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The Duke of Kent marked a huge change on Sunday as he stepped down from his most long-standing royal duty. The Duke was honoured Oldie First-Time Author of the Year, by Hugo Vickers

Blog | By Hugo Vickers | Apr 16, 2024

The Duke and Duchess of Kent with Karen Jankel and her original Paddington Bear

The Duke of Kent

First Time Author of the Year

by Hugo Vickers

The Duke of Kent marked a huge change on Sunday as he stepped down from one of his most long-standing royal duties. Queen Elizabeth II's cousin attended the Scots Guards Black Sunday in his last engagement as Colonel of the Scots Guard, a role he held for an incredible 50 years.

After a lifetime of service, the Duke of Kent wrote his memoirs this year, aged 86. By Hugo Vickers

The Duke of Kent became a first-time author in April at the age of 86. His book, A Royal Life, has been reprinted twice and there are now 12,000 copies out in the world.

I had the privilege of collaborating with him on this, and it is the first time that a book of oral history has been published with the Royal Family copiously quoted, somewhat on the lines of George Plimpton’s books on Edie Sedgwick and Truman Capote. Different voices move the story forward. The Duke’s voice is predominant, but we also hear from the Duchess, Princess Alexandra, Prince Michael, his three children and his three maternal cousins.

This year also saw the Duke take part in his first podcast, released on Remembrance Sunday. This was part of the Commonwealth Poetry Podcast of Gyles and Aphra Brandreth, and celebrates the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, of which the Duke has been President since 1970.

The Duke joined the Queen on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in June, as the columns marched back up the Mall after the Birthday Parade. When they came out, she asked him if he was going to salute. He said he was. ‘Well, don’t knock my hat off,’ said the Queen.

Having walked in the funeral procession of King George VI in February 1952, the Duke and his brother Prince Michael were on parade walking behind the Queen’s coffin in Westminster Abbey and at the Committal Service in St George’s Chapel in September.

His has been a remarkable life of service. He has been a duke for a record 80 years after his father was killed in a plane crash in 1942 in RAF service. Never seeking the limelight, he defined his role as supporting the Queen in whatever way he could. He undertook many independence ceremonies in the 1960s, and was sometimes called home from his tank in Germany to greet a state visitor. He was the mainstay of Wimbledon for many years and, having succeeded his mother, Princess Marina, as President of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in 1969, has made it his business to visit as many of the lifeboat stations as possible. He still has a few to tick off the list.

He still has plenty of ‘snap in his celery’ and looks forward to continuing to serve the new King, his cousin, in whatever way he can.