Yorkshire’s own Royal wedding stirs golden memories

The Duke and Duchess at the Hovingham Hall reception following their wedding on June 8, 1961.
The Duke and Duchess at the Hovingham Hall reception following their wedding on June 8, 1961.
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Many of the millions who watched Prince William take his vows with Kate Middleton recently would not have been born when the Duke and Duchess of Kent tied the knot.

So they may be unaware that the momentous occasion prompted just as much goodwill and excitement when the happy couple were married in Yorkshire 50 years ago.

But thanks to a new exhibition, visitors to Hovingham Hall will have a peek behind the scenes of Yorkshire’s own Royal wedding.

The exhibition celebrates the golden wedding anniversary of the Duke and Duchess of Kent.

As well as memorabilia, it features the images of the leading photographer of the day, Cecil Beaton, who captured the scene in detail at York Minster where Katherine Worsley, who grew up in the family home at Hovingham, married the Queen’s cousin on June 8, 1961, in what became known as the White Rose wedding.

Visitors to the North Yorkshire stately home will be able to see the yellow and white page boy outfit worn by her nephew, William Worsley, as well as photographs which have previously been unseen by the public.

“I was just four years old at the time,” recalled Mr Worsley, who now lives at the hall with his wife, Marie-Noelle, and their family. “But I do remember coming back by car to Hovingham from the Minster through the villages, such as Sutton-on-the-Forest and Stillington, and being told by my nanny to keep waving to the crowds.”

He also remembered the sound and sight of the state trumpeters at the Minster.

The young Mr Worsley was one of three page boys who accompanied the bridal party which also had eight bridesmaids.

One of his fellow page-boys was Edward Beckett, now Lord Grimthorpe.

“It was a very important event for Yorkshire because it was the first Royal wedding York Minster had seen since 1328 when Edward III was married there,” said Mr Worsley.

It was hailed as the day the new Duchess took the entire British Royal Family, headed by the Queen, back to her ancestral home at Hovingham, together with many foreign sovereigns, among them ex-King Constantine of Greece and the King and Queen of Spain, and Prince Harald of Norway, now the country’s king.

Mr Worsley, 54, said: “It had been widely expected that the wedding would be at Westminster Abbey but Sir William Worsley, my grandfather, had spoken privately to the Dean of the Minster, Eric Milner-White, about the possibility of it being at York Minster.

“It was a wonderful achievement and occasion when it did come to York.”

The wedding had been watched by some 25 million people on television.

The Duchess, a regular visitor to Hovingham, is expected to see the exhibition when she comes to Ryedale during the festival.

There is little doubt in Mr Worsley’s mind that the wedding of five decades ago caused just as much excitement as the recent Royal wedding.

“There was as much excitement then, 50 years ago, as there was this year,” he said.

“There were huge crowds and for a period after the wedding Hovingham became a major tourist attraction. It really put it on the map. There were huge crowds at York and some crowds lining the streets between York and Hovingham.

“There was a huge outpouring of goodwill. The Queen got married in 1947 so there had not been a Royal wedding for a very long time. I think a lot of people, particularly of a slightly older generation remember Yorkshire’s Royal wedding very well. They are particularly fond of the Duchess of Kent, a particularly special person. It is 50 years so we thought it would be fun to mark it.”