Royal Family LIVE: Queen's 'secret weapon' steps up as monarch poised for country retreat

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The 95-year-old monarch is reportedly planning to spend more time at the Craigowan Lodge on the Balmoral estate – one of Her Majesty’s favourite homes. The lodge is reportedly being fitted with increased security measures and a £20,000 “wheelchair friendly” lift to help the Queen get up and down the stairs. And as the Queen steps back, Countess Sophie Wessex – often referred to as the Royal Family’s “secret weapon” – is stepping up to support her, royal expert Ingrid Seward has said.

The royal author told the Times that the Queen will want Sophie to step up in the wake of Prince Philip’s death, as it is what he “would have wanted”.

Ms Seward said: “The Queen is very canny. And she has always been very fond of Sophie.

“Prince Philip adored Sophie, and the Queen feels that now is the moment to push her, just gently. ‘Give some interviews, do some stuff. You work very hard, no one takes any notice. Get out there!’ I can see her saying that.

“It’s what Prince Philip would have wanted, and now he is gone, doing what he would have wanted keeps his memory alive.

“I think he would have really liked Edward and Sophie to be a bit more high profile.”

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