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Oldest Royal Family Member (Who Led Hidden Double Life!) Turns 91 and Makes Rare Statement

Katharine, the Duchess of Kent, spoke out for a cause close to heart

<p>Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty</p> Katharine, Duchess of Kent attends a service of celebration to mark the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey on June 4, 2013 in London.

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

Katharine, Duchess of Kent attends a service of celebration to mark the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey on June 4, 2013 in London.

Katharine, the Duchess of Kent, is ringing in her royal birthday — as the oldest member of the British royal family.

The Duchess of Kent (née Worsley) turned 91 on Thursday and released a rare statement on the special occasion. Katharine is married to Queen Elizabeth’s cousin Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, and expressed her excitement about the launch of a new scholarship program between her charity Future Talent and the National Children’s Choir of Great Britain.

“I am truly delighted to witness the union of Future Talent and the National Children’s Choir of Great Britain in this important endeavor. This partnership embodies the spirit of inclusivity and accessibility, with a shared commitment to nurturing the musical talents of the future,” the Duchess of Kent said in a statement.

<p>Pool/Max Mumby/Getty</p> Katharine, Duchess of Kent attends the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018.

Pool/Max Mumby/Getty

Katharine, Duchess of Kent attends the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018.

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It's a cause close to heart for Katharine, who taught kindergarten in London before marrying into the royal family (just like Princess Diana) and went on to study music at Oxford. She met Prince Edward in 1956 and they wed in 1961. The couple went on to welcome three children — George, Earl of St. Andrews, Lady Helen Windsor and Lord Nicholas Windsor — who are not working royals. Prince Edward traveled around the world for his service in the British Army and retired in 1976 to focus on royal duties.

<p>CENTRAL PRESS PHOTO LTD/AFP via Getty</p> The Duke of Kent and Katharine Worsley on their June 8, 1961 wedding day.

CENTRAL PRESS PHOTO LTD/AFP via Getty

The Duke of Kent and Katharine Worsley on their June 8, 1961 wedding day.

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The couple was often spotted in the stands at Wimbledon, as Prince Edward, now 88, served as president of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for 52 years. He and his wife have since passed the trophy-distributing duties to Kate Middleton as patron, and the Princess of Wales has watched the tennis tournament with the Duke and Duchess of Kent from the Royal Box before.

The Duchess of Kent experienced tragedy with a pregnancy loss and a stillbirth, and she withdrew from royal duties in 1996, Royal Central reported. She then spent a decade teaching music at a primary school in Hull, which opened her eyes to how many talented children and young people needed greater financial support to achieve their musical potential, per her royal bio.

Her position as a teacher flew largely under the radar, as Katharine explained she was only known as Mrs. Kent.

<p>Karwai Tang/WireImage</p> Katharine, Duchess of Kent, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Kate Middleton at Wimbledon Championships Tennis Tournament at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 02, 2021 in London.

Karwai Tang/WireImage

Katharine, Duchess of Kent, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Kate Middleton at Wimbledon Championships Tennis Tournament at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 02, 2021 in London.

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“Only the head knew who I was. The parents didn’t know and the pupils didn’t know. No one ever noticed. There was no publicity about it at all — it just seemed to work,” she told BBC Radio 3 in 2005, The Times reported.

Katharine reportedly wrote to Queen Elizabeth requesting she rescind her HRH title in 2002 and launched Future Talent two years later. She is still referred to as the Duchess of Kent in the Court Circular, the official record of previous royal engagements, but keeps a low profile.

She did not join her husband the Duke of Kent at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth in September 2022, the coronation of King Charles in May 2023 or the first Trooping the Colour of King Charles’ reign last summer. Some of Katharine’s most recent royal appearances include the May 2018 wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, as well as the RAF centenary flypast on the balcony of Buckingham Palace that summer.

<p>Neil Mockford/GC Images</p> Members of the British royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, including the Duchess of Kent at far right, to mark the centenary of the RAF on July 10, 2018 in London.

Neil Mockford/GC Images

Members of the British royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, including the Duchess of Kent at far right, to mark the centenary of the RAF on July 10, 2018 in London.

News of the scholarship was announced on Katharine’s birthday and outlined that the new award will be available to young singers from low-income backgrounds to participate in the National Children’s Choir during Easter and summer school residentials. The young artists will also have access to mentoring, workshops, master classes and financial support, plus performance opportunities, through the program.

“This announcement is in tribute to The Duchess of Kent, the co-founder of Future Talent and a Patron of NCCGB. The Duchess has dedicated much of her life to the arts and this partnership will continue her vision of providing equal opportunities for young talent to flourish,” Future Talent said in a statement about the timing.

The Duchess of Kent co-founded Future Talent with Nicholas Robinson in 2004 to give every child an equal opportunity to succeed in music. According to her royal bio, the organization brings music into the classroom through partnerships with primary schools, from equipping kids with instruments and encouragement to “providing master tuition to enable them to make music their future” in exceptional cases.

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