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The Kents

The Duchess of Kent celebrates her 90th birthday

The Duchess of Kent is celebrating her 90th birthday on Wednesday – a milestone occasion for the discreet royal.

The Duchess, who prefers to be known simply as Katharine, is the oldest member of The Royal Family following on from the death of Queen Elizabeth II last year.

As usual, she is celebrating the occasion privately with her family.

Katharine Lucy Mary Worsley was born 22 February 1933, the only daughter of Sir William Arthington Worsley of Hovingham, 4th Baronet and his wife Joyce. She has three older brothers.

The Duchess was educated at Queen Margaret’s School in York, and Runton Hill School in North Norfolk. The Duchess developed her lifelong love of music while at school and can play the piano, organ, and violin. She applied to the Royal Academy of Music but failed to gain admission, and so studied at Miss Hubler’s Finishing School in Oxford.

Prior to her marriage, she worked in a children’s home in York and a nursery school in London. She first met Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, in 1956, when he was stationed at Catterick.

Their engagement was announced in March 1961, and they married on 8 June that year in York Minster, the first royal wedding there since Edward III married in 1328. Katherine wore a wedding dress designed by John Cavanagh (who also designed Princess Alexandra’s wedding dress) with a 15-foot train edged in satin, and a small tiara owned by Queen Mary.

Thereafter, she was styled as the Duchess of Kent.

Together, the Kents had three children: George Windsor, Earl of St Andrews (heir to the Kent dukedom), Lady Helen Taylor, and Lord Nicholas Windsor; and ten grandchildren. Their children do not carry out official duties on behalf of The Queen.

The Duchess gave birth to a stillborn son, Patrick, in 1977, which propelled her into a severe depression. She told the Daily Telegraph that year, “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.”

In 1994, the Duchess converted to Catholicism, becoming the most high-profile member of the Royal Family to do so. She received the approval of The Queen before doing so, and because she converted after marriage, this did not affect her husband’s place in the line of succession.

In 1977, the Duchess of Kent was created as a Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. She also has the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II and holds several honorary military appointments.

The Duchess has retained her ties to Yorkshire throughout her life – she was awarded the Honorary Freedom of the City of York in 1989, and is Deputy Colonel-in-Chief of The Royal Dragoon Guards.

Several buildings are named after the Duchess of Kent, included The Duchess of Kent Children’s Hospital at Sandy Bay, Hong Kong; Hospital Duchess of Kent in Malaysia; The Duchess of Kent Wing in St Peter’s Hospital; and The Duchess of Kent Hospice in Berkshire.