via The Royal Family Twitter account

Also, while checking Instagram I have found really lovely pics taken yesterday at Buckingham Palace by Sarah (@sarahji72), who kindly let me use those here on the blog. Sarah also let me know how she got those great shots: “believe it or not I was outside the palace railings – wasn’t invited. Heard that the Countess was going to be back that day and went up to have a look. Not many people were there to see them it was mainly tourists who had only come to see the palace during their sightseeing around London. Struck lucky with my position and managed to get some photos I’m pleased with. Have to say watching the family beforehand James kept looking at his watch as if to say hurry up mum! It was nice to be there and watch it all. Sophie looked elated, the team did amazingly well“.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKy2xc3ASzY/
courtesy of @sarahji72 via her Instagram feed

In other news, the Royal Navy posted a great video in which  HMS Daring recorded special message for their ship’s sponsor (HRH The Countess of Wessex) while at sea on operations. It includes three big cheers for HRH. You can view this ‘loud’ message by clicking here. Absolutely loved it.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BK1HrKlAERe/
courtesy of @sarahji72 via her Instagram feed

The Countess of Wessex has updated her blog on the final day of her challenge. Sophie wrote: “I have to say I shall never forget the experience of cycling down The Mall and seeing Buckingham Palace in the distance.  I felt a huge sense of excitement, tinged with sadness and an enormous amount of emotion that this great adventure was coming to an end”.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKy2-cqgPgi/
courtesy of @sarahji72 via her Instagram feed

“As we came through the south centre gate of Buckingham Palace, unbeknown to us, the household division of the Scots Guard were waiting and launched into a rousing rendition of ‘Congratulations’. Then it was time for family hugs and kisses as we were all greeted by the loved ones we have missed this past week.  It was completely overwhelming as there were many more friends and supporters than I anticipated and I am so grateful to everyone for coming to see us arrive”.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BK1H0jsA3EQ/
courtesy of @sarahji72 via her Instagram feed

Also you can read all updates on the Diamond Challenge from Jo of QARANC. She has nice style of writing as well, and I really enjoyed her updates. Jo writes: “Without doubt the past week has been surreal, amazing and totally unforgettable – I have loved every minute (apart from the odd “shut up legs” moment) and feel privileged to have been given this opportunity”.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKy3cLEgmZ3/
courtesy of @sarahji72 via her Instagram feed

“I would like to thank Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex, the other team cyclists, the support team, HRH’s Private Secretary, her Personal Protection Officers and Bill the sports masseur for their support, the laughs, the chat, the pain and their constant encouragement – it wouldn’t have been the same without you!!” To read all her posts visit QARANC Association Facebook feed. And Jo, your thighs look absolutely fine!!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKy3HTMg0ns/
courtesy of @sarahji72 via her Instagram feed

And to answer HRH’s question, “So, what on earth am I going to do now?” I think it’s safe to say that some other amazing possibilities will come YRH’s way. I am certain of it. I am still in owe of this challenge. It was a fabulous idea and it was great that HRH was able to cycle along such a great and supportive team.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKy3RH1gjn2/
courtesy of @sarahji72 via her Instagram feed

As for my challenge, I have finished Week 3, I have struggled right at the start of if, oh lord I did, there were even tears, but being stubborn as a mule can be helpful at times, so I managed somehow and I think I am ready for Week 4. I will try to post an update asap. But not today.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKy3MyYgKj6/
courtesy of @sarahji72 via her Instagram feed

The Countess of Wessex resumes her royal duties on 4th October, HRH will attend The Countess of Wessex Cup at RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire.

Day 7 – DofE Sophie’s Challenge! Final day & huge congrats!!

