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How Katharine, Duchess of Kent bagged a royal prince – but has remained ‘a Yorkshire lass’ who insisted on marrying near home. Born on this day, an elegant but very modest trailblazer…


Today, as she turns 91, the Duchess of Kent can count herself as the oldest member of the Royal Family.

For more than half a century, Katharine Kent has been by the side of her husband, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, the last surviving first cousin of the late Queen Elizabeth.

And although she has retired from public life, the Duchess is held in high regard after decades of loyal service on behalf of the monarchy.

She was an elegant fixture at Wimbledon where, with her husband the Duke, she presented prizes through the years – and today the Kents remain inextricably linked with the tournament . 

For the 30 years, the Duchess, who was born into the aristocratic Worsley family, worked tirelessly to represent the Royal Family and travelled the world with the children’s charity UNICEF. 

Yet she had never craved attention – and last year’s appearance at St James’s Palace to see the Future Talent youth music charity that she co-founded was a rare outing.

Here we look back at the life of an elegant yet modest trailblazer – the first person without a title to marry into the Royal Family for more than a century, who describes herself as ‘just a Yorkshire lass’.

The Duchess of Kent memorably comforts a tearful Jana Novotna, who had just lost to Steffi Graf in the 1993 Ladies Final

The Duchess of Kent memorably comforts a tearful Jana Novotna, who had just lost to Steffi Graf in the 1993 Ladies Final 

For decades, the Duke and Duchess of Kent represented the Royal Family at Wimbledon. Here, they present the winner's plate to Chris Evert, the first of her three victories, in 1974

For decades, the Duke and Duchess of Kent represented the Royal Family at Wimbledon. Here, they present the winner’s plate to Chris Evert in 1974

The Kents, pictured on their wedding day in 1961. She was a Yorkshire girl - and they married in York Minster

The Kents, pictured on their wedding day in 1961. She was a Yorkshire girl – and they married in York Minster

Born in February 1933, Katharine was Sir William Worsley’s only daughter and youngest child. 

She grew up in Hovingham Hall, outside York, which has belonged to her family since the early eighteenth century.

Although her father was the President of Marylebone Cricket Club, the royal has joked about how she often wished he had a different occupation as a child.

Speaking to Oxford Mail in 2010, Katharine explained how she had wished Sir William worked for the nearby Rowntrees factory as her friends’ fathers would often bring sweets home with them.

As a child, Katharine took up the piano, violin and organ, which started her life-long passion.

She told the publication: ‘Music is the most important thing in my life. The be all and end all to everything. 

‘No one in my family was particularly musical, but I was born with a love of music.’

After working in a children’s home in York and a nursery in London, Katharine went on to study music at Miss Huber’s Finishing school in Oxford.

In 1956, she first crossed paths with Prince Edward, now 88, when he was stationed at Catterick Garrison near her family home.

Five years later in March 1961, the couple announced their engagement and officially tied the knot in June.

At their wedding, she wore the Kent Diamond and Pearl Fringe Tiara and a dress designed by John Cavanagh.

Although the Duke and Duchess of Kent could have married at Westminster Abbey, Katharine was adamant that she wanted to have the ceremony in her home country – and even now reportedly still refers to herself as a ‘Yorkshire lass’.

The bride and groom settled on York Minister – which had not hosted a royal wedding for more than 600 years at the time. 

Katharine Worsley's family home in Yorkshire, Hovingham Hall near York. The family has lived on the site since teh 16th century

Katharine Worsley’s family home in Yorkshire, Hovingham Hall near York. The family has lived on the site since teh 16th century

The  Duchess of Kent dancieswith Lord Carrington at the Alexandra Ball in London

Katherine Worsley pictured in 1958 - three years before her marriage to Prince Edward, Duke of Kent

Left: The  Duchess of Kent danes with Lord Carrington at the Alexandra Ball in London. Right: Katherine Worsley pictured in 1958 – three years before she married Prince Edward, Duke of Kent

Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark pictured with her son Prince Edward after his engagement to Katharine Worsley was announced

Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark pictured with her son Prince Edward after his engagement to Katharine Worsley was announced

