Prince Edward and Sophie discuss their engagement in 1999
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The birth of Lady Louise Windsor was “so dramatic” and rather lonely for the Countess of Wessex, a Queen Elizabeth II’s former press secretary has revealed. Ailsa Anderson said in the latest episode of A Right Royal Podcast, via Hello!, that she was one of two people who consoled Sophie, then 38, as she gave birth to her first child at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey. Her husband Prince Edward was on an official trip to Mauritius when the Countess went into labour, only 36 months pregnant on November 8, 2003.
Sophie was admitted to Frimley Park after experiencing severe abdominal pain. Doctors discovered she was critically ill from blood loss and performed an emergency delivery.
Ailsa recalled she was unable to reach out to Sophie’s parents, meaning it was just her, the Queen’s gynaecologist and the courtiers in the hospital.
She said: “I remember I was sitting at home. We’re having a dinner party. Actually, I got a call from Marcus Setchell, who was the Queen’s gynaecologist, who was overseeing the birth.
“He said: ‘I’m in a police car on my way to Frimley Park hospital. You better come’. So I thought, crikey.”
The former aide continued: “So, I ordered a taxi, let my husband do the washing up, which I think was a first in our marriage, and got myself down to Frimley Park, but the Earl of Wessex was abroad on an official visit.
“They couldn’t get a hold of her parents. So basically, it was just me and Marcus and the courtiers in the hospital. It was so dramatic.”
When Sophie arrived at the hospital from her Bagshot Park home on November 8, medics realised she needed an emergency caesarean. She had an acute placental abruption, a condition in which the placental lining separates from the uterus.
It can cause massive blood loss in the mother, as well as distress and stillbirth in the babies. Sophie’s condition had progressed to the point where it was threatening to kill both her and her baby.
Marcus Setchell had rushed to the hospital from London in record time and presided over the operation, which was performed by surgeon Sukhpal Singh, gynaecologist Anne Deans, and midwife Adrienne Price.
The newborn, who weighed only 4lbs 9oz, was taken from her mother as soon as she was born and sent to St. George’s Hospital in Tooting, London, for specialised care.
Meanwhile, Sophie was only 15 minutes away from death, according to the Mail On Sunday in 2014, which reported she was losing so much blood she had gone into a semi-conscious state. It took a massive blood transfusion to get her back on her feet.
Edward did not fly back to London until the next evening.
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The official announcement read: “Her Royal Highness and her daughter are both stable. As a purely precautionary measure, the baby was taken to the regional neonatal unit at St George’s Hospital, Tooting.”
Sophie later spoke of the experience at a reception in India in 2019 while referring to a film highlighting the fight to tackle blindness in premature babies.
She said: “This is the third time I have seen this film A Life with Sight and each time I see it, it makes me cry.
“My daughter, Louise, was born prematurely and so every time I see anything to do with premature babies, it takes me back to those early days, the shock of her early arrival, and then the realisation that she had a sight issue, which we would have to manage.”
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