The Duchess of Kent has conducted an extremely rare interview in which she reflects on her love of tennis ahead of the start of Wimbledon.
Speaking to the BBC’s Simon McCoy, the Duchess, who prefers to be known as Katherine Kent, spoke of her time as a member of The Royal Family at Wimbledon, and her memories of the occasion, including when she consoled Jana Novotna in the 1993 final.
Speaking of the championships, Katharine said: “I think it is truly the best thing in the world; the atmosphere is electric.”
She continued: “I was so frightened about going to onto centre court. Even just walking into the box is absolutely incredible. You are so close – that is amazing.”
Along with her husband, the Duchess of Kent began handing out trophies to the winners of Wimbledon in 1969. It is a tradition she continued until 2001, well after she retired from royal life. The last person to be awarded a prize from Katharine was Venus Williams who won that year. Her husband, the Duke of Kent, continues to present the prizes at Wimbledon 48 years on and continues to serve as President.
Katharine is probably best known for the presentation of prizes in 1993 when she comforted Jana Novotna, who burst into tears after losing the final to Steffi Graf. This moment went down in tennis history, and people found a new admiration for a royal they might not have previously heard of. In another year, the Duchess was determined to hand out prizes to the winners of Wimbledon despite having her foot in a cast.
In her first TV interview for seven years, the Duchess said: “Jana and I became quite firm friends.”
Simon McCoy proceeded to ask the 85-year-old royal about the moment she comforted Jana, who died last year from cancer.
Katharine replied: “That’s what you do when people are crying. We are quite normal people. We do hug people who cry. It is a natural reaction!”
In another display of kindness, the Duchess helped Martina Navratilova’s mother get a UK visa. Thia was after she heard the story of how none of Navratilova’s family could watch her win the championship because they could not leave communist Czechoslovakia.
The full interview with the Duchess of Kent will be aired on the BBC News Channel at 2pm on 2nd July.