Carol Vorderman cried watching Sue Barker's final Wimbledon
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Edward, 58, and Sophie, 57 visited Lancashire on Wednesday to mark the 20th Anniversary of Preston being awarded city status and to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The Earl and Countess of Wessex were given a tour of Lancaster Castle Prison, visited Preston Market and met the Preston-born creator of ‘Wallace and Gromit’, Nick Park. The Wessexes have grown in prominence since they married in 1999, and these days are frequently entrusted with high-profile engagements by the Queen.
Someone who has followed their royal journey is TV presenter Sue Barker, who has just left her role covering Wimbledon for the BBC.
The broadcaster interviewed Edward and Sophie ahead of their nuptials and co-presented the BBC’s coverage of the Royal Wedding.
Barker, who won the 1976 French Open, revealed in an unearthed interview that Edward left her in stitches with a joke about her chatting to him.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror in 1999, she said: “When the phone rang the other week and they said: ‘Do Edward and Sophie. And they would like you to do it.’
“I thought, ‘Are you sure you’ve got the right number?’ I know Steffi Graf, not royalty.
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“Actually, Edward, Prince Edward, knew more about it than me. He said, ‘I hear you’re going to be stuck in a Perspex studio on top of the Guardhouse’. And I went: ‘Ha, ha!,’ thinking, ‘What a laugh!’
“Turns out he’s right. If I have my way, I’ll be in there wearing some smart but simple trouser suit, because of my injury.
“I’ve told the BBC I’ve got to be comfortable. So, if you see me in a tiara, you’ll know I’ve lost the battle.”
Edward was referring to Barker’s commentary position as she covered the Royal Wedding, which was broadcast on BBC One.
The Queen’s youngest son tied the knot with PR boss Sophie Rhys-Jones at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Barker offered her thoughts on the union of Sophie and Edward, who met by chance back in 1993.
The Wessexes first laid eyes upon one another in Holyport near Windsor at the ‘Real Tennis summer challenge’, a photocall being held in aid of the Prince Edward Challenge to raise money for charities.
Sophie was said to have bounded over to the Prince, confidently telling him “I’d love to have a hit.”
But were it not for Barker, this moment never would have happened, as the broadcaster had been replaced by Sophie at the last moment.
Barker was working for Sky Sports at the time, which was said to be against her involvement with the photocall, and so the tennis star was axed from meeting Edward.
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Sophie’s former PR boss Malcolm MacLaurin had to find one of his own staff to replace Barker, and so decided on Sophie.
Barker’s unlikely role in the Wessexes’ romance was noted by royal author Ingrid Seward in her 1995 book, ‘Prince Edward: A Biography’.
She wrote: “With less than 24 hours to go, MacLaurin did not have enough time to find a celebrity replacement for Barker.
“Driven by necessity, he press-ganged one of his own employees into coming along to be photographed with Edward, in Barker’s stead. The girl he chose was Sophie Rhys-Jones.
“Thus in effect it was Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-born media tycoon who owns Sky and is so distrusted by the Royal Family, who inadvertently brought about the meeting between Prince Edward and the woman who was to play such an important part in his life.”
After her stint at Sky Sports Barker joined the BBC, where she remained for 30 years until July of this year, when she stepped down after the Wimbledon championships.
During her tenure at the corporation, Barker also presented ‘Question of Sport’ from 1997 until last year when she was replaced by Paddy McGuinness.
But she has since revealed that the BBC sacked her from the role, leaving her “wretchedly sad”.
The admission is contained in her forthcoming memoir, ‘Calling The Shots: My Autobiography by Sue Barker’, which is published on September 29.
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