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Before they were royal: The life of the Duchess of Gloucester

She would go on to live a life of royal duties which led her to be called one of the unsung heroes of the Royal Family, but today we take a look at the life of the Duchess of Gloucester before she married The Queen’s cousin: Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

Born Birgitte Eva Henriksen on 20 June 1946 in Odense, Denmark, she is the youngest daughter of Asger Preben Wissing Henriksen, a lawyer, and Vivian van Deurs. Her parents separated in January 1966, and on that occasion, Birgitte changed her last name to her mother’s maiden surname, thus becoming Birgitte Eva van Deurs.

Birgitte attended primary school in her hometown of Odense, Denmark. For her secondary education, however, she moved to Lausanne, Switzerland, where she studied at the Brillantmont International School. The future Duchess of Gloucester also attended the Margrethe School in Copenhagen, Denmark. The school, also known as Scandinavian Academy of International Fashion and Design, was also attended by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, as did both Margrethe’s sister and late cousin, Princesses Benedikte and Elisabeth. Princess Benedikte is the current patron of the school.

In the late 1960’s, she started attending Bell School of Languages at Cambridge University, in England. It was during this period that she first met her future husband, Prince Richard, who was studying architecture at the time, but they wouldn’t become engaged for some years.

After finishing her languages course in England, Birgitte moved back to Denmark where she took a three-year diploma course in Commercial and Economic Studies in Copenhagen. After that, she permanently moved to the United Kingdom in 1971, when she started working as a secretary at the Danish Embassy in London.

The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester in 2012. By Open Government Licence v3.0, – https://www.gov.uk/government/world-location-news/her-majesty-the-queen-sends-message-to-the-venerable-english-college, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49833313

Their engagement was announced shortly after, on February 1972, with the wedding date set on 8 July 1972. Prince Richard, himself an architect, designed the silver and coral engagement ring that he presented to his soon-to-be bride. Their wedding was a surprisingly low-key occasion that took place at St. Andrew’s Church in Barnwell. The Queen didn’t attend her cousin’s wedding, but the Queen Mother, the Prince of Wales, Princess Margaret and other members of the Royal Family were present.

The couple, now the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, have now been married for 46 years and have had three children and six grandchildren.

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