Duke of Kent celebrated his 84th birthday in a Polish house

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent is the grandson of King George V, who ruled the British Empire that expanded to over 36 million square kilometres at the time of Prince Edward birth. Being a grandson of the British monarch in the male line, he is the “Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” and “His Royal Highness”. His father and father of Queen Elizabeth II were brothers.

Duke’s wife, Katherine Worsley, Duchess of Kent, converted to Catholicism in 1994, but her conversion did not interfere with Prince Edward’s right to inherit the British throne (the wife changed her religion after marriage, which, according to the Act of Settlement of 1701 does not affect the order of succession – editor’s note).

After the war, the Duke’s parents offered shelter at their Coppins estate in Iver, Buckinghamshire, to the Polish noble family of Koziell-Poklewski. It was the beginning of a great friendship between both families. Vincent, one of two sons, became a close friend of the young prince, as they grew up together. Since then, the Prince and his siblings, Prince Michael, and Princess Aleksandra have liked Poles and Poland very much.

The Duke of Kent visited Poland several times taking part in various ceremonies. He was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland for his work on the Polish-British relations. He is a chairman of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, a leading charity for RAF ex-servicemen. He likes to pay visits to one of the oldest Polish restaurants in London – Daquise, to satisfy his taste for Polish dishes he has been familiar with since childhood. He is also a regular guest to the ‘Ognisko’ – the Polish Hearth Club in London’s South Kensington. The ‘Ognisko’ was opened by his parents on July 16, 1940, and the Duke is the club’s patron.

With great pleasure, the British Poles received the invitation to celebrate the Duke’s birthday. The celebrations took place in the beautiful London-Ealing princely palace of Jan Żyliński, one of the leading Polish businessmen in the UK.

Members of the royal family, numerous representatives of the aristocracy, activists of the Polish diaspora and Duke’s closest friends were among the guests.

The host prepared an admirable artistic program greatly appreciated by Duke of Kent and his guests. The first artistic surprise came when ballerina Desiree, Jan Zylinski’s lifelong partner.

She performed “Dying Swan” from the Tchaikowsky “Swan Lake” ballet to the admiration of all guests present. You can watch it here.

A fashion show prepared by the famous designer Malan Breton was another focus of attention. The show was organised by Rebecca Riofrio, director of the Parliamentary Society for Arts, Fashion, and Sport. The models made a great impression on the male audience, whereas beautiful dresses delighted the female guests.

The celebrations were concluded with the unveiling of the Duke of Kent portrait painted by Elijah Dyrow, the 25-year-old Polish artist who came from Kyiv, Ukraine. His family had returned to Poland 8 years ago as a result of the repatriation program organised by the Polish government. Elijah now lives in Rzeszów and came to London to unveil the portrait. He told the British Poles how happy and proud he had been participating in such an important Polish-British event. The portrait was commissioned by Jerzy Byczynski, the senior.

A delicious birthday cake with the “Happy Birthday Edward, Duke of Kent” wishes written in chocolate was ordered and arrived from Poland. Jan Żyliński prepared for the Duke the famous sabre of his cavalryman-father (his monument “The Golden Rider” was erected  a couple of years ago in Kałuszyn near Warsaw – editor’s note) to cut the first piece of cake.

Basia Hamilton, the famous London portraitist carefully looked after the good reception spirit. She has been in charge of the cultural life of the Polish diaspora for years.

The Duke was very touched by Polish hospitality, the warm atmosphere of the reception, all the birthday wishes, delicious dinner, speeches, flowers, memories, discussions, photos and surprises.

It was a memorable evening and we can be proud it took place in the Polish home. All guests sang traditional Polish and English birthday songs, “100 years” and “Happy Birthday”, for the Duke. Members of the royal family, numerous representatives of the aristocracy, activists of the Polish diaspora and Duke’s closest friends were among the guests.

On behalf of the British Poles and our readers, we wish the Duke “100 years!”

Maria Byczynski

Photos: Barbara Hamilton and British Poles

Translation: Jolanta Pitera