Now in the full bloom of her pregnancy at the age of 42, the Countess of Wessex seems to be determined to enjoy every moment of it. Prince Edward's wife had a sprightly step and a bright smile as she arrived at an engagement for one of the many charities that benefit from her support.

Already mother to the couple's toddler, Lady Louise, who'll be four in November, Sophie has been feeling so well she's carried on with her complement of royal duties as she approaches her third trimester. "She's not putting up her feet," said her spokesman. "She is feeling absolutely great and is completely over the moon about the baby."

Her 2003 pregnancy ended with the premature birth of her daughter, after which mother and baby required hospital treatment for quite some time.

All that seemed behind the Countess, however, as she cut the ribbon at the new Surrey headquarters of the St John Ambulance service. Not only was Sophie in good spirits, she also seemed to have solved one of the expectant mum's many quandaries - what to wear on a formal occasion. Her outfit of a long dark coat over a low-cut, bump-revealing summer dress was just the ticket for the current spell of dry weather.

Photo: © Alphapress.com
Sophie, who made no secret of her desire for a second child, was positively glowing at the inauguration of a new building for the St John Ambulance servicePhoto: © Rex
Photo: © Alphapress.com
The royal guest showed off her motherly touch with two-year-old Lily Kent, who'd been given the honour of presenting her with a posy of flowersPhoto: © Rex