Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester, Makes Royal History Today


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Today, Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester will make royal history when she joins the Order of the Garter.

King Charles appointed the Duchess as a Royal Lady Companion, making her the first married-in member of the royal family—who wasn't married to the monarch or the heir to the throne—to join the Order.

It's a big deal for the working royal, who has largely remained under the radar. Here, five facts to know about Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester:

1. She was born Birgitte Eva van Deurs Henriksen in Denmark.

Birgitte, born in June 1946, is the daughter of Asger Preben Wissing Henriksen and Vivian van Deurs; she grew up in Odense, Denmark. When her parents separated, she started going by her mom's last name, van Deurs.

2. She met her husband, Prince Richard, in Cambridge.

royalty prince richard of gloucester and birgitte van deurs wedding barnwell
Prince Richard of Gloucester and Birgitte van Deurs on their wedding day.PA Images - Getty Images

Birgitte met Prince Richard in 1966 while they were both at Cambridge; she was studying in a language program while he was getting his degree in architecture. They got engaged six years later, in February 1972, with the permission of Queen Elizabeth.

As the New York Times reported at the time, "Prince Richard of Gloucester, 27 year‐old cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, will marry a 25 year‐old Danish secretary, Miss Birgitte van Deurs, this summer. The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester announced the engagement at Kensington Palace today and declared themselves 'simply delighted' with the young woman their son had chosen to be his bride. She is a commoner —the daughter of a lawyer—who has studied languages in this country and has been working as a secretary in the Danish Embassy in London since 1970."

Richard and Birgitte married St. Andrew's Parish Church, Barnwell, Northamptonshire in July 1972.

3. She became Duchess of Gloucester in 1974.

prince richard, duke of gloucester and birgitte, the danish born duchess of gloucester strolling outside barnwell manor, december 20, 1978 photo by ben martingetty images
The new Duke and Duchess outside Barnwell Manor, December 20, 1978.Ben Martin

Just six weeks after their wedding, Prince Richard's older brother, Prince William of Gloucester, unexpectedly died in a flying accident—putting Richard in line to inherit his father's Dukedom. So when Prince Henry, Richard's father, died in 1972, Birgitte became the Duchess of Gloucester.

4. She's passionate about her charity work.

service of thanksgiving for the duke of edinburgh
Birgitte in 2022.Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images

"Charity work in Great Britain is a tradition. I don’t think I have a friend who has not involved him or herself somehow or other. How far back this tradition goes, I am not sure—it is one of the major aspects which makes me very proud to be British," she said, per the royal family's official website. "There is another facet to voluntary work which I think is very important, and that is the sense of fulfilment and reward in the knowledge of the value of your contribution as a volunteer."

She's patron of over 60 organizations, including the Lawn Tennis Association, the Friends of St Paul's Cathedral, Hope for Youth Northern Ireland, and Scottish Opera.

5. She has three children and six grandchildren.

christening of lady rose
The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester with their family, 1980.Tim Graham - Getty Images

Since her husband is the grandson of King George V and Queen Mary, their children use the last name Windsor. They have three kids: Alexander Windsor, the Earl of Ulster; Lady Davina Windsor; and Lady Rose Windsor.

The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, as senior working members of the royal family, regularly appear for major royal events, but their children and grandchildren are not working members of the royal family.

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