The Duke wore the uniform of his regiment the Royal Scots Greys to his wedding to Katharine Worsley

The Duke wore the uniform of his regiment the Royal Scots Greys to his wedding to Katharine Worsley

Duchess of Kent with her baby son, the Earl of St Andrews at her home Coppins in Iver, Buckinghamshire in July 1962

Duchess of Kent with her baby son, the Earl of St Andrews at her home Coppins in Iver, Buckinghamshire in July 1962

The Duke and Duchess of Kent, arrive at Westminster Abbey for the Guyana Independence Service in 1970

The Duke and Duchess of Kent, arrive at Westminster Abbey for the Guyana Independence Service in 1970

The Duchess pictured with her son, Lord Nicholas Windsor, waves to crowds from a car in July 1982

The Duchess pictured with her son, Lord Nicholas Windsor, waves to crowds from a car in July 1982

Katharine pictured in 1992 - shortly before she retired from royal life and became a music teacher in Hull

Katharine pictured in 1992 – shortly before she retired from royal life and became a music teacher in Hull

What’s more, Katharine was the first woman without a title to marry into the Royal Family for more than a century.

The couple went on to have their three children George Windsor, Earl of St Andrew, 69, Lady Helen Taylor, 58, and Lord Nicholas Windsor, 52.

However in the 1970s, the couple suffered two devastating pregnancy losses which resulted in Katharine withdrawing from public life for a time.

In 1975, Katharine contracted German measles and suffered a miscarriage. Two years later, she gave birth to their stillborn son Patrick.

Speaking to The Telegraph in 1997, the Duchess spoke about the experience, which had seen her fall into depression.

She said: ‘It had the most devastating effect on me. I had no idea how devastating such a thing could be to any woman.’

At first, Katharine said, she ‘threw herself’ back into her royal duties – but was admitted to hospital for seven weeks of treatment a short time later.

The mother-of-three added: ‘I’m not ashamed of that patch at all. It was not a good period, but once I’d come out and returned to a sense of reality, I quickly realised that, awful as it was, it does happen to a lot of people.’ 

Before retiring from the Royal Family in the 1990s, Katharine was known for presenting the Wimbledon finalists with their trophies, a role now played by Catherine, the Princess of Wales .

In 1993, the Duchess famously showed her softer side when she comforted Jana Novotna on the court as she burst into tears after losing out to Steffi Graf. 

Jeffrey Archer and Katharine, Duchess of Kent at a charity event at Tate Modern in November 2007

Jeffrey Archer and Katharine, Duchess of Kent at a charity event at Tate Modern in November 2007

In 2002, Katharine officially withdrew from public life after spending more than 30 years serving the Monarchy. However, her husband continues to be a working member of the Royal Family.

Shortly afterwards, the mother-of-three moved to Hull where she became a music teacher at Wansbeck Primary School.

Overhearing the head speaking about the desperate need for a music teacher, the duchess volunteered. She was involved with the school for 13 years.

She said in an interview with Alan Titchmarch: ‘When I was teaching the first thing I began to notice was the power of music as a stimulant to these children to give them confidence and self-belief. I began to see that happen all the time.

‘Some of the children I taught haven’t necessarily become musicians, but the confidence it has given them, some have joined the Army, some to university, which they might not have done otherwise.

‘I have always loved talent, I love that tickle up the neck when you see talent and I began to realise I was teaching some very, very gifted children.’

She said music had the power to help children over the virtual ‘Berlin Wall’ that surrounds some sink estates.

Asked if music is underrated in schools, the duchess said fervently: ‘Oh my goodness is it underrated. I would love to see one of the arts being compulsory at GCSE level. I think that would be wonderful.

‘Someone asked me the other day, why wasn’t music as popular as football and I couldn’t answer at the time because I was nervous but then I realised that music is so much more popular than football. There isn’t a person in the world who doesn’t tap their feet to music.’

