JANUARY 17, 2020
LONDON – Prince William and Kate Middleton will have a new royal twosome by their side when they step out for their next big event.
The royal couple, who made their first joint appearance of the year on Wednesday during a visit to Bradford, Yorkshire, are gearing up to host a reception at Buckingham Palace on Monday on behalf of the Queen to mark the UK-Africa Investment Summit.
Accompanying William and Kate will be Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex. Edward, who is Prince Charles’ younger brother, and his wife are considered full-time working senior royal family members, and they often take on official royal duties on behalf of the Queen. The Queen’s daughter Princess Anne will also be in attendance.
While Anne has attended palace receptions in the past with William and Kate, it is not as common to see Edward and Sophie attend a high-profile engagement alongside the couple.
The announcement of their outing comes as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have stepped down from their roles as senior members of the royal family. The Queen made an emotional statement on Monday in support of the couple’s decision, saying: “My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family. Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.”
The inclusion of Edward and Sophie in Monday’s outing is a reminder that there are other full-time senior royal family members who continue to work on behalf of the Queen.
Sophie and Edward, who wed in 1999, are parents to daughter Lady Louise Windsor, 16, and son James, Viscount Severn, 12. The family live in Bagshot Park, which is about 10 miles south of Windsor, where Meghan and Harry have their Frogmore Cottage home.
The Earl of Wessex, 55, who is the youngest child of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, “carries out a busy schedule of engagements in support of a large number of charities. His Royal Highness is especially passionate about organisations and causes which provide opportunities to young people,” according to the royal family’s official website.
His work has a particular focus on the development of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, from which he has taken over many responsibilities from his father, who retired from royal life in 2017.
Sophie, 54, holds an HRH (Her Royal Highness) title and is patron of over 70 charities and organizations. Each year, she “undertakes hundreds of visits to schools, universities, military bases and charity headquarters in order to learn more about their work, and to highlight it to the wider world,” the website states.
“The Countess of Wessex has a strong personal interest in the provisions for people with disabilities and embracing opportunities for young people, championing both local initiatives such as Disability Initiative in Surrey as well as national charities such as the NSPCC.”
The palace reception on Monday will see the royals welcome heads of state and government, their spouses or partners, delegates members of U.K. government and U.K. and African business figures to mark the UK-Africa Investment Summit.
“The summit will demonstrate the strength of the relationship between the U.K. and Africa, showcase and promote the breadth and quality of investment opportunities across Africa, and highlight the UK’s commitment to supporting economic development in Africa, including through the creation of jobs and new partnerships,” Kensington Palace said in a statement.
Palace sources tell PEOPLE in this week’s cover story that there is a firm determination within the palace to understand Meghan and Harry’s position and help them get to a place where they feel comfortable and happy.
Observers say the royal family will seek to make things right. “For public and also for deeply private reasons, the Queen, and Prince Charles and Prince William will want to heal the rift,” says royal historian Robert Lacey, author of the books Monarch and Majesty, tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “There is anger at the moment. But if Harry and Meghan are prepared to enter into the spirit of this new arrangement” —making sure not to appear to cash in on their titles and reputations—“I think the Queen, Charles and William will [support them]. Each of them, for different reasons, will want to heal what has gone wrong.”