These years were unhappy times in the Kent marriage. In 1976, she was admitted to the hospital and was diagnosed with mild anaemia. Around this time, the Duke decided to leave the army, and he was appointed as the vice-chairman of the British Overseas Trade Board. The following year, Katharine was elated to discover that she was once again pregnant. On 4 October 1977, she gave birth to a third son, who was tragically stillborn. She named the boy Patrick. In a later interview, she said, “It had the most devastating effect on me. I had no idea how devastating such a thing could be to any woman… I suffered from acute depression for a while. I think it would be a fairly rare individual who didn’t cave in under those circumstances. The baby was born dead at nine months. It was a horrible thing to happen.”1
Although she continued with her engagements, which included handing out trophies at Wimbledon. However, the deaths of her father and mother during these years only made matters worse. Desperate to avoid embarrassing or offending Queen Elizabeth II or the royal family, Katharine carried on. In 1978, she was eventually hospitalized for several weeks due to a “nervous strain.”2 By then, her marriage was also on the point of collapse as Edward reportedly had no idea how to deal with Katharine’s mental distress. However, they eventually agreed that their marriage would survive. Slowly but surely, she battled through.
The first of their children to marry was their eldest son George. In 1988, he married Sylvana Tomaselli. Katharine was on the fence about her new daughter-in-law, but would anyone ever be good enough? Queen Elizabeth II officially gave her consent to the match, but as Sylvana was a Catholic, George would lose his place in the line of succession. Less than a year after the marriage, they welcomed their first child – a son. He was named Edward, and as the eventual heir to the Dukedom, he carried the courtesy title of Lord Downpatrick. Two daughters were also born to them.
Her son Nicholas caused quite some concern as he reportedly suffered from an eating disorder, which Katharine found particularly hard to bear. Her daughter Helen was the second to be married in 1992. She married Timothy Taylor with the consent of The Queen. They went on to have four children.
Katharine was received into the Catholic Church on 14 January 1994, a wish that had been growing for more than 30 years. She later said in an interview, “I do love guidelines, and the Catholic Church offers you guidelines. I have always wanted that in my life: I like to know what is expected of me. I like being told: ‘You shall go to church on Sunday, and, if not, you’re in for it.'”3 In 1996, a new health challenge presented itself when Katharine was diagnosed with ME or chronic fatigue syndrome.4 She was also diagnosed with possibly having coeliac disease, which could also account for her exhaustion as she was not properly absorbing food.5
By the late 90s, Katharine and Edward’s children were all grown up, and they basically lived separate lives with separate agendas and hobbies. The Duchess began to slowly retreat from her royal life and even took up a regular job, working as a music teacher in Hull. During her time there, she was known as “Mrs Kent” or “Katharine Kent.” She later 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.”6 Katharine briefly left teaching and launched a music charity called Future Talent, which helps children to develop their musical talent. Then, she reportedly returned to teaching for children who lived in Grenfell Tower.
As she turns 90, The Duchess of Kent has become the oldest living member of the British royal family, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
- The Duchess of Kent: the troubled life of Katharine Worsley by Mary Riddell p.156
- The Duchess of Kent: the troubled life of Katharine Worsley by Mary Riddell p.160
- The Duchess of Kent: the troubled life of Katharine Worsley by Mary Riddell p.269
- Herald Scotland
- The Duchess of Kent: the troubled life of Katharine Worsley by Mary Riddell p.362
- Huffington Post
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