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Wednesday, September 22, 1999 Published at 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK


Wimbledon chief says sorry to duchess

The duchess (front row) is a regular at Wimbledon

Wimbledon tennis chief John Curry has apologised to the Duchess of Kent after forbidding non-royal children from the royal box - but he is standing by the ban.

The duchess, 66, a long-time supporter of the All England Club, was said to be considering boycotting the royal enclosure following a letter from Mr Curry. She was also reported to be "deeply hurt" by the letter.

Mr Curry, 61, said: "I regret any unintentional hurt this may have caused Her Royal Highness."

Explaining the letter, he said he had written to thank her for her years of support at Wimbledon.

He said he had also "reconfirmed our guidelines concerning the invitation of additional guests and the subject of children".

'Children are not invited'

Mr Curry, who steps down as chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in December, explained the thinking behind the ban.

"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," he said.

[ image: The duchess is said to be
The duchess is said to be "deeply hurt"
However he denied reports that he had restricted the number of the duchess's guests to one each day.

"No royal has been limited to one guest in the past or will be in the future," he said.

The duchess, 66, whose husband, the Duke of Kent, has been president of the All England Club for 30 years, is thought to have been upset by an incident at this summer's tournament.

'Royal face of Wimbledon'

She was refused a place in the 75-seat Royal box for the 12-year-old son of a bereaved friend.

The most regular royal attender of Wimbledon, she has become its royal "face". Her presentation of the winners' trophies is an annual tradition.

For the rest of the championships it is thought she may obtain her own tickets for the Centre Court or Court One.

A spokesman for the Duchess of Kent said: "The Duchess has asked me to make clear that she respects the rules and regulations of the All England Lawn Tennis Club with whom she shares a wish to encourage more children and young people to watch and participate in tennis.

"She has also asked me to say that, as in previous years, she is much looking forward to attending next year's championships and the next Davis Cup matches."

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