Sophie, Countess of Wessex, visibly broke down in tears before joking with the gathered audience during a speech in the US on Monday. The Countess of Wessex travelled across to Washington, D.C., for the ceremony at the annual Hillary Rodham Clinton Awards.
But during her speech at Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security, the Countess of Wessex briefly paused to collect herself after becoming emotional during her address.
She interrupted her speech to ask the crowd: “Would you just forgive me for a minute — I just need a tissue. Sorry.”
She then joked: “That’s a first for me, but you don’t want me to carry on sniffing throughout.”
Also honoured at the event was Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska, and both the UK and Ukrainian ambassadors to the US were in attendance.
The former US Secretary of State bestows the award each year for “exceptional leadership in advancing women’s rights and creating a more peaceful and secure world for all”.
The award looks to “celebrate extraordinary women trailblazers”, and the former First Lady praised Sophie for having “travelled to some of the most violent and difficult conflict zones to meet with survivors and spotlight their needs”.
The Countess has long worked to promote the rights of women and girls, and is part of the United Nations’ Women, Peace and Security agenda, focusing on the fate of women and girls in conflict zones.
She is also a champion of the UK Government’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative.
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Ms James continued: “Nervous public speakers fear potentially embarrassing moments like this or like drying during a speech or even getting a frog in the throat like Theresa May did during her now-infamous keynote speech to the conference.
“The problem is often that they have adopted a delivery style that is too formal or so far away from their authentic, natural personality that they become anxious about what are quite normal glitches that affect anyone and everyone.”
Back in 2019, the Countess gave a speech to a Buckingham Palace reception, reaffirming her commitment to “give voice to women and girls who are being denied their fundamental rights”.
She said: “As someone who firmly believes in the equality of men and women, I feel drawn to your cause and to do what I can to help raise further awareness of your work.
“To help give voice to women and girls who are being denied their fundamental rights as humans and are being subjected to harm and violence as a result of conflict, to promote those who seek to play a part in finding peace, and to support others as they attempt to rebuild their lives.”