Christmas is certainly going to be different for everyone this year, but Lady Frederick Windsor and her husband, Lord Frederick, have something very exciting to look forward to this festive season: their youngest daughter, four-year-old Isabella, is going to play Mary in the Christmas nativity play at her school, The Hampshire School Chelsea.
"She’s very excited and endearingly serious about it. So maybe she has got some acting genes,” says the actress, who is known professionally as Sophie Winkleman.
"The problem is we can’t go and see it – it will be shown online. I do realise not being able to see Isabella’s school play in the flesh is not an immense, JustGiving genus of problem. Many people are having a really terrifying time."
Lady Frederick Windsor is helping raise awareness of The Big Issue's Christmas campaign
Picture credit: Andrew Crowley
Lady Frederick Windsor on her work with The Big Issue...
One group that has particularly struggled through the global pandemic are the 2,000 vendors of The Big Issue, who have had to stop selling the magazine during lockdown. Many of the nation’s homeless are in crisis as a result, and the publication is calling on the public for support this Christmas.
It’s a cause close to Sophie’s heart since she was appointed one of its brand ambassadors. "I was very honoured because I’ve been a real fan of The Big Issue ever since it started. Quite apart from the fact that it’s a fantastic cause, it’s a brilliant publication. It’s informative, witty, always interesting, well written and thought-provoking. When Freddie and I lived in America for six years, my parents would send it to me every week because I missed it."
Vendors selling The Big Issue wearing PPE
She has learnt a lot about homelessness through her friendship with John Bird, its charismatic co-founder. "Being homeless is not just about being cold, wet, scared and hungry. It’s about the shame and hopelessness that enter your soul after as little as one night on the streets."
Selling The Big Issue can be a lifeline. "It’s for people who’ve hit rock bottom and climbed out of the darkness in a unique and very impressive way," says Sophie, who is urging people to donate to the appeal or take out a subscription.
"It’s not just giving them a handout, it’s giving them something to aim for every week – a sense of purpose, self-esteem and hope: three very important foundations for healing."
Lady Frederick Windsor on involving her daughters in her charity work...
Sophie is keen for her daughters, Maud, seven, and Isabella, to develop a strong social conscience, and they’re already learning about the importance of thinking about others through watching their mother’s charitable activities.
Sophie with her youngest daughter Isabella
"I hope it’s happening fairly organically without me having to deliver earnest monologues to them, because we organise a six-weekly drop-off of toys, books and clothes from a big group of nice London mothers. They bring things they don’t need any more to my home and we organise truck deliveries to local children in very difficult circumstances. People are incredibly generous.
"My girls just sort of add to the massive pile in the hall and living room. So I hope it’s sinking into them fairly authentically, but who knows?"
Lady Frederick Windsor on Prince Charles' kind gesture...
The actress, whose TV work includes roles in Peep Show and Strike: Lethal White, has benefited from the kindness of others. When she was involved in a near-fatal car accident in 2017, the Prince of Wales helped the family by arranging for his chef to deliver meals to their house as Sophie recovered.
"He called me in the hospital and said: 'I’m trying to think what I could do. Is there anyone at home taking care of things?' I said: 'Um… no' and he said: 'All right.' Then these beautiful meals started arriving every day for months. He was truly wonderful to the four of us."
Lord and Lady Frederick Windsor
Lady Frederick Windsor on life in lockdown...
While she’s been spending as much time as she can getting involved in activities to help others, like the rest of us, Sophie is finding that lockdown is starting to drag. "Freddie and I are watching classic comedies to cheer us up. It’s Jeeves and Wooster and Father Ted this week. A very funny combination."
She has also baked. "I can’t pretend to be dazzlingly talented in the kitchen but I can do old-fashioned, village-fete-ish cakes – I make a coffee-and-walnut layer cake that is rather a corker."
Like the rest of the nation, what Sophie’s really looking forward to post-lockdown is a good night out. "I’m really excited about going out again, and with as many people as humanly possible," she says. "I want humongous parties with anyone and everyone. I’ve never felt more sociable in my life. And I hope everyone feels like that, because our precious restaurants and bars need us all to cram them full the minute we’re allowed to."
Lady Frederick Windsor on Princess Eugenie's baby...
Maud Windsor (right) with Princess Charlotte and Savannah Phillips
The family has plenty to look forward to in 2021 – not least the birth of Princess Eugenie’s first baby. Eugenie is godmother to Maud, who played an important role as a bridesmaid at the Princess’s wedding in October 2018, when she was five.
"Maud loved being a bridesmaid and Eugenie is a wonderful godmother to her. We’re so excited about the forthcoming individual," says Sophie. "It’s a lovely prospect. I do pray 2021 is a new chapter. In fact, an entirely new book."
You can support The Big Christmas Appeal by making a one-off or regular donation, or by subscribing in print or digital by visiting bigissue.com/support. You can also buy a subscription direct from a select number of vendors, to find out more, visit bigissue.com/vendors/.