The Countess of Wessex and her team departed from RAF Halton in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, in the morning at approx 9.30, to complete their challenge. They were waved off by Misbourne School Bronze Award participants. HRH also met supporters from Macintyre School.

https://twitter.com/Christianscot10/status/779963079849308160
courtesy of Christian Scott via Twitter feed

For the final leg of this challenge, (that took about 38 miles), Sophie and her team were joined by Dame Sarah Storey. Sarah, who is 38 years old, is a British road and track racing cyclist and former swimmer, multiple gold medal winner at the Paralympic Games in both sports, and three times British (able-bodied) national track champion.

https://twitter.com/RoyalFamily/status/779970718486396928
via The Royal Family Twitter account

Here, I would like to take time to once again remind you of who cycled and supported The Countess, not only those past 6 and half day, but also in previous months leading up to this challenge. The team included representatives from four of HRH’s regiments; RAF Wittering; 5 Rifles; Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps and Corps of Army Music. Also representatives from the Army Physical Training Corps and Boardman bikes.

  • Rachel McKenzie, a physical training instructor at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
  • Roy Brunning, Officer Commanding at one of RAF Wittering’s most famous units; No. 3 Mobile Catering Squadron. You will learn more about Roy, by clicking here.
  • Oli Wootton, if I’m not mistaken from 5 Rifles.
  • Jo D’Arcy, if I’m not mistaken Jo is a QARANC member and she was giving us lovely behind the scenes updates throughout this challenge.
  • Craig Bywater, Captain Craig Bywater, Bmus (Hons) Director of Music of Royal Logistic Corps Band since 2014 and member of Corps of Army Music. To learn more about Captain, click here.
  • Jamie Mitchell, PR manager at Boardman Bikes, the tallest & youngest of the team 🙂

Speaking to Express yesterday, The Countess said: “I’ve been surprised how good I feel. I thought I was going to be dragging myself through the country lanes but I’ve done so much training I think I was more than ready to do it.”

https://twitter.com/RoyalFamily/status/780002354397667328
via The Royal Family Twitter account

HRH added: “I came from a standing start. The training was hard work and there were many times when I thought I’d bitten off more than I can chew. There have been a couple of moments when I’ve thought, goodness, you know, this is going to be day after day after day – am I going to be able to do it? But then you get on the bike and you really want to go. I did six days on the trot in Scotland when I was there on holiday so I knew I could sit in the saddle for a week. I knew I was capable of doing it.” Full coverage is here.

https://twitter.com/RoyalFamily/status/780006344124489728
via The Royal Family Twitter account

Approximately 3 hours after departing from Aylesbury, Sophie and her team cycled along the Mall towards The Buckingham Palace. “I have never cycled along the Mall so that’s going to be a treat for everybody. We’re really excited about it. We’ll be dodging pedestrians because they close it to traffic on a Sunday, so getting there in one piece will be something, without having a last-minute disaster.”

https://twitter.com/RoyalFamily/status/780002354397667328
via The Royal Family Twitter account

As The Countess and her team arrived through the Buckingham Palace’s gates you could hear song “Congratulations and Celebrations” played by a marching band. Sophie was very warmly welcomed by her husband Prince Edward, and her two, very excited kids, Lady Louise and Viscount James (with a huge hug), who surely were delighted to have their mum back home again!

https://twitter.com/SarahCam3/status/780022587158134784
via Sarah Campbell – BBC News/Deputy Royal Correspondent Twitter feed

There was also Sophie’s father, Mr Christopher Rhys-Jones who embraced his daughter and certainly he must have felt proud of this incredible achievment. Prince Edward, equally proud of his wife handed the Diamond Pin to his son, and it was James who has given the pin to his mum as a token of completing the challenge. It must have felt really great, I’m certain!

https://twitter.com/thereseprocter/status/780065168898330624
courtesy of Therese Procter via Twitter

After arriving The Countess took time to speak with many supporters, also her friends, and members of the press and media. Talking to PA she said: “If you told me that I would feel like this at the end of seven days cycling I would never have believed you. I do feel good and it has been a lovely, lovely experience. We have been extraordinarily lucky with the weather and I do think that if it had been driving wind and rain you would have seen a slightly shabbier, slightly more dishevelled and tired looking party arriving.” For full article, visit this link.

print screen of The Royal Family video

There is a great video at Royal Family Facebook & Twitter in which Sophie shows her Diamond Pin and speaks about her cycling experience. Rachel (her training instructor) also spoke to Sky News, video is here. Rachel praised HRH and her dedication to this challenge.

