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January 13, 2021

She showed us that when we confront our humanity, we reveal the true pearl inside

What if something so terrible happens to you that you don’t know how to move forward? Oysters teach us that no matter what your challenges, if you acknowledge them instead of ignoring them, you will eventually find the pearl inside. We believe that people are like oysters, and that we can channel our difficulties and obstacles in such a way that we take an ordinary – and sometimes not so ordinary – life and turn it into a pearlescent legacy. In honor of this unique human quality, we are publishing a series looking at women who have lived their lives like pearls. This is another installment of the Living like a Pearl series. Find the other stories here.


As a royal, you are considered a cut above the rest of society. But life does not discriminate when it hands out pain. And looking at the story of someone like Katharine, Duchess of Kent, it is in a sense ironic, for it seems that when she came face-to-face with her humanity, not her royalty, was when she found true joy – and perhaps could best serve the lofty title of royal.


Katharine who? You may ask. After all, there is only one Catharine on everyone’s lips lately. But this lady, though she has been living out of the public eye of late, is no less remarkable. Born Katharine Worsley, she married Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent and the current queen’s first cousin, on June 8, 1961, becoming the Duchess of Kent.


In 1975, Katharine had to have an abortion after contracting measles while pregnant. Just two years later, she gave birth to a stillborn son. Speaking years later, she says that the whole ordeal had a devastating effect on her, and that she had no idea the effect such a thing could have on a woman – that she fell into an acute depression afterward. She threw herself into royal duties to deal with the pain, but it brought little relief.


A friend was the one who helped her move forward by offering her the very reassuring words that she should not try to push her pain away, but acknowledge it. And much like an oyster acknowledges the grain of sand inside and turns it into a pearl, so Katharine managed to find her own joy and meaning when she withdrew from royal life and sought a job as a music teacher in Hull, where she taught for years and became known simply as ‘Mrs. Kent’ or ‘Katharine Kent’. So quiet a life did she undertake that she could even take public transport without being recognized. And it seems she managed to make a real difference in the lives of her students: “Some of the children I’ve 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.” After leaving the teaching job in Hull, she went on to start a music charity, Future Talent, which helps gifted children develop their musical talents.


Today she and her husband live at Kensington Palace in Wren House, neighbors to the young royals Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank. But even more revealing of who she is, is the fact that she went back to teaching in 2018. Not many details of the job were revealed, only that some of her students were victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy who lost their homes, friends and family in the blaze. And one thing was clear: it is only a pearl of a woman who each morning leaves her comfortable palace home at the age of 85 to teach young students a skill that will empower them for life.