Duchess of Cambridge moves into spotlight as Queen's older cousins step back

·Royal Correspondent
·5 min read

Watch: Kate watches women's final at Wimbledon after period of self-isolation

As a young monarch, the Queen enlisted several of her cousins to help her carry out royal duties and navigate her public life.

But almost 70 years after she acceded to the throne, those cousins appear to be taking steps back, allowing the younger royals to step more into the spotlight.

At the close of the Wimbledon 2021 tournament, the Duke of Kent, one of the Queen's cousins, announced he would be stepping back as the president of the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) after decades of representing the iconic London venue.

It paves the way for the Duchess of Cambridge, who has been working alongside him there, to take on a starring role.

Since becoming its patron in 2016, the duchess has been a visible part of the annual Wimbledon fortnight, meeting ballgirls and boys each year, and helping present the trophies to the winners on finals weekend.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 11: Novak Djokovic of Serbia is presented with the trophy by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent after winning his men's Singles Final match against Matteo Berrettini of Italy on Day Thirteen of The Championships - Wimbledon 2021 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 11, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Steven Paston - Pool/Getty Images)
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent presented Novak Djokovic with the trophy after he won the men's Singles Final match against Matteo Berrettini. It was his last trophy presentation. (Steven Paston - Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 10: Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and HRH Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge after the Ladies' Singles Final match between Ashleigh Barty of Australia and Karolina Pliskova of The Czech Republic  on Day Twelve of The Championships - Wimbledon 2021 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 10, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by AELTC/Ian Walton - Pool/Getty Images)
Kate is already the patron and there are no plans to directly replace the duke, according to reports. (AELTC/Ian Walton - Pool/Getty Images)

Players have been delighted to meet the tennis-loving royal, and she's forged friendships with greats like Roger Federer and Andy Murray, who she enlisted to surprise young players during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is no immediate plan to replace the duke, 85, but it's reported she will absorb his duties, meaning Kate will be the sole royal on the courts for trophy presentations.

The announcement of the increased role for the Duchess of Cambridge came soon after another royal cousin handover, as Princess Alexandra passed over one of her roles to Sophie, the Countess of Wessex.

Princess Alexandra, the younger sister of the Duke of Kent, opened a new Guide Dogs centre in Bristol with Sophie, and passed on her patronage of the institution.

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, stands next to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, as she holds the trophy before presenting it to Novak Djokovic of Serbia after he defeated Roger Federer of Switzerland in the Men's Singles Final on Centre Court during the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club at Wimbledon on July 14, 2019 in London, England.
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, next to the Duchess of Cambridge, as she holds the trophy before presenting it to Novak Djokovic in 2019. (Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 14: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge meet ballboys and ballgirls  (right to left) Tom Hubner, 15, Rhianne Black, 14, Kayleigh Man, 13 and Cassius Hayman, 15, ahead of the Men's Singles Final on day thirteen of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon on July 14, 2019, in London, England. (Photo by Victoria Jones - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Duchess of Cambridge took her husband, the Duke of Cambridge, to meet ballboys and ballgirls at the 2019 championships. (Victoria Jones - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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Alexandra is 84 years old and despite the fact she is still a working member of the Royal Family, she has not carried out as many duties over the last year.

In the last year she is mentioned in the Court Circular, which records the senior royal's duties, just four times, and one of those is Prince Philip's funeral.

That's down from 22 mentions from the same period of mid-July 2019 to mid-July 2020. 

Watch: Duke of Edinburgh's death 'left a giant-sized hole in our lives', says Sophie

Sophie, 56, previously said she did not think she could fit more work into her schedule, but the decision to add to her patronages may be viewed as another sign of her rise in the royal ranks.

She has been increasingly visible in the royal realm, through the family's social media pages and in interviews, first after the step back of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and then after the death of Prince Philip.

Guide Dogs happens to fit well for the countess too, as she already represents several charities to do with blindness or visual impairment.

The handovers also show a shifting dynamic within the Royal Family, as the focus and the workload moves to the Queen's descendants.

BRISTOL, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 07: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Sophie, Countess of Wessex looks on as Princess Alexandra signs the visitor's book during a visit to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association to open their new south west regional centre and celebrate the charity's 90th anniversary on July 7, 2021 in Bristol, England. During the visit Princess Alexandra, who has been patron the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association since 1954, formally handed over the patronage to Sophie, Countess of Wessex. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Sophie, Countess of Wessex with Princess Alexandra as she signs the visitor's book during a visit to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in July 2021 in Bristol. (Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 07: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Sophie, Countess of Wessex (wearing a face mask) meets a guide dog puppy in training as she visits the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association to open their new south west regional centre and celebrate the charity's 90th anniversary on July 7, 2021 in Bristol, England. During the visit Princess Alexandra, who has been patron the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association since 1954, formally handed over the patronage to Sophie, Countess of Wessex. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Sophie with a guide dog puppy in training. The countess already represents charities associated with vision and blindness. (Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

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While Sophie previously laughed off the idea of a 'magnificent seven' of working royals, there is a focus on the direct line to the throne, now that it has been filled out as Charles, Anne, and Edward have grown up.

Kate's increased role in Wimbledon even sees an end to a longstanding link between the Kents and the SW19 event, as the Duke of Kent took over from his mother, Princess Marina.

She had taken over from her husband after his sudden death in a plane crash. 

But now the tournament and its grounds will be associated with the Cambridges, not the Kents, and if the reports of Prince George's blossoming tennis skills are accurate, then it could stay there for a long time to come.

While the Queen had to branch out sideways for support, there are now plenty of royals in her direct line to help out.

Most of her grandchildren are not working royals, with Harry and Meghan opting out of the system, while Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and their cousins Lady Louise Windsor, James the Viscount Severn, Zara and Peter Phillips, have never been on the family payroll. 

Heir to the throne Prince Charles has long been reported to want to slim down the monarchy.

Slowly but surely, that may now be happening.

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