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Wednesday, 2 February, 2000, 17:53 GMT
Sophie admits fur hat 'error'

Countess of Wessex Sophie is the newest member of the Royal Family

The Countess of Wessex has admitted making an "error of judgement" by wearing a fox-fur hat in public.

Sophie Wessex raised the hackles of animal rights activists when she was photographed wearing the hat in the Swiss resort of St Moritz on Tuesday.

As she walked bare-headed into the Mayfair office of her public relations company in London on Wednesday, she said: "I think it was an error of judgement on my part."

Buckingham Palace stressed that the countess had purchased the hat on the spur of the moment because of the freezing temperatures.

We believe that people should look for alternatives that are just as fashionable but do not cause the suffering of animals
"She had no intention of upsetting anyone," said a palace spokesman.

The 35-year-old countess, who married the Queen's youngest son, Prince Edward, last June, was condemned earlier on Wednesday by animal rights campaigners.

"It is very unfortunate that someone so in the public eye should want to be seen wearing fur," said a spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

"People will be shocked and horrified.

"We believe that people should look for alternatives that are just as fashionable but do not cause the suffering of animals."

Mark Glover, the campaign director for Respect for Animals, said: "By wearing real fur, Sophie has joined the list of royals that are out of touch with public opinion and feelings.

'Unfairly pilloried'

"For someone supposedly involved with public relations she should know that a fur hat is not just naff, it is a badge of shame."

But the countess won support from the British Fur Trade Association.

"We fully support Sophie's brave decision. This industry creates jobs and is unfairly pilloried," a spokesperson said.

She is not the first royal to court controversy with animal rights groups.

Brother-in-law Prince Charles has also caused a stir by insisting on taking his sons fox-hunting with hounds despite government plans to ban the practice.

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See also:
02 Feb 00 |  UK
Knives out over curvy Sophie
25 Oct 99 |  UK
Edward: Leave Sophie alone
05 Jul 99 |  UK
Sophie goes back to work
17 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Government to end fur farming
23 Nov 99 |  Scotland
Scotland set for fur farm ban
18 Nov 99 |  UK
Inside the fur farms

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