Katharine, Duchess of Kent

Katharine, Duchess of Kent, GCVO (born Katharine Lucy Mary Worsley; 22 February 1933) is a member of the British royal family. Her husband, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, is a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.

Duchess of Kent (more)
The Duchess with a koala at Expo 88 in Brisbane
BornKatharine Lucy Mary Worsley
(1933-02-22) 22 February 1933
Hovingham Hall, Yorkshire, England
HouseWindsor (by marriage)
FatherSir William Worsley, 4th Bt.
MotherJoyce Brunner
ReligionRoman Catholicism
prev. Anglicanism

The Duchess of Kent gained attention for her conversion to Catholicism in 1994; she was the first member of the royal family to convert publicly since the passing of the Act of Settlement 1701. The Duchess of Kent is strongly associated with the world of music and has performed as a member of several choirs.

Early life

Katharine Lucy Mary Worsley was born at Hovingham Hall, Yorkshire, the only daughter and fourth child of Sir William Arthington Worsley, 4th Baronet, and his wife, Joyce Morgan Brunner. Her mother was the daughter of Sir John Brunner, 2nd Baronet, and granddaughter of Sir John Brunner, 1st Baronet, the founder of Brunner Mond, which later became ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries).[1][2] She is a descendant of Oliver Cromwell.[3] Worsley was christened at All Saints' Church, Hovingham, on 2 April 1933. Her godparents were her maternal uncle Sir Felix Brunner, 3rd Baronet, Major Sir Digby Lawson, 2nd Baronet, her paternal aunt Winifred Colegate, and Margaret Fife of Nunnington Hall.[4]


Katharine did not receive any formal education until the age of 10.[5] She was educated at Queen Margaret's School, York, and at Runton Hill School in North Norfolk.[6] At school she was introduced to music, and was taught to play the piano, organ and violin, which she still plays today. In her final year at Runton Hill, she was formally elected music secretary; in this role, she organized school recitals in Norwich.[7] She left school with a pass in oral French and a "very good" in English literature.[8]

The Duchess has stated her admiration for the late cellist Jacqueline du Pré in the documentary Who is Jacqueline du Pré? by Christopher Nupen. She later worked for some time in a children's home in York and worked at a nursery school in London.[5] She failed to gain admission to the Royal Academy of Music, but followed her brothers to Oxford – where they were at the University – to study at Miss Hubler's Finishing School, 22 Merton Street, devoting much of her time to music.[9] At Miss Hubler's, she was one of only eight pupils[10] and was instructed by three different teachers: The principal herself, Miss Hubler, taught French literature, painting, and history; a French woman taught cookery; and a Viennese lady taught music.[10][11]


Katharine met Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, the eldest son of Prince George, Duke of Kent, and Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, while he was based at Catterick Camp.[12] Edward proposed to her with a ring consisting of "an oval sapphire with a round diamond on either side."[13] On 8 June 1961, the couple married at York Minster, the first royal marriage in that location in 633 years (the last one being between Edward III and Philippa of Hainault).[14] The bride's father escorted her, and the best man was Prince Michael of Kent.[14] Princess Anne was one of the bridesmaids.[14] The Archbishop of York Michael Ramsey conducted the marriage service.[14] Guests included actors Noël Coward and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as well as members of the British, Greek, Danish, Norwegian, Yugoslavian, Romanian and Spanish royal families.[14] 273 yards of fabric were used to make her white silk gauze dress which had "a high neckline and long sleeves and a commanding train," and was designed by John Cavanagh.[15] The Kent Diamond and Pearl Fringe Tiara secured her veil.[16]

The couple have three children: George Windsor, Earl of St Andrews (born 26 June 1962); Lady Helen Taylor (born 28 April 1964); and Lord Nicholas Windsor (born 25 July 1970).

Katharine had an abortion in 1975 due to German measles and gave birth to a stillborn son, Patrick, in 1977, a loss that caused her to fall into a state of severe depression, about which she has spoken publicly.[5] "It had the most devastating effect on me," she told The Daily Telegraph in 1997. "I had no idea how devastating such a thing could be to any woman. It has made me extremely understanding of others who suffer a stillbirth."[17]

The Duchess moved to the married quarters in Hong Kong and Germany while her husband was serving in the military.[5] The couple later took numerous royal engagements on behalf of the Queen, including the Ugandan independence celebrations and the coronation of the King of Tonga.[5]


The Duchess of Kent was received into the Catholic Church in 1994.[18] This was a personal decision, and she received the approval of the Queen. As she explained in an interview on BBC, "I do love guidelines and the Catholic Church offers you guidelines. I have always wanted that in my life. I like to know what's expected of me. I like being told: You shall go to church on Sunday and if you don't you're in for it!"[19] Basil Hume, then Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and thus spiritual leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, warned the Church against triumphalism over the Duchess's conversion.

