The Duchess of Kent is perhaps one of the least known members of The Royal Family, but despite this, she has consistently remained a firm favourite for royal watchers around the globe. She has been suffering from ill health in recent years meaning her public appearances are becoming more scarce, but her story as a member of The Royal Family is an inspiring one, and for many years, she lived a secret life without anybody ever discovering her secret identity.
The Duchess’s secret life began in the late 1990s following her withdrawal from public life in 1996. Shortly after leaving palace life, the Duchess found employment in a new job in Hull. For ten years Katharine worked as a music teacher at a primary school. Most amazingly of all, her real identity was never detected meaning she could do a job she loved without intrusion.
In 2011, the Duchess conducted an interview with Alan Titchmarsh where she joked: “You go gradually downhill and I ended up teaching in Hull.”
During her time at the school, the Duchess was known as ‘Mrs Kent’ to her students and ‘Katharine Kent’ to everybody else. In 2002, she wrote to The Queen to formally rescind the ‘HRH’ title which she was granted upon marriage to the Duke of Kent in 1961. Since then, she has asked that people do not refer to her as the ‘Duchess of Kent’, but Katharine Kent instead. However, in the Court Circular, she is still officially listed as HRH The Duchess of Kent.
Katharine’s biggest passion in life is music, and the very few engagements which she still conducts as a member of The Royal Family are usually musically based. As well as teaching in Hull, the Duchess also rented out a flat in London where she taught piano lessons. Her musical talents came to fruition when she was very young. As a schoolgirl, she was taught to play the piano, the violin and the organ, and narrowly missed out on a place at the Royal Academy of Music.
In her 2011 interview, she said: “When I was teaching the first thing I began to notice was the power of music as a stimulant to these children to give them confidence and self-belief. I began to see that happen all the time.
“Some of the children I taught haven’t necessarily become musicians, but the confidence it has given them, some have joined the Army, some to university, which they might not have done otherwise.
‘I have always loved talent; I love that tickle up the neck when you see talent and I began to realise I was teaching some very, very gifted children.”
She also voiced her concern at the decline of music lessons in schools. She said: “Oh my goodness is it underrated. I would love to see one of the arts being compulsory at GCSE level. I think that would be wonderful.
“Someone asked me the other day, why wasn’t music as popular as football and I couldn’t answer at the time because I was nervous but then I realised that music is so much more popular than football. There isn’t a person in the world who doesn’t tap their feet to music.”
In more recent years, the Duchess has launched a music charity, Future Talent. This organisation aims to help gifted children develop their musical talents.
Despite initially retiring from teaching, in 2017 at the age of 85, Katharine returned to the profession part time at a primary school.
The royal taught children who lived at Grenfell Tower – many of them losing classmates and family members in the devastating blaze that killed 72 people.