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Sophie Wessex: Lady Louise’s sight problems inspired campaign to support blind

Sophie Wessex is an 'unsung star' says royal expert

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The Countess and her husband Prince Edward have stepped into the royal spotlight in recent months to fill the gap left by Prince Philip’s death in April, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to step back from senior royal duties in 2020. Sophie is reportedly a favourite of the Queen due to her commitment to the Royal Family, with the pair having been seen on multiple occasions walking around the grounds of Windsor Castle. The Wessexes’ stable marriage and tight-knit family is also considered an important asset for the Firm, who have been blighted by controversy since Harry and Meghan’s departure.

As one of the most-loved members of the Royal Family, Sophie is considered a reliable and desirable choice for a number of royal engagements, and received enormous amounts of praise for her charity work.

Since 17-year-old daughter Louise suffered sight difficulties as a child, having been born with a “profound” squint, the Countess has dedicated much of her time to helping the blind and visually impaired through her royal patronages. 

Louise’s condition, strabismus, was caused by her premature birth in 2003 after an emergency cesarean section. 

In a candid 2015 interview Sophie said: “There is no smile quite like the one that is returned from eyes that once more can see.”

Read More: Sophie fills ‘terrible gap’ in Queen’s life left by death of Margaret

The Countess, who married Edward in 1999, and also has a 13-year-old son James, Viscount Severn, was sharing her experience during a four-day trip to Qatar with blindness prevention charity Orbis UK.

On her daughter’s premature birth she added: “Premature babies can often have squints because the eyes are the last thing in the baby package to really be finalised.

“Her squint was quite profound when she was tiny and it takes time to correct it.

“You’ve got to make sure one eye doesn’t become more profound than the other but she’s fine now – her eyesight is perfect.”

A squint causes blurred or double vision, and if left untreated a “lazy eye” can develop, where the brain ignores signals coming from the eye with the squint. 

Treatments for squints include corrective glasses, eye exercises, botox injections into the eye muscles and occasionally surgery, to improve the alignment of the eye.

Though Louise had her squint corrected, Sophie admitted in a gala the experience motivated her to become a global ambassador for Vision 2020 and a patron for charities including The Visions Foundation, which does vital work to help people who are visually impaired.

Sophie told a Seeing Is Believing gala dinner in 2015: “I have seen sight being restored and I can promise you there are few things more rewarding in this world than seeing someone step from the dark into the light.”

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Speaking on podcast Pod Save The Queen, a podcast hosted by Zoe Forsey, Olivia Curno and Monica Smith of The Vision Foundation, described Sophie’s commitment to charity. 

Ms Curno said: “She has been an extraordinary champion shining a real spotlight on site loss issues. 

“She has been involved with us but also with other national and international sight loss charities and is a real champion of disability inclusion.

“This is clearly a cause close to her heart.”

Ms Smith, who is “totally blind”, was invited to ride a tandem bike with the Countess through the grounds of Bagshot Park, the 120-room Surrey mansion Sophie shares with Edward, a day before a The Visions Foundation charity event.

Ms Smith said: “I was a bit apprehensive thinking ‘oh my goodness, I’m going to a royal venue, how nerve-wracking’, but it was so relaxed. 

“It was like a friend had joined us.”

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