https://twitter.com/futuredreamss/status/780046307536859136
courtesy of Future Dreams via Twitter

You will find Daily Mail coverage here with a really fabulous interview. Express article here. Evening Standard article is here. Two great videos, including interview with HRH and handing of the pin at ITN, here. There is also a BBC video, click here. Another lovely video in which you can see how much James must have missed his mum, he wanted to be as close to Sophie as possible. Zimbio gallery with great images of today is here.

https://twitter.com/Schofe/status/780023746702741504
via Phillip Schofield Twitter feed

As for me, I wanted to send huge, big and warm congratulations to HRH The Countess of Wessex and her team. Not only you have raised an incredible amount of money, but also the awarness for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and what it gives to young people. Also, you have inspired many other people, myself included, to challenge theirselves and change their lives for better. And this is extraordinary. Again, thank you!

Day 1 – DofE Sophie’s Challenge! HRH – may the force be with you and your team! Good luck!

The Countess of Wessex has been cycling with her team for a good 6 hours or so already. The Countess and her team were waved off by The Duke of Edinburgh and The Earl of Wessex. TRH’s have also met young people who have undertaken their own Diamond Challenges in support of the DofE. I am really proud of HRH and of what she is doing to raise the money for the charity.

https://twitter.com/RoyalFamily/status/777774195853946880
via The Royal Family Twitter account

Prior to the start of her journey, Sophie has given an interview, in which, according to Telegraph The Countess revealed Prince Philip’s reaction when she told him of the challenge. “‘You are madwas probably his first response,” she said. “He is pleased I am supporting his charity and they know why I am doing it, but yes [he thinks I am] probably slightly mad as well.”

https://twitter.com/RoyalFamily/status/777774195853946880
via The Royal Family Twitter account

Sophie also talked to Rhiannon Mills of Sky News. On how she feels: “Nervous, very nervous. Quite terrified.” On her training: “It’s been going well. Fingers crossed. They keep assuring me that the training is the hardest bit. And that I’m now really ready to go. So I’m hoping that it really was the hardest bit. I’m in Scotland and there’s quite a lot of hills between me and the south”.

http://news.sky.com/story/countess-of-wessex-terrified-as-445-mile-bike-challenge-begins-10584486
print screen of Sky News video, click on pic to be redirected

Why bike, why this challenge: “No, I haven’t ever been on the road bike before. When I was asked to take on the challenge in support of the Diamond Appeal for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, ehmm. I mean why cycling, it’s a very good question. It was part of another idea, that I came up with, which was going from Scotland down to the south, but I wanted to involve kayaking and walking and sailing as well. But it got very complicated, so I thought keep it simple and decided that cycling was probably the best thing to do”.

https://twitter.com/RoyalFamily/status/777774195853946880
via The Royal Family Twitter account

On falls during training: “There have been a few thrills and spills – not just by me, I hasten to add. I think the first one was within 10 feet of a car when I put the cleats on for the first time and came straight off again, because you suddenly realise that you can’t move your feet out of the pedals. Yes, we’ve met with the wrong end of the plank as well. There have been various corners where one of us has not been able to un-cleat in time and ended up in the hedges – or unfortunately down on the road. That’s where it really hurts.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8_4HLFxv3U
print screen of The Royal Family Channel video – click on pic to be redirected

On her team and the support: “Yes, I mean as much as possible, but of course at the end of the day there’ll be places that we’ll have to string out a bit. And actually to be honest with you, on the hills it is pretty much every man for themselves. We can’t necessarily stay together – one person’s pace will be quicker than someone else’s. Yes, I hope that people will go far enough around us, that would be nice”.

After the interviews, pictures and goodbye’s, The Earl of Wessex kissed his wife and waved a flag to indicate the start of the ride for HRH and her team: Rachel McKenzie, Roy Brunning, Oli Wootton, Jo D’Arcy, Craig Bywater and Jamie Mitchell. The team includes representatives from four of HRH’s regiments; RAF Wittering; 5 Rifles; Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps and Corps of Army Music. Also representatives from the Army Physical Training Corps and Boardman bikes.

