Duchess of Kent Flouts 300-Year Tradition, Becomes Catholic

<i> Reuters</i>

The Duchess of Kent became the first member of Britain’s royal family to convert to Catholicism in more than 300 years Friday, going against an 18th-Century law forbidding members of the monarchy from becoming Catholic.

The duchess was the first British royal to convert since King Charles II, who turned to Catholicism on his deathbed in 1685.

The 45-minute ceremony was carried out by Cardinal Basil Hume, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain, in a private ceremony at Archbishop’s House near Parliament.


Britain’s monarch, Queen Elizabeth, is the head of the Church of England, created in the 16th Century after Henry VIII broke with Rome so that he could divorce and remarry, and the duchess needed special permission to leave the church.

The duchess, 60, was accompanied by her husband, the Duke of Kent, Edward, who is 18th in line to Queen Elizabeth’s throne, and their three children.

The duchess’s switch to Catholicism sparked fresh reports that Princess Diana was considering becoming Catholic, even though she has been reported as saying there is about as much chance of her becoming a Buddhist or a Muslim.