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Countess of Wessex takes over incredible new role from the Queen's cousin

Sophie has a new royal patronage

Danielle Stacey

The Countess of Wessex enjoyed a rare joint outing with the Queen's cousin, Princess Alexandra, on Wednesday, and it was all to do with her new royal role.

Sophie, 56, has succeeded Princess Alexandra, 84, as patron of the charity, Guide Dogs, after 67 years.

The announcement was made as the ladies officially opened the new Guide Dogs South West regional centre in Bristol.

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During their visit, Sophie and Alexandra viewed demonstrations of the charity's dog and puppy training classes and discovered some of the ways Guide Dogs supports children who are blind or partially sighted.

Guide Dogs Chairman Jamie Hambro thanked the Princess for her contribution and commitment to the charity, saying: "We are incredibly honoured to mark and to thank in person, Princess Alexandra, for her wonderful contribution over the last sixty-seven years, first as our President, then since 1957 as our Patron.

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The royal ladies officially opened the new centre in Bristol

"We hope she feels proud of the organisation that has flourished under her patronage. From our first four guide dog owners back in 1931, we are now helping thousands of people with sight loss, of all ages, to enjoy freedom and independence.

"We're looking forward to working with our new patron to continue to highlight our work which enables people living with sight loss to live the lives they choose."

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Sophie was quite taken with one of the puppies

It's a natural transition for the Countess who has a long-standing commitment to supporting organisations that help the visually impaired. Earlier this week, Sophie piloted a tandem bike around London's Bushy Park in support of the Vision Foundation.

In 2019, she and her husband, Prince Edward, visited the Guide Dogs centre at Forfar in Scotland, when they became the Earl and Countess of Forfar. They also spoke to staff and people supported by the Guide Dogs Forfar centre during a Zoom call in January this year.

There are around two million people living with sight loss in the UK. Guide Dogs supports those with a visual impairment through a variety of services including advice and support, mobility training and the iconic guide dog service. 

This year the charity is celebrating the 90th anniversary of the first guide dog partnerships in 1931. Thanks to dedicated staff and volunteers - and vital donations - 36,000 lives have been transformed through a guide dog partnership since 1931.

Find out more at www.guidedogs.org.uk 

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