Who Is the Duke of Kent, Who Joined Queen Elizabeth on the Palace Balcony at Trooping the Colour?

Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent was also the Queen's sole companion at Trooping the Colour last year

Queen Elizabeth had just one companion with her when she made her first appearance of her Platinum Jubilee weekend: her first cousin Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent.

The 96-year-old monarch appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony on Thursday to take the official salute accompanied by the Duke of Kent, who was dressed in his military uniform. He also joined the bigger group of working royals when they came out onto the balcony later to watch the flypast by the Royal Air Force.

The outing also marked the first time the Queen has appeared on the balcony during Trooping the Colour without her beloved husband, Prince Philip, by her side. The Duke of Edinburgh died last year at the age of 99.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Trooping the Colour parade
Queen Elizabeth II and her cousin Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, celebrate her Platinum Jubilee in June, 2022. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The Duke of Kent, 86, is the son of Prince George, the fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary and the younger brother of King George VI (Queen Elizabeth's father). His mother, Princess Marina, is royalty in her own right — before her marriage, she was Princess of Greece and Denmark. Princess Marina's mother was Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia, a granddaughter of Emperor Alexander II of Russia.

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Prince Edward became the Duke of Kent at age 7, inheriting the title after his father died in a wartime flying accident in 1942.

Queen Elizabeth II (C) stands with members of the Royal family to watch a special flypast from Buckingham Palace balcony following the Queen's Birthday Parade, the Trooping the Colour
Trooping the Colour 2022. DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images

The Duke of Kent served in the armed forces for over two decades.

According to the royal family's official website, he "is involved with over 140 different charities, organisations and professional bodies which cover a wide range of issues, from commemorating the war dead, to fostering the development of British technology and industry. His Royal Highness undertakes numerous engagements each year in support of these organisations, both in the UK and across the Commonwealth."

Queen Elizabeth II Trooping The Colour - The Queen's Birthday Parade
Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Kent. Tim Rooke/Shutterstock

Last year, the Duke of Kent was Queen Elizabeth's sole companion at a scaled-down Trooping the Colour event amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was no surprise the Queen looked to family — if only a single member — the event marked the Queen's first Trooping the Colour following the death of her husband Prince Philip, who retired from royal duties in 2017 and skipped the public birthday festivities in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

"She has an enormous amount of family support for her and will also take comfort from the enormity of the support from all over the world," Charles Anson, former press secretary to the Queen, told PEOPLE.

Trooping the Colour
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent.

The Duke of Kent is also a regular at Wimbledon, appearing alongside Kate Middleton in recent years. Last year, he announced that he would be stepping down as President of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club after over 50 years in the position, a role that now belongs to Kate.

The Duke of Kent and his wife Katharine, Duchess of Kent live at Wren House in Kensington Palace, which is also the London home of Prince William and Kate with their three children as well as other royals.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

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Although Trooping the Colour takes place each year in June to publicly celebrate the Queen's birthday, this year it serves an extra special purpose: as the kickoff event to the monarch's Platinum Jubilee festivities, marking the Queen's 70 years on the throne.

The long weekend of events will continue later with the lighting of around 3,000 beacons across the U.K. — led by the Tree of Trees outside Buckingham Palace — and on Friday with a Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral.

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