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Before they were royal: the life of the Duchess of Kent

Royal Central is starting a series on the lives of those who married into the royal families of the world before they married their prince or princess. In the series “Before they were royal” we are taking a look at their young lives, education, and professional lives before gaining their royal title. Our first edition is on the Duchess of Kent. 

Born Katharine Lucy Mary Worsley on 22 February 1933, she would one day become a much-loved member of the Royal Family, as the Duchess of Kent, but now we take a look at her life before her marriage to Prince Edward, Duke of Kent.

Katharine is the youngest child and only daughter of Sir William Worsley, 4th Baronet, of whom she is said to have been very close to, and Joyce Morgan Brunner. She was born at Hovingham Hall, a stately home where the Worsleys have lived for over 300 years, close to York, and where she lived until she got married to the Duke of Kent.

Interestingly, Katharine is a descendant of Oliver Cromwell, who acted as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1653 to 1658, during which time he served as both the Head of State and Government of a Republican system, that would fall soon after in 1660 when England, Scotland and Ireland became a monarchy under King Charles II.

She had what was considered at the time as a classical country education, and she did not go to school until the age of ten, first attending Queen Margaret’s School, York, and then Runton Hill School, Norfolk. It was during her time at school that she first realised the passion she had for music and learned to play instruments such as the piano, organ and violin. To this day she is very passionate about music, and it has been recently announced that she is teaching music for the children who lived at the Grenfell Tower.

After her education at school, she worked for some time at a children’s home in York, and as a teacher at a kindergarten in London before entering a Finishing School in Oxford, where her brothers were attending university, to study music.

The future Duchess of Kent would then start teaching music, only leaving her teaching profession sometime before her engagement announcement in order to help her mother with the management of the family estate.

She first met her future husband, the Duke of Kent, in 1956 while he served with his regiment, the Royal Scots Greys, at Catterick, Yorkshire. Their engagement wouldn’t be announced until March 1961, and it has been said that the delay was because of Princess Marina, the Duke’s mother, disapproving of her son marrying a commoner. The Princess herself was the daughter of a Greek Prince with a Russian Grand Duchess.

The Duke and Duchess of Kent in 2013. By Carfax2 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26707077

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Miss Katharine Worsley were married on 8 June 1961 in the presence of all senior members of the Royal Family, in a groundbreaking ceremony for the choice of venue. The bride and groom decided to hold the marriage at York Minster, close to the family home of the now Duchess of Kent.

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