Undated photo of the Duchess of Kent at the choir festival at Kings Lynn after marrying into the royal family

Undated photo of the Duchess of Kent at the choir festival at Kings Lynn after marrying into the royal family

The Duchess of Kent pictured trying her hand at playing a euphonium during her visit to Boosey & Hawkes in Edgware

The Duchess of Kent pictured trying her hand at playing a euphonium during her visit to Boosey & Hawkes in Edgware

Katharine, Duchess of Kent pictured arriving at a red carpet event in 1991. She stepped back from public life in 2002

Katharine, Duchess of Kent pictured arriving at a red carpet event in 1991. She stepped back from public life in 2002

The Duke and Duchess of Kent attend a memorial service at the base of Grenfell Tower in tribute to victims of the Grenfell Tower in June 2018

The Duke and Duchess of Kent attend a memorial service at the base of Grenfell Tower in tribute to victims of the Grenfell Tower in June 2018

The couple pictured arriving at the 2013 service of celebration to mark the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth

The couple pictured arriving at the 2013 service of celebration to mark the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth 

While she was still teaching at the school, Katharine wrote to the late Queen in 2002 to ask that her ‘HRH’ status was rescinded. 

Mr Titchmarsh asked: ‘You’re happier being Mrs Kent. Were there barriers being in the way being the duchess?’ 

‘I never even thought about it,’ she replied. ‘I just was Mrs Kent, I never questioned it.’

After leaving teaching, the duchess launched a music charity, Future Talent, which aims to help gifted children develop their musical prowess.

The charity now works with orchestras such as the Hallé in Manchester and links them with primary and secondary schools.

What’s more, the royal is far from being a technophobe, using an iPhone app that identifies songs just from the tune.

She said: ‘I have Shazam on my iPhone so if I don’t know a song and love it I can find out.’

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph in 2022, she said:

‘I’ll listen to anything. I just love music. Something that catches my ear on the radio – I don’t really listen to records. If it makes my feet tap then I’m happy.’

‘I even like beat boxing,’ the Duchess claimed. 

Most recently, the Duchess made a rare public appearance with her husband on the 62nd anniversary of their wedding in early June.

Katharine joined the Duke at St James’s Palace, where a portrait of her was unveiled by her daughter, Lady Helen Taylor, 59, after a concert by the Future Talent group. 

The Duchess founded the group with Nicholas Robinson to help young people and those from low-income families to discover music.

Katharine Duchess Of Kent Cuddles A Child At Childline Function

Katharine Duchess Of Kent Cuddles A Child At Childline Function

he Duchess of Kent with her daughter Lady Helen Taylor Future Talent Gala Fundraising Evening at Ronnie Scott's Club in 2008

he Duchess of Kent with her daughter Lady Helen Taylor Future Talent Gala Fundraising Evening at Ronnie Scott’s Club in 2008

Duke and Duchess of Kent at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Service of thanks at St Pauls Cathedral in 2012

Duke and Duchess of Kent at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Service of thanks at St Pauls Cathedral in 2012

In June, Katharine joined her husband, the Duke, at St James' Palace, where a portrait of her was unveiled by her daughter, Lady Helen Taylor after a concert by the Future Talent group

In June, Katharine joined her husband, the Duke, at St James’ Palace, where a portrait of her was unveiled by her daughter, Lady Helen Taylor after a concert by the Future Talent group

The portrait was painted by Future Talent alumnus Rob Burton, 23, an award-winning saxophonist and BBC Young Musician finalist. Pictured left: Lady Helen Taylor, 59

The portrait was painted by Future Talent alumnus Rob Burton, 23, an award-winning saxophonist and BBC Young Musician finalist. Pictured left: Lady Helen Taylor, 59

The couple pictured at Trooping the Colour in June 2011. Katharine had retired from public life 15 years earlier

The couple pictured at Trooping the Colour in June 2011. Katharine had retired from public life 15 years earlier

The concert was organised as a celebration of the Duchess’s 90th birthday in February – and her husband thoughtfully requested that it was performed on their wedding anniversary, too.

The appearance is believed to have been the Duchess’s first public engagement with her husband since she attended the wedding of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank in 2018.

The Duchess did not attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth in 2022 or the Coronation of King Charles last May.



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