Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester, GCVO (born Birgitte Eva Henriksen on 20 June 1946; later van Deurs), is the wife of Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who is a grandson of King George V and Queen Mary, and first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.
Birgitte was born Birgitte Eva Henriksen, in Odense, Denmark, the younger daughter of Asger Preben Knud Wissing Henriksen, a lawyer, and his wife, Vivian van Deurs, a Dutch woman. After their divorce, her father married Emma Neergaard Rasmussen, the future wife of magnate Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller.
She took her mother’s ancestral name van Deurs on 15 January 1966, when her parents separated. She moved to Cambridge, England, and also worked at the Danish Embassy in London.
In February 1972, Birgitte became engaged to Prince Richard of Gloucester, the younger son of Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. The groom designed her coral and silver engagement ring. Their marriage took place on 8 July 1972 at St Andrew’s Church, Barnwell, Northamptonshire. The bride’s wedding dress was designed by Norman Hartnell. At that time, she was styled Her Royal Highness Princess Richard of Gloucester. Six weeks after their wedding, Prince Richard’s elder brother, Prince William, was killed in a flying accident. Prince Richard unexpectedly became heir apparent to the dukedom and upon his father’s death in 1974, the couple became the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.
The couple have three children and six grandchildren:
Alexander Patrick Gregers Richard Windsor, Earl of Ulster, born in 24 October 1974 at St Mary’s Hospital in London. He married Claire Alexandra Windsor, Countess of Ulster (née Claire Alexandra Booth on 29 December 1977 at St Mary’s Hospital in London) on 22 June 2002. The couple have two children:
Xan Richard Anders Windsor, Lord Culloden (born 12 March 2007)
Lady Cosima Rose Alexandra Windsor (born 20 May 2010)
Lady Davina Elizabeth Alice Benedikte Lewis (née Windsor), born 19 November 1977. She married Gary Christie Lewis (born 25 August 1970) on 31 July 2004. The couple have two children:
Senna Kowhai Lewis (born 22 June 2010)
Tāne Mahuta Lewis (born 25 May 2012)
Lady Rose Victoria Birgitte Louise Gilman (née Windsor), born 1 March 1980. She married George Gilman (born 20 September 1981) on 19 July 2008. The couple have two children:
Lyla Beatrix Christabel Gilman (born 30 May 2010)
Rufus Frederick Montagu Gilman (born 2 November 2012)
The Duchess of Gloucester has accompanied the Duke of Gloucester on his official visits overseas: her first visit was in 1973, when they represented the Queen at the 70th birthday celebrations of King Olav V of Norway. Other joint visits have included Australia, Belgium, China, Denmark, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Luxembourg, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Tonga, Tunisia and the United States.
Birgitte has also travelled overseas in support of her own patronages and military units, including a visit to Iraq in December 2008.
She and her husband represented the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the state funeral of King Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV of Tonga on 19 September 2006. They also represented the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the coronation of King George Tupou V of Tonga on 1 August 2008 in Nukuʻalofa.
Birgitte is sponsor of two Royal Navy ships: HMS Gloucester and HMS Sandown. She is also the Royal Patron of the Bermuda Regiment. She is patron of Bliss, the special care baby charity, and also of St Paul’s Cathedral School; St John’s School, Leatherhead; and Bridewell Royal Hospital (King Edward’s School, Witley) and regularly attends functions at all three schools, as well as the Royal Alexandra and Albert School, of which she is president.
After the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, Birgitte became President of the Royal Academy of Music. She is also the patron of Prostate Cancer UK. In March 2006, she opened the Prostate Centre.
The Duke and Duchess live in London at Kensington Palace, their official royal residence