Princess Pushy: The Fabulous Life of Princess Michael of Kent

She's tall, blonde and striking, married to a handsome prince, a member of The Royal Family. She's also haughty, gaffe (she once complained "The English distrust foreigners, they think the wogs begin at Calais") prone, and been linked to other men. Princess Anne dubbed her 'Princess Pushy' and the Queen once remarked mischievously to her husband's uncle, Lord Mountbatten 'that she sