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Duchess of Kent’s secret double life: ‘Most important thing I do!’

Duchess of Kent discusses working as a teacher in 2011

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The Duchess is married to Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, who is the Queen’s first cousin. She decided to ditch her “Her Royal Highness” titles nearly two decades ago and reduce her royal duties. Since then, she has largely stayed away from public life, but still appears at some major events including the wedding of Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, as well as the concert at Buckingham Palace during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Katharine, strongly associated with the world of music, has performed as a member of several choirs and was the focus of BBC One’s Real Story in 2004.

The throwback interview with now-Question Time host Fiona Bruce details the “most meaningful part of her working life”.

Katharine, 65 at the time, had been teaching at a primary school in Hull, East Yorkshire, for seven years.

Her true identity was kept secret from the children for years and she never revealed where she worked until the interview with the BBC, meaning she could do a job she loved in peace.

Ms Bruce explained that she was struck by just how “normal” Katherine was.

She wrote: “Yes, she’s related to the Queen, has a house in the grounds of Kensington Palace and the kind of roster of charities you associate with royalty.

“But she also uses public transport, goes to the supermarket, knows who’s in the Top Ten and shops at Zara.”

While DJ Casper’s Cha Cha Slide topped the singles charts at the time of the interview, Katharine hoped to inspire her pupils.

She told Ms Bruce: “I absolutely love it. I think more and more that it is the most important thing I do.

“And primary children are like little sponges. They really want to learn, so teaching them is very satisfying.

“It’s a privilege. To me it’s one of the most exciting jobs anyone can do.”

Teaching a class of nine-year-olds proved a breeze for Katharine, as she asked them to wave their hands about in the air, sparking a sea of giggles and wiggling limbs.

Music has always played a huge part in Katharine’s life.

As a schoolgirl, she was taught to play the piano, organ and violin, which she still plays today.

She later attended Miss Hubler’s Finishing School in Oxford, where she focused on music.

Music, in her opinion, offers something to everyone, and can help children thrive, regardless of their background.

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She told Ms Bruce that music was being wrongly overlooked: “It gives them dreams and aspirations.

“It’s a wonderful cross-curricular activity and I can’t think of a subject in the school curriculum that music doesn’t cover.

“History, geography, arithmetic, command of English ‒ every song is a poem.”

She explained music can massively improve children’s confidence, notably through being taught to stand tall when singing and performing.

In a 2011 interview with the Daily Mail, Katharine added to this: “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.”

She added it would be “wonderful” to see one of the arts subjects being made compulsory at GCSE level.

Katharine showed tremendous care and affection for her class, but, Ms Bruce added, there was “no question who’s in charge”.

One pupil later said: “I think she was a really good teacher, but she wasn’t how I expected — I expected her to look more royal and wear a crown and look a bit like the Queen.”

In fact, it was quite the opposite. The Duchess was wearing a black waistcoat and trousers with “trendy black-and-white trainers”.

In total, Katharine was involved with the school for 13 years. 

She has launched music charity Future Talent in recent years, which aims to help gifted musicians pursue their dreams.

Despite hanging up her teaching boots, she returned to the profession in 2017 at the age of 85 to teach the children of those who lived at Grenfell Tower.

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