How This Royal Lived Incognito for 13 Years

This is kinda crazy.

Duchess of Kent
(Image credit: Photo by P. Shirley / Getty)

When you think "royal life," you immediately think palaces, diamond tiaras, and pampered corgis, but for one member of the Royal Family, it looked more like blackboards, chalk, and rows of desks for a while.

Katharine, the Duchess of Kent, is married to the Queen's cousin Prince Edward, and was a working royal from her marriage in 1961 to 2002, when she decided to step back from her royal duties and take on a more relatable occupation: For 13 years, she taught music to elementary school kids in Hull, in her native county of Yorkshire.

"I was just known as Mrs Kent," she said in an interview with the Telegraph's royal reporter Camilla Tominey.

"Only the head knew who I was," she continued. "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.

"Why I don’t know, but it just did. I taught children from the youngest possible age right until the end of primary school."

Katharine was clearly a natural at teaching. She recalled, "I took them out into the town of Hull. I had a little choir and they sang in the hospital. A lot of the children came from single-parent families and very deprived areas.

"It was very, very rewarding because even children from really tough backgrounds—the music did such wonderful things. It really did. They would get up and sing solos. I don't remember a child ever saying they didn't want to do their music."

The royal, who was based in London the whole time, would travel to Hull by train to teach on Fridays, and return home the same day.

And the Queen made it easy for her: "There was nothing that I felt I wanted to hide away from," Katharine said. "It was just something that happened in my life. I was always—I wouldn’t say proud of it, but I was glad I did it. I was supported through it as well. The Queen said: 'Yes, go and do it,' so I did."


Iris Goldsztajn
Morning Editor

Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based journalist, editor and author. She is the morning editor at Marie Claire, and her work has appeared in the likes of British Vogue, InStyle, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29 and SELF. Iris writes about everything from celebrity news and relationship advice to the pitfalls of diet culture and the joys of exercise. She has many opinions on Harry Styles, and can typically be found eating her body weight in cheap chocolate.