Although the Act of Settlement 1701 means a member of the royal family marrying a Catholic relinquishes their right of succession to the British throne, the Act does not include marriage to an Anglican who subsequently becomes a Catholic. Therefore, the Duke of Kent did not lose his place in the line of succession to the British throne.

Since then the couple's younger son, Lord Nicholas, their grandson Lord Downpatrick, and their granddaughter Lady Marina have also become Catholics. Their older son, Lord St Andrews, father of Lord Downpatrick, married a Catholic and thus had been excluded from the succession until the Succession to the Crown Act revoked that exclusion in 2015. The Dukedom of Kent is not subject to the Act of Settlement, so Downpatrick is in line to become the first Roman Catholic duke or earl of Kent since the Reformation.

Recent years

In 1978, the Duchess was hospitalised for several weeks due to "nervous strain".[5] Reports by the BBC stated that the Duchess suffered from coeliac disease and Epstein–Barr virus, whose symptoms resemble those of ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as "chronic fatigue syndrome").[5] She stepped down from her role as head of the ME Society in the UK, and has since energetically worked with various charities and schools.

In 1999, the Duchess was refused permission to seat the 12-year-old son of a bereaved friend in the Royal Box at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Alternative seating outside the box was offered. She later received what The Daily Telegraph reported in a front-page story was a "curt letter" from club chairman John Curry, reminding her that children, other than members of the royal family, were not permitted in the Royal Box. She, in turn, threatened a boycott of the Royal Box.[20]

The Duchess of Kent decided in 2002 not to use personally the style "Her Royal Highness" and to reduce her royal duties. Since then she has been informally known as Katharine Kent or Katharine, Duchess of Kent, although her formal style (e.g. in the Court Circular) remains HRH The Duchess of Kent.[21][22] Despite her decision to stay away from public life, the Duchess continues to appear at major events including the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011, and the concert at Buckingham Palace and thanksgiving service at St Paul's Cathedral during the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrations in 2012.[23]

In December 1989, Katharine was a guest on the BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs.[24] In keeping with her withdrawal from full royal duties in 1996, the Duchess took a position as a music teacher in Wansbeck Primary School in Kingston upon Hull.[25] She also gave piano lessons in a rented studio flat near her official residence at Kensington Palace.[23] The Duchess of Kent had served as the president of the Royal Northern College of Music, and was the director of National Foundation for Youth Music from 1999 to 2007.[26][27] In March 2004, Katharine was the subject of Real Story on BBC One. She talked about her career as a music teacher saying "teaching [the children] is very satisfying. It's a privilege. To me it's one of the most exciting jobs anyone can do."[28] In 2005 the Duchess spoke in an interview on BBC Radio 3 of her liking of rap music and of the singer/songwriter Dido, whose song "Thank You" she chose as one of her favourite pieces of music.[29][30] She is patron of national charity, Making Music,[31] the National Federation of Music Societies, an umbrella organisation for amateur and voluntary music groups. Katharine is among the co-founders of Future Talent, a charity that helps young children with low-income backgrounds pursue a career in music.[25][32] In May 2016, she hosted a concert for young children at Buckingham Palace in her capacity as founder of Future Talent.[33] In August 2016, the Duchess became an ambassador for Samaritans after a volunteer at the Teesside branch contacted her. She had previously been its Royal Patron from 1971 until 1999.[34] The Duchess is also a supporter of UNICEF.[25]

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

  • 22 February 1933 – 8 June 1961: Miss Katharine Lucy Mary Worsley
  • 8 June 1961 – present: Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Kent



Honorary military appointments

United Kingdom

and formerly

Civilian offices


Coat of arms of the Duchess of Kent
Coat of Arms of Katharine, Duchess of Kent, depicting her husband's arms impaled with those of her father.
Coronet of a Grandchild of the Sovereign
HRH The Duke of Kent's arms impaled with those of her father, Sir William Worsley, 4th Baronet.
The Royal Supporters differenced with the like coronet and label.
The Royal Victorian Order circlet.
Other elements
Insignia of GCVO appended


George Windsor, Earl of St Andrews26 June 19629 January 1988Sylvana TomaselliEdward Windsor, Lord Downpatrick
Lady Marina Windsor
Lady Amelia Windsor
Lady Helen Taylor28 April 196418 July 1992Timothy TaylorColumbus Taylor
Cassius Taylor
Eloise Taylor
Estella Taylor
Lord Nicholas Windsor25 July 19704 November 2006Paola Doimi de Lupis de FrankopanAlbert Windsor
Leopold Windsor
Louis Windsor
Lord Patrick Windsor
5 October 1977

