Since England was unified from the seven Saxon Kingdoms, the earliest peerage featuring Kent was that of an Earldom given to Leofwine Godwinson in the 1050’s. He was the younger brother of King Harold and suffered a similar fate at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. King William, then gave the title to his half-brother Odo of Bayeux, but this was a troubled time and his grasp on the title was not secure thanks to his part in various rebellions. The Earldom was re-appointed several times through the Medieval and Plantagenet eras, and eventually in 1465 to Sir Edmund Grey, of Wrest Park in Bedfordshire.
The title Earl of Kent continued down the Grey family line, in 1702 the title was taken by Henry Grey, 12th Earl of Kent. In 1706, he was elevated to Marquis of Kent and further elevated in 1710 to Duke of Kent. Although at this time it was not a Royal Dukedom, despite the Grey family being able to trace their lineage to John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Sadly, Henry was predeceased by his sons, and the title passed back to the Crown. The next time the title appears, it is now a Royal Dukedom – that of the Duke of Kent and Strathearn and I have written an earlier blog covering that title.
The next appointment is not a Royal Dukedom, but a Royal Earldom. In 1866, Prince Alfred was created Earl of Kent, together with the titles Duke of Edinburgh and Earl of Ulster, sadly his only son also called Alfred pre-deceased him. Hence, when he died in 1900, the title returned to the crown. Prince Alfred was, of course, the grandson of Prince George who was Duke of Kent and Strathearn, however as the title could only pass down the male line that too was taken into the Crown.
The most recent appointment was in 1934 when Prince George, fourth son of King George and Queen Mary was appointed Duke of Kent, with subsidiary titles Earl of St Andrew and Baron Downpatrick. The Duke had three children; Prince Edward, Princess Alexandra and Prince Michael of Kent, when he died in 1942 the title passed to Prince Edward who is the incumbent. The Duke of Kent has two sons George, Earl of St Andrews and Lord Nicholas Windsor, and the Earl of St Andrews is married with a son, Lord Downpatrick. Hence for the first time in many centuries, the title will pass down through more than a single generation. However, it will cease to be a Royal Dukedom as the Earl of St Andrews is not a Prince being only the great-grandson of the Sovereign. This is a limitation put in place by King George V in 1917, which restricts those who may be called Prince. When he succeeds to the title Duke of Kent, the Earl will be referred to as His Grace The Duke of Kent.