The Earl and Countess of Wessex are two of the hardest-working British royals, ranking third and sixth in the entire family in terms of the number of engagements carried out in 2018. But we just don’t hear as much about their work, and if you ask someone outside of Britain who Sophie or Edward is, you’re likely to get a blank stare.
Edward carried out a massive 463 engagements in 2018 – that’s more than William and Harry combined – and Sophie took on 239. And while the Countess, in particular, has taken on some high-profile engagements recently that did receive a nice amount of coverage, often Buckingham Palace doesn’t even send a short tweet or Instagram post about their events.
Many a time I’ve seen seasoned royal watchers complain on social media about the lack of coverage for the Wessexes, particularly Sophie. As a reporter, I’m keen to cover them, but often there’s not enough information out there to even write an article about an engagement. The palace doesn’t send press releases on the Wessexes, so other than The Court Circular (which records where members of the Royal Family went on each day), social media is a hugely important tool.
I’ve made it a bit of a personal mission to spotlight their work and don’t mind digging a bit deeper to get specifics. But if the palace isn’t making it easy for media outlets to cover the Wessexes, some of them quite simply won’t do it.
So why does the palace not promote the work of the Wessexes as much as some other royals? It’s surely not a matter of favour, and Sophie is known to get on famously with her mother-in-law, The Queen. In fact, The Queen and Prince Philip are so close to the Countess that they invited her to stay overnight at Buckingham Palace with Prince Edward before they were married – which at the time, was absolutely not a traditional move.
Staffing could undoubtedly play an issue, with so many family members falling under the @RoyalFamily umbrella. Time and manpower must come into play when promoting so many engagements every week, so sadly, the reality is some events – especially the less “sexy” ones – fall through the cracks.
So is it time for the Wessexes to open their own social media accounts?
I reached out to Anna Nowok of the very comprehensive HRH The Countess of Wessex blog to get her thoughts on the matter.
“There are certain things that they do highlight, but it’s usually with delay, and there’s always not enough information,” she said regarding the palace’s social media. “The Countess of Wessex’s name isn’t a click bait. Many people aren’t aware of her existence – as opposed to the younger royals – so she doesn’t bring enough money that the press would push articles about her.”
She added that when she first started her blog, there was “almost zero information” and that while “there is certainly more coverage in the press than when I was starting, it’s also due to the change in HRH’s wardrobe. She became very fashionable over the years, and press likes that, so that’s what they mostly concentrate on.”
“I just wish that HRH’s office would acknowledge the fact that some people are indeed interested in the countess’s work, her charities and patronages, and it’s not just her wardrobe that they admire,” Nowok said. “As for The Royal Family Facebook, Twitter & Instagram and their coverage of TRH’s Wessex engagements, they do the bare minimum, and I don’t think it will ever change.”
The Earl’s brother, The Duke of York, smartly took things in his own hands and information on his engagements, as well as those of his daughters, are posted on the Duke of York Twitter and Instagram accounts run by his office. And now that the Sussexes have their own Instagram, too, it seems only fitting that the Wessexes adopt the practice.
Nowok said that this would be her “dream” and that “it would certainly be helpful and it wouldn’t feel at times that I’m just hitting my head against a brick wall.”
The Earl of Wessex carries out a considerable number of responsibilities in terms of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and organisations related to sport, the arts, and young people, including the couples’ own, The Wessex Youth Trust.
Sophie is often praised as someone who keeps her head down and does the work without fuss, but as she continues to work incredibly hard to promote women’s issues, avoidable blindness, and other concerns, why should her work go unnoticed?
A lack of articles or social media posts means a lack of an awareness boost for these charities – and the entire point of a patronage is to raise the level of attention for an organisation, bringing in donations and support. The Sussexes, for example, have raised tens of thousands of dollars for charities in the past few weeks alone by encouraging their social media followers to donate to causes they hold dear.
It’s no surprise that articles about the Cambridges and Sussexes get some of the most clicks out there. But the Earl and Countess of Wessex should be getting the coverage they both deserve. A dedicated social media presence is a step in the right direction.