Tennis: Duchess stays silent on Royal Box `snub'

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SEEING THAT Jana Novotna has retired, there is no reciprocal shoulder for the Duchess of Kent to cry on after being told not to invite children, other than her own, to the Royal Box at Wimbledon, "as they exclude other worthy people from attending".

But the Duchess has influential connections at the All England Club. Her husband is the president, and the Queen is the patron; neither of whom, it may be added, generates more warmth among players and spectators on the Centre Court than the Duchess herself.

As a member of the All England Club, the Duchess would be able to buy tickets for seats elsewhere on the Centre Court should she decide to boycott the Royal Box, having been refused permission to invite the son of a friend there during this year's championships.

Yesterday, the Duchess was keeping her views on the subject to herself. "It's a matter for the All England Lawn Tennis Club," a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said.

John Curry, the Wimbledon chairman, said: "I wrote a personal letter to Her Royal Highness on behalf of the committee to thank her for her wonderful support of the championships during my 10 years as chairman.

"As happens every year with all our royal guests, I reconfirmed out guidelines concerning the invitation of additional guests and the subject of children. No royal has been limited to one guest in the past or will be in the future. Because of demand for space in the Royal Box, we also ask that, apart from children of the royal family, children are not invited as they exclude other worthy people from attending, many of whom contribute to tennis.

"I regret any unintentional hurt this may have caused Her Royal Highness."