The Countess, who is also the ship’s sponsor of HMS Daring, according to the Express article, even though the ship will be at sea during the ride but cyclists on board plan to show their support by completing the distance on the vessel’s static bikes. I really admire this idea. Also, even though the weather is really poor I am goind to start week 3 of my challenge, to honour Sophie and her team.

print screen of ITV’s This Morning – HRH at Lauder; click on pic to be redirected & view the video

The Countess and her team have had their first stop after 25 miles of cycling at Lauder -market town situated on the Leader Water on the western edge of the Lammermuir Hills, 22 miles south east of Edinburgh. Lauder is a popular town in the Scottish Borders with many attractions to keep visitor occupied.

https://twitter.com/RoyalFamily/status/777820105505923072
via The Royal Family Twitter account

That’s where HRH and members of her team have had a stop for a cake! The Royal Family kindly shared a pic via Twitter feed. I’m sure it was a very welcomed and a sweet break from the ride. Also at Lauder, Sophie was interviewed by ITV’s ‘This Morning’. You can view the interview, if you are in UK, by clicking here

 
Next break took place after almost 50 miles, in the town of Jedburgh, in the Scottish Borders 10 miles (16 km) north of the border with England at Carter Bar. There, The Countess had a few moments to look at the ruined Jedburgh Abbey and to stop for lunch (according to Sophie, in a very salubrious car park!). There was also a quick photo-op. I would love to see the route HRH is cycling, perhaps after the challenge.
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Countess-of-Wessex
pic via HRH’s ‘Just Giving‘ website. Donations currently at £104,479!!!

The Countess of Wessex and her team crossed English border, at Carter Bar, a point in Roxburghshire and Northumberland. That’s approximately 66 miles from Edinburgh! From there, they have travelled to their first home for the night.

https://twitter.com/RoyalFamily/status/777877715428970496
via The Royal Family Twitter account

Zimbio gallery with a great set of pics is here. More pictures and quotes in Daily Echo, here. PA article via Daily Mail is here. Daily Mail’s coverage is here. Express article, here. ITN video is here. Lovely video by Telegraph with an article is here. IBT article, here. For live updates follow The Royal Family Twitter account.

Here‘s HRH’s blog post on Day 1 of her Diamond Challenge.

Finally, do not miss interview with The Countess at this week’s Hello! magazine. Emily Nash has done a great job. I especially loved this bit: “They [HRH’s kids, Louise & James] are furious with me that they’re not allowed to see me off, but it is a school day. But they’re coming to see me arriving at Buckingham Palace“.

Blood, sweat and tears – Sophie writes about her training for palace-to-palace 450 miles charity ride

HRH The Countess of Wessex has written for Daily Mail (link here), about her experience in training for her DofE Diamond Jubilee Challenge. It’s a really great read and an interesting perspective. It gives us the idea of how much work really went into it (not that I ever doubted the amount of work – it’s something not everyone would be able to do, that’s for sure!). In order to get fit, Sophie needed help of Rachel McKenzie – one of the Physical Training Instructors at Sandhurst.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKaaYBTDSV2/
via The Royal Family Instagram account

Sophie writes: “If she was daunted by the task of getting me fit enough for the challenge, she didn’t show it. It was clear we had some serious work to do. Those early days were pure hell. Every incline was like the north face of the Eiger and I prayed for the end of every ride! I confess I even shed a tear or two of desperation and frustration”.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKaaMo_jUN0/
via The Royal Family Instagram account

HRH also writes about the dangers she and her team experienced when training: “And the bike rides have sometimes contained an element of danger; on one occasion three of us ended up on the wrong end of a wooden plank and found ourselves in a hedge. It left us shaken and with some interesting cuts and bruises, but it didn’t deter me from my goal to be fit enough to complete my journey… The scenes of our falls have become known as ‘Countess’s Verge’ or ‘Craig’s Corner’ whenever we ride past”.

The Countess also writes about the reason why she has undertaken this challenge: “The DofE is a charity that needs support. It subsidises every young person who takes part and depends on donations and grants for nearly half its funding… The Diamond Appeal will help the DofE do even more work among disadvantaged and marginalised communities, ensuring that every young person can access the Award programme”. For full article, visit Daily Mail, click here.

