The Duchess who shuns the spotlight: How Katharine Kent gave up her royal title and embarked on ‘secret double life’
- Katharine, Duchess of Kent, married Queen’s cousin Prince Edward in 1961
- The mother-of-three retired in 1996 and worked as a music teacher in Hull
- Latest Wimbledon 2023 news, including schedule, travel updates and results
For decades, the Duchess of Kent was an elegant fixture at Wimbledon where, with her husband the Duke, she presented prizes through the years.
Today, the Duchess remains inextricably linked with the tournament in the public mind.
Yet despite her 1961 marriage to the Queen’s Cousin, the Duke of Kent, Katharine Kent, as she prefers to be known, had never craved attention – and in recent years has been more noted for her absence from public life.
A recent visit to St James’s Palace and the Future Talent group youth music charity that she co-founded was a rare outing.
Katharine, now 90, had joined the Royal Family when in 1961, she married the Queen’s cousin Prince Edward, now 87.
For the next 30 years, the Duchess, who was born into the aristocratic Worsley family, worked tirelessly on behalf of the monarchy and travelled the world with the children’s charity UNICEF.
At the same time, though, she was looking for ways to help on a more local level.
Here we look back at the Duchess of Kent’s legacy – including her ‘secret double life’ as a music teacher.
The Duchess of Kent presents the 1978 Wimbledon Ladies Singles trophy to Martina Navratilova. The Duke and Duchess were Wimbledon fixtures for many years
Two years earlier, the Duke (right) and Duchess presented the winner’s plate to Chris Evert
The Kents, pictured on their wedding day, married on June 8 1961 at York Minister. The union brought Katharine into the Royal Family, yet she had never been interested in the limelight
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 kickstarted 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.’
Pictured: Katharine’s family home Hovingham Hall in Yorkshire, which has been in her family since the 18th century
Left: Undated photo of the Duchess of Kent dancing with Lord Carrington at the Alexandra Ball in London. Right: Katherine Worsley pictured in 1958 – three years before she married into the Royal Family
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 when he was stationed at Catterick Garrisons 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’.
As such, the bride and groom settled on York Minister – which had not hosted a royal wedding for more than 600 years at the time.
Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark pictured with her son Prince Edward after his engagement to Katharine Kent was announced
The Duke wore the ceremonial 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
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 opened up about the experience, which had seen her her spiral into depression.
The Duke and Duchess of Kent, arrive at Westminster Abbey for the Guyana Independence Service in 1970
Katharine Kent pictured with her son Lord Nicholas Windsor waving 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
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 the Princess of Wales has now stepped into.
In 1993, Katharine famously showed her softer side when she comforted Jana Novotna on the court as she burst into tears after losing out to Steffi Graf.
Katherine famously comforted Jana Novotna after she lost to defending champion Steffi Graf in the Women’s singles final in 1993
Jeffrey Archer and Katharine, Duchess of Kent pictured at a charity event at the 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.’
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
Katharine, Duchess of Kent pictured arriving at a red carpet event in 1991. She stepped back from public life in 2002
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.’
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.
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
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, the 89-year-old, who is married to the Queen’s cousin Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, said she has an open mind when it comes to music.
‘I’ll listen to anything,’ she told the paper. ‘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.’
Although the duchess admitted she does not ‘know all [the] names’ of rappers, she had a fondness for the Lose Yourself singer as well as the former N.W.A member.
‘I even like beat boxing,’ the duchess added.
Most recently, the Duchess made a rare public appearance with her husband on the 62nd anniversary of their wedding in early June.
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 couple pictured at Trooping the Colour in June 2011. Katharine had retired from public life 15 years earlier
Katharine joined the Duke at St James’ 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.
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 last year or the coronation of King Charles in May.
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