How Peep Show’s Big Suze went from jobbing actress to royal wife who is mates with Harry and Wills

WITH her knee-length dress, extravagant hat and nude heels, Lady Frederick Windsor looked every bit the royal as she chatted to Prince Harry when they arrived at Lady Gabriella Windsor's wedding this weekend.

But not so long ago 38-year-old Sophie Winkleman – younger half-sister of TV presenter Claudia – was a budding actress starring as the ditsy, posh love interest Big Suze in sitcom Peep Show.

Here Sun Online looks at how meeting cocaine-loving party boy Lord Frederick Windsor – son of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, and 49th in line to the throne – put her on a very different path.

Millionaire's daughter to the posh one on Peep Show

Sophie had a privileged start to life as the only daughter of millionaire publisher Barry Winkleman and children's author Cindy Black.

She was born in 1980 in London's exclusive Primrose Hill area and attended the £6,000-a-term City of London School for Girls with half-sister, Claudia.

"She is a naturally charming, funny girl who has never had to 'posh it up' thanks to her background and education," a source tells Sun Online.

She studied English Literature at Cambridge and it was here that she joined the university's famous Footlights theatrical club, which also launched the careers of Olivia Colman, David Baddiel, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.

Her first film role was Me Without You alongside Anna Friel and Michelle Williams in 2001 when she was just 21, and it wasn't long before she starred in Waking the Dead in 2002, followed by The Chronicles of Narnia in 2005.

But it was her part playing the oblivious, horsey love interest in Peep Show – which she appeared in with David Mitchell from 2005 to 2010 – that shot her to fame.

Fell for cocaine-loving party boy

When Sophie met Freddie, 40, on a night out in 2007, he was an Eton and Oxford-educated party boy who had developed a liking for cocaine.

In 1999, Freddie admitted he snorted the drug from a copy of a magazine at a party in New York, and a year later he was photographed looking worse for wear on the floor of London club House following a film premiere.

Freddie dated party-loving model Marina Hanbury – the sister of Rose Hanbury, the glamorous former friend of Kate and Wills.

But it seemed more studious Sophie was the woman to finally tame him.

Winky and Windy

The couple – who refer to each other as "Winky" and "Windy" because of their surnames – got engaged on Valentine's Day in 2009.

And despite her newly found royal credentials, Sophie wasn't going to stop doing what she loved.

Only a year after she started dating Freddie, she starred in an art-house film which saw her go topless and pleasure herself on camera.

In Love Live Long – which was directed by Oscar-nominated director Mike Figges – her character Rachel is seen performing a sex act on herself before wandering the streets of Istanbul and filming a video suicide diary.

Got married in a £200k bash

Sophie's parents agreed to fund a £40k wedding for the couple in September 2009.

Her future mother-in-law Princess Michael of Kent – who was famously described by Princess Anne as "Princess Pushy" and who caused outrage in 2017 when she wore a "racist" brooch to lunch with Meghan – offered to take charge of the wedding planning.

In the run-up, Sophie – who had played a princess in TV show Palace the previous year – told Tatler: "It's a good job my future mother-in-law is very good at all that and I'm very grateful for her input.

"We'd end up doing it in Starbucks with two people if it was left to me."

But Princess Michael of Kent's lavish tastes meant the big day, held at Hampton Court Palace, was heading widely over-budget with not enough room and catering for all 450 guests – many of whom were foreign royalty and celebrities, including Jemima Khan and Bryan Adams.

The experience was said to be described as "nightmarish" by Sophie.

She was reported to be taking herbal Valium to calm her nerves.

Princess Michael had also suggested a Selfridges wedding list was "vulgar" and that the couple should ask people to donate pieces of art to start a collection instead – but Sophie overruled her.

In the end the wedding – estimated to be worth £200k – was believed to be saved by freebies and discounts, with the catering, music and band all given to the couple on the house.

Describes royal family as 'complicated'

Since the wedding, Sophie appears to have settled into the royal family well – and has been photographed acting chummy with Kate, William and Harry at official events and family occasions.

However, she has admitted she was "wobbly" when she first joined.

"But the whole family has been very welcoming and warm. And let’s face it, all families are pretty complicated.

"Yes, we come from different worlds – but I’ve never felt intimidated because I was lucky enough to be well-educated and that gave me confidence, even if I didn’t have lots of surnames and castles."

Sophie and Freddie welcomed daughter Maud – who was a flower girl at godmother Princess Eugenie's wedding last year – in 2013 in Los Angeles, and daughter Isabella in 2016 in London.

Almost paralysed in car crash

In 2017, Sophie narrowly escaped being left paralysed when a car crash broke her back and foot.

She was driving home from the film set of Danny Boyle's series Trust in Cambridgeshire when their vehicle ploughed head-on into another car while trying to avoid a deer.

Sophie was left without feeling in her leg for three days and was hospitalised for several weeks – and revealed that Prince Charles gave her his chef during her recovery.

"I did expect to die," she told Hello! in September.

“I just remember a massive great thwack and then lots of hot blood all over me.

“I recall heat; I had broken my back and ruptured my abdomen so my belly was torn apart and basically in my lap."

Won't give up the day job

Unlike Meghan Markle, who has had to give up her acting career since joining the royal family, Sophie has continued to star on camera – and has even secured her biggest roles to date.

These include playing Ashton Kutcher's girlfriend in Two And A Half Men, as well as starring in CSI: Miami, Julian Fellowes' Titanic and Danny Boyles' Trust.

"Because her husband is so far removed from the royal 'firm', she can socialise with the young royals and still have the freedom to act," a source explains.

When asked if the palace would now pressure her to reject a part, she said: "I simply don’t know. I’ve never done really naughty roles anyway because I’m nervous of them; so, so far nothing’s ever changed.”

Sophie may have swapped risque film scenes for buttoned-up royal life but those close to her say she hasn't wavered from her true nature.

Our source says: "She may just refer to Prince Harry as 'Harry' now rather than a prince as she might once have – but she's still Sophie."

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