Also, HRH has been interviewed at her home, Bagshot Park, by HELLO!’s royal correspondent Emily Nash: “I do think I’m ready. It’s been quite a long six months but I’ve put in the hours in the saddle, I’ve sweated the blood and tears, I’m physically and mentally ready to go now.” In this interview, Sophie reveals which family members think she’s mad, how her children feel about the challenge and recounts an amusing encounter with one passing driver. Full interview will be in next week’s HELLO! magazine that will be out on Monday.  

http://www.itv.com/news/2016-09-16/countess-of-wessex-gets-on-her-bike-for-palace-to-palace-450-miles-charity-ride/
print screen of ITV News – click on pic to be redirected & view videos of interview

And I have just learnt that The Countess was interviewed by Tim Ewart – Royal Editor of ITV News. On the ITV News website (click here) you can view three very short excerpts of their conversation. Update: The ITV News has updated the website with one longer video that I think was aired yesterday on TV.

https://dofediamondchallenge.org/
I was sent this graphic via emails I am receiving through my DofE Diamond Jubilee Challenge

HRH starts her Challenge on Monday, 19th September, Sophie will be cycling through Scotland, Northumberland, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire. I will be writing about the progress on my blog. As a reminder, HRH’s Just Giving page is here. £92,811 so far, it’s simply incredible!

The Countess of Wessex announces her ‘Diamond Challenge’ for the DofE Award.

I have decided to do a separate post as there is a lot to cover. First of all below you can read in HRH’s words about her ‘Diamond Challenge‘ for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award 60s Anniversary. There is also a lovely video of Sophie announcing her challenge via British Monarchy’s YouTube channel. The Countess, who is a long term supporter of the DofE Award, will cycle the 445 miles from Edinburgh to London over seven days in September.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjEG0pSHpxA
HRH announces her “Diamond Challenge’ –  to view the video, click on pic to be redirected

“In September this year I shall be cycling 445 miles from the Palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh to Buckingham Palace in support of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Diamond Anniversary Appeal”.

“Some months ago I was asked by the Award (DofE) to take up a challenge in celebration of this incredible milestone. The funds being raised by me as well as many others all over the country will give thousands more young people in the UK the opportunity to experience the life changing opportunities the Award offers. I have personally witnessed the incredible impact the Award has on every young life it touches, so I had no hesitation in agreeing to play my part”.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/britishmonarchy/albums/72157668188410145
Picture taken at Windsor (if I am not mistaken), shared by British Monarchy‘s Flickr account.

“I believe every young person should be given the chance to take up the DofE. It offers each participant the chance to become motivated, self confident, community aware individuals regardless of their background, ability or culture, helping them realise their potential and in many cases turning lives around for the better. At the Gold level it equips young people with the self-belief and work-ready skills they need to succeed”.

“So what could I do? It had to be something outside my comfort zone that was challenging enough to require a high level of personal commitment. Cycling is something I only tend to do with my children and never for more than the odd hour. It is something I’ve always found to be one of the more testing forms of exercise physically and mentally, so cycling it had to be”!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/britishmonarchy/albums/72157668188410145
Picture taken at Windsor (if I am not mistaken), shared by British Monarchy‘s Flickr account.

“I am now training hard and trying to get to grips with the kit, the fitness level, the seat(!), the aching shoulders, wrists and backside, the terrifying roads, the hills and worst of all the cleats! Yes I have come off several times, but the bruises are fading and each time out gets a little better. The training is hard work but I am determined to be fit enough to complete my journey. Your support in sponsoring me will make me all the more determined”.

“There are a number of people who have been incredibly supportive of me in putting this event together. I would like to thank the team who will be accompanying me on my ride, in particular Jamie from Boardman Bikes and Rachel from The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. David, Pippa, Roy and Martin, thank you all for your incredible support in sorting the logistics, route etc. and in ensuring that we don’t have to sleep under the stars”!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/britishmonarchy/albums/72157668188410145
© Cpl Jonathan Lee van Zyl, shared by British Monarchy‘s Flickr account.

