Prince Edward's wife opens up about how Mountbatten-Windsors have been coping since the death of the Duke of Edinburgh in April

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Prince Edward Sofie
Prince Edward, his wife Sofie, and Prince Philip
| Credit: Dominic Lipinski/Getty

Sophie, Countess of Wessex, is speaking about the royal family's grief following the death of Prince Philip and how the pandemic has taken its toll on them.

Philip's death in April "left a giant-sized hole in our lives," the Countess, wife of the Queen's youngest son Prince Edward, told BBC Radio 5 Live. "I think unfortunately the pandemic has slightly skewed things, inasmuch as it's hard to spend as much time with the Queen as we would like to. We've been trying to, but of course it's still not that easy."

She added, "I think the whole grieving process is probably likely for us to take a lot longer."

But dealing with grief has been hard for so many families because of COVID and necessary social distancing, she acknowledges.

"Of course, the normal way of things isn't normal yet, so we're not necessarily doing the things that we would normally have done with him," she said to Naga Munchetty on Wednesday. "It may be the same for many other families out there. Because if you're not living with somebody, 24/7, the immediate loss isn't necessarily felt in the same way, as if somebody was in the house with you all the time."

"So if they were normally at a slight distance, living down the road, whether it be 15 minutes, or 1,500 miles, it's only when you would do the normal things that you would have done with them, and you suddenly realize that they are not there, that you really start to have an 'Oh my goodness' moment."

One of those moments came when she and her family, including Lady Louise, 17, and James, Viscount Severn, 13, revisited the place where she took an endearing photograph of her parents-in-law that was eventually released on the eve of Philip's funeral.

"We were lucky enough to go to Scotland for half-term, and I don't know if you remember the photograph that I took," she said. Pausing to collect herself amid the emotion of recalling the moment, Sophie said she was pregnant with Louise when she took the picture.

queen and prince philip
The Queen and Philip in a picture taken by Sophie Wessex
| Credit: the royal family/instagram

"Just to be there, in that place, was an 'Oh my God' moment," she said, her voice cracking as she fought back tears. "Um, so I think they'll come and go, but you have to let them come, and let them go."

"But just talking to you now, it's a bit of an 'Oh my goodness' moment, which you don't necessarily expect, and you don't expect them to come. And I had the same when I lost my mother. You know, I'd be fine, absolutely fine, fine, fine."  

"And then something happened, or you'd hear a piece of music, or you'd do something, and suddenly you would, you know, get taken off at the knees. So there'll be lots of moments like that. But it's good to remember."

Sophie, Countess of Wessex
Sophie, Countess of Wessex
| Credit: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Lady Louise has carried on a tradition from her grandfather — carriage driving. She has "complete passion for it and a natural curiosity about it. He was so pleased when she took the sport up," added Sophie, that he would watch her compete and train.

Occasionally he even nurtured his granddaughter's talent so much he found himself at cross purposes with his wife, the Queen.

Recalling one of their family trips to Balmoral, Scotland, Sophie explained, "There's a wonderful huge lawn outside the front of the castle, and Louise had put the cones in a paddock somewhere, so she could go and practice them, with her dressage as well. And the Duke of Edinburgh was coming from staying somewhere as well, up to Balmoral, a few days after we'd arrived. And he got there ... and I think the next day, I looked out of the window, and I saw his Land Rover out on the lawn ... and I was thinking, 'What on earth is he doing?'"

Sophie, Countess of Wessex
Sophie, Countess of Wessex at Ascot
| Credit: James Veysey/Shutterstock

"And he was pacing up and down, putting the white boards out, and I suddenly realized he'd collected all of the boards that form the outer ring of the dressage arena, and he was setting it up in prime position on the lawn, in front of the castle. To his mind, it was the flattest piece of lawn anywhere."

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But the Queen might not have been as happy. "I'm not sure the Queen was quite as excited as he was because of course it's a very nice marked lawn. I called to Louise to look out of the window to see what her grandfather was doing, and she was absolutely horrified because, of course, it was front and center — everybody was going to be able to see what she was doing. And yes, so we spent the entire time going round, every time she went round, going, 'Oh no, we're leaving terrible tire marks everywhere,' and also, having to move the boards every couple of days, because the grass was growing up underneath them. So I'm not sure we were very much friends with the gardeners for a little while."

But great-granddaughter Louise and Philip might have had to face the music with the monarch herself! Added Sophie, "As I say, the only other person who had to something to say on the subject was the Queen."