See also


  1. Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knighthood (107 ed.). Burke's Peerage & Gentry. pp. 4243–4244. ISBN 0-9711966-2-1.
  2. Cathcart, Helen (1971). The Duchess of Kent (First ed.). London: W.H. Allen. p. 31.
  3. Le Petit Gotha
  4. "Christenings". The Times. The Times Digital Archive. 3 April 1933. p. 17.
  5. "The Army wife who would occasionally don a tiara". The Telegraph. 19 June 1999. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  6. Cathcart, Helen (1971). The Duchess of Kent (First ed.). London: W.H. Allen. p. 61.
  7. Cathcart, Helen (1971). The Duchess of Kent (First ed.). London: W.H. Allen. p. 67.
  8. Cathcart, Helen (1971). The Duchess of Kent (First ed.). London: W.H. Allen. p. 68.
  9. 'Kent, Katherine, Duchess of', in Ronald Allison and Sarah Riddell, eds, The Royal Encyclopedia (Basingstoke; London: Macmillan, 1991), pp. 293–4
  10. Cathcart, Helen (1971). The Duchess of Kent. London: W.H. Allen. p. 71.
  11. Garner, Valerie (1991). Katharine Duchess of Kent (First ed.). London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 36. ISBN 0297811754.
  12. "Engagement Of The Duke Of Kent To Miss Katharine Worsley (1961)". British Pathé. YouTube. 13 April 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  13. "Flashback Friday: British Engagement Rings, Part 2". The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor. 8 February 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  14. "Wedding At York Wedding Of Prince Edward". Britishpathe.com. British Pathé. 3 January 2010. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  15. Lang, Cady (1 May 2018). "The 12 Most Influential British Royal Wedding Dresses of All Time". Time. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  16. "The 22 Most Gorgeous Royal Wedding Tiara Moments of All Time (slide 17)". 18 March 2018. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  17. "I lost my baby at nine months .. it devastated me; The Duchess of Kent reveals the stillbirth that led to a breakdown". The Mirror. 23 December 1997. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  18. "BBC ON THIS DAY | 14 | 1994: Duchess of Kent joins Catholic church". BBC News. 14 January 2002. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  19. Wynick, Alex (22 February 2013). "Duchess of Kent turns 80: 10 things you need to know about the reclusive royal". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  20. "UKWimbledon chief says sorry to duchess". The BBC online. 22 September 1999. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  21. "Closer than ever': Duke and Duchess of Kent reunited". Express. 4 August 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  22. "About The Duchess of Kent". Royal UK. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  23. Walker, Tim (6 June 2012). "The Queen – and Sir Cliff Richard – tempt the Duchess of Kent back into the limelight". The Telegraph. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  24. "HRH The Duchess of Kent". BBC Radio 4. 24 December 1989. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  25. "Duchess of Kent: 'my love for teaching music at Hull state primary school'". Daily Telegraph. 30 September 2011.
  26. "1970s". Royal Northern College of Music. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  27. "The National Foundation for Youth Music – Officers". Companies House service. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  28. Bruce, Fiona (15 March 2004). "A Duchess in trainers". BBC News. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  29. "Private Passions, Katherine, Duchess of Kent". BBC radio 3. 25 August 2005. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  30. "Duchess's secret life as teacher". The BBC online. 11 March 2004. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  31. "Helping amateur music flourish". Making Music. 27 August 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  32. "Katharine Kent (Co-founder)". Future Talent. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  33. "Young musicians perform at Buckingham Palace hosted by The Duchess of Kent". The Royal Family. 5 May 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  34. "Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Kent becomes a Samaritans Ambassador". Samaritans. 3 August 2016. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  35. "The Kent Diamond and Pearl Fringe Tiara". The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  36. "The Duchess of Kent – Activities and interests". Royal.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 20 September 2012. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
  37. "A Brief History of the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps, Auxiliary Territorial Service and Women's Royal Army Corps". Women's Royal Army Corps Association. Archived from the original on 19 May 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  38. "Yorkshire Volunteers History". Yorkshire Volunteers Regimental Association. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  39. "Duchess steps down as University Chancellor", Leeds University Reporter, 424, 5 October 1998
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by
The Duchess of Gloucester
HRH The Duchess of Kent
Succeeded by
Princess Michael of Kent
Academic offices
Preceded by
The Princess Royal
Chancellor of the University of Leeds
Succeeded by
Melvyn Bragg
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