“The DofE sometimes struggles to gain the attention it deserves. I hope by doing this bike ride I will not only help them achieve their Diamond Challenge Fund goals, but may also interest others in doing their own challenges no matter how big or small. If you think you could do something for the DofE this year, you will be helping thousands of young people all over the country”.

“I am both excited and apprehensive to be undertaking this challenge on behalf of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Diamond Anniversary Appeal! I have seen for myself the incredible impact the DofE has on every young life it touches, equipping young people with self-belief and motivation whatever their background or ability. So I had no hesitation in taking on a Diamond Challenge and hope this will encourage others to try their own”.

The Countess will cycle the route accompanied by a small team of servicemen and women from four of Her Royal Highness’s military affiliations; RAF Wittering; 5th Battalion The Rifles; Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps; and Corps of Army Music. The Countess of Wessex is The Royal Colonel of 5th Battalion The Rifles; Honorary Air Commodore of RAF Wittering; and Colonel in Chief of both Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps and the Corps of Army Music.

https://www.justgiving.com/Countess-of-Wessex
HRH’s ‘Just Giving’ website – click on pic to be redirected

It is the DofE Award’s 60th birthday and I’m sure The Countess and everyone who supports the Award will want as much money as possible to be raised! To sponsor The Countess of Wessex, please visit HRH’s Just Giving website. Click here.

https://www.facebook.com/bbcbreakfast/videos/1325232784157523/
Print screen of BBC Breakfast interview with HRH. Click on to pic to be redirected.

Those exciting news were released via Royal Family’s website, click here. And DofE Award’s website, click here. There is also a VERY lovely interview with HRH by Louise Minchin at BBC Breakfast. You can watch it by clicking here.

My very best wishes and good luck to The Countess of Wessex. I am very excited and will be keeping fingers crossed!!

The Countess of Wessex’s Diamond Challenge to mark The Duke of Edinburgh Award’s 60th anniversary

So, the cat is out of the bag! A while back, in October 2015, The Countess of Wessex spoke to the royal editor of Sunday Express – Camilla Tominey about her work, fashion and secret challenge to mark the Duke of Edinburgh Award’s 60th anniversary, of which Sophie is a Global Ambassador.

https://twitter.com/BBCBreakfast/status/729725685024096256
Photo: Cpl Jonathan Lee van Zyl, released via BBC Breakfast Twitter feed

To mark its anniversary, The Duke of Edinburgh Award has launched The DofE Diamond Challenge, inspired by the DofE Award, in which it’s asking people to take on their own adventure, personal or skill challenge. The best part is, that it’s open to anyone of any age, anywhere!

We have waited for almost 7 months to learn what it will be for HRH, and we will have to wait just a little bit longer… However tomorrow, in an exclusive interview with Louise Minchin at BBC Breakfast, The Countess of Wessex will chat about cycling, that secret challenge and her children realising their grandma is the Queen! So tune in tomorrow from 6am on BBC One.

Back in 2015 HRH said: “There are things that I would love to tell you right now but I can’t! What I will say is that it is a personal challenge like no other. At this stage I’m getting worried that I have bitten off more than I can chew. It’s going to be very physically demanding. You can come with me!”

https://twitter.com/BBCBreakfast/status/729725685024096256
Photo: Cpl Jonathan Lee van Zyl, released via BBC Breakfast Twitter feed

As Camilla Tominey explained in the article, ‘contrary to reports, Sophie does not have a personal trainer, but keeps fit with a combination of running, Pilates and gym work, although she does admit she can sometimes lack discipline’.

In HRH’s own words: “I’m a bit of a fair-weather runner to be perfectly honest. If it’s really freezing cold or raining outside, I look at it and think, ‘Hmmn, maybe coffee!”

What HRH’s daredevil feat to mark the Duke of Edinburgh Award’s 60th anniversary will be? We are not sure just yet, but it will all be revealed tomorrow! And after the challenge: “Well, I never did the scheme so maybe after I have done it, they’ll pin a little badge on me.”

I’m sure we all can agree that it’s the recognition the Countess of Wessex deserves.

The Queen at 90 – Sky News documentary with TRH’s Earl & Countess of Wessex

In this wonderful and fitting tribute to HM The Queen, Rhiannon Mills – Sky News Royal Correspondent interviewed The Earl and Countess of Wessex and Prince William, ahead of Monarch’s 90th birthday.

https://twitter.com/SkyRhiannon/status/722504400787386368
courtesy of Rhiannon Mills – Sky News Royal Correspondent

The Earl & Countess were interviewed at their home, Bagshot Park, I think this room is called Indian, while Prince William at Kensington Palace, I believe. You can watch this documentary in HD via Sky News YouTube channel, click here. I will write down topics that were discussed with TRH’s and will try to transcript some of the best remarks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TfKuULa88Y
print screen of Sky News documentary via YouTube channel. Click on pic to be redirected & view it.

How TRH’s will celebrate HM’s Birthday? 
Sophie said: There will be plenty of celebrations, and card making by the children, I think, bit of that going on as well. But yeah, it will be fun, I think”.

print screen of Sky News documentary via YouTube channel.

Balancing being monarch with family life. 
Sophie: “The busy periods, really genuinly are busy, and often it’s a situation, where we don’t necessarly see so much of each other. So I think when those occasions that you mentioned, like Christmas at Sandringham, and the summer at Balmoral, and Easter at Windsor, those are real occasions, where we can really get together and spend time with each other. And it’s very much more condensed. And it’s time to sort of shut the door, a little bit, on the rest of the world, and actually spend that quality time altogether. And of course particularly Sandringham and Balmoral are themselves very well for that kind of event, because they have the space and it’s quite a large family too”.

print screen of Sky News documentary via YouTube channel.

Your son and daughter are growing up now, what is their relationship like with The Queen?
Sophie: “The adore her. They adore both of them actually. She takes a genuine interest in them and loves to hear what they have to say about activities that they’ve been doing. And of course if they share an activity with her, such as particularly Louise with her riding, you know she loves the fact that Louise enjoys the ponies, and James enjoys the vehicles, so… No, she really does have a wonderful relationship with them but she’s very much in control”.

print screen of Sky News documentary via YouTube channel.

“We are a lot more fortunate because we live so much closer to the Queen, so when she spends a lot of time at Windsor, weekends, you know our children are more fortunate, because they can go out and have tea with her on a regular basis, so we do see quite a lot of her, and Louise goes over there riding, so she sees quite a lot of us. Lucky her! :)”.

I will be adding more quotes over the course of next few days. I just wanted to share the link to the video and some print screens asap. Also, I am uncertain if I got all remarks 100% accurate, so if you’ll catch an error, do let me know!

Quotes by The Countess of Wessex from ‘Our Queen at Ninety’ documentary & other news.

I finally had the time to sit down and write all the remarks provided by The Countess of Wessex, during “Our Queen at Ninety” – ITV documentary. Before I will move on to those, I must say, I really enjoyed this programme, it brought tears of joy, pride and amazement. HM’s take on Prima donna, the horse, showed her great sense of humor. HM The Queen truly is a remarkable person, with equally remarkable rock beside her, her husband and Consort, Prince Philip.

print screen of ‘Our Queen at Ninety’, Oxford Film & Television / ITV

I loved interviews with our lovely Sophie, Princesses Beatrice & Eugenie and Duke of York, as those were the most personal. Prince Harry did a great job as well. Catherine (who appeared bit nervous at times & I can absolutely understand that), has also given us some lovely glimpses into HM’s personality.

print screen of ‘Our Queen at Ninety’, Oxford Film & Television / ITV

The Countess of Wessex on HM’s choice of outfits for the public engagements: “Don’t forget that when she turns up somewhere, the crowds are, you know, two, three, four, ten, 15 deep, and somebody wants to be able to say they saw a bit of the Queen’s hat as she went past. She needs to stand out for people to be able to say ‘I saw the Queen.

print screen of ‘Our Queen at Ninety’, Oxford Film & Television / ITV

The Countess of Wessex on Balmoral, HM’s country retreat: “It is a magical place. Apart from the midges, but it is a magical place. It’s a sense of freedom for her. You know, It’s the one place that she really can relax and settle in and just be there and be herself and take the dogs for a walk or go riding. And it’s just this beautiful big skies, big hills.”

print screen of ‘Our Queen at Ninety’, Oxford Film & Television / ITV

From me, oh I did get to know the midges all too well, those blood sucking creatures!! However Balmoral is still on my wish list! I do love the Scottish Highlands, incredibly magical place, and I can very well relate to HM’s love for it.

print screen of ‘Our Queen at Ninety’, Oxford Film & Television / ITV

The Countess of Wessex on Braemar Gathering: “An unbelievable cacophony of sound, because you have the piper competition going on in one part of the park, and then in another part of the park you’ve got this lovely little girls doing their dancing with another pipe playing completely different tune altogether. You can kind of have to experience it to really truly appreciate it. Somebody, you know, drops a caber or falls over in the sack race, well it’s always good for a laugh“.

print screen of ‘Our Queen at Ninety’, Oxford Film & Television / ITV

Braemar Gathering is known as The Games and originating from those believed to have been held by Malcolm III. An annual Highland Games Gathering is held at Braemar on the first Saturday in September and is traditionally attended by the British Royal Family. I did attended Highland Games and it was quite an interesting & fun experience. Though the ones I attended weren’t as huge as the Braemar Games.

print screen of ‘Our Queen at Ninety’, Oxford Film & Television / ITV

The Countess of Wessex on Prince Philip: “You see, he’s a gentleman and a gentle man, he’s very courteous, and he looks up for her and he’s her protector“.

print screen of ‘Our Queen at Ninety’, Oxford Film & Television / ITV

The Countess of Wessex on Garden Parties: “It’s a great way of keeping moles down, that’s for sure, but yes, 8.000 people on your lawn is a lot of people. Most of the people that come to the garden parties are volunteers or have gone the extra mile“.

print screen of ‘Our Queen at Ninety’, Oxford Film & Television / ITV

The Countess of Wessex on the Women’s Institute 100th anniversary: “Lot’s of Queen Bee’s and the ultimate Queen Bee there as well. There was a huge sense of patriotism and pride. I think this really was the icing on the cake for them to have the Queen there“.

print screen of ‘Our Queen at Ninety’, Oxford Film & Television / ITV

… and that famous cake cutting: “I think that really must have appealed to her sense of irony because of course the Women’s Institute was all about providing and producing the most beautiful cakes and she had the honor of being able to cut the centenary cake which proved to be somewhat trickier than she anticipated. I don’t think she could actually get the knife in to begin with and then it got stuck. She couldn’t actually get it down either. With her innate sense of fun, I think she rather enjoyed that moment, as did we all I have to say.”

print screen of ‘Our Queen at Ninety’, Oxford Film & Television / ITV

As you can see The Countess provided plenty of insight and she sounded great. I adore HRH’s voice and how she speaks. I think recording CD with fairy tales for children that would have been read by Sophie is a great idea. Such a lovely, calming voice.

If you missed this programme, it’s on ITV website – for those in UK, for those outside UK, it’s up on youtube. I expect it will be removed at some point, so catch up now, while it’s still online. Click here. I hope you’ve enjoyed it/will enjoy it, as much as I did.

http://www.wildplace.org.uk/
Wild Place Project – fun, family attraction that provides outdoor adventure, play and learning.

In other news, next two weeks should be quite calm & quiet for this blog as TRH’s are on somewhat spring break. They will resume their royal duties on 14th April with what appears to be fun & exciting engagement. TRH’s will visit Clifton and West of England Zoological Society Limited at Bristol Zoo Gardens (Prince Edward is a Patron). Then, TRH’s will visit Wild Place Project to open The Mahali Pori Exhibit, Wild Place Project, Blackhorse Hill, Bristol.

Those who follow my Duchess of Cambridge Blog should tune in since 10th of April, as on that day TRH’s will start their Royal Tour of India & Bhutan. I’m very excited as those are incredible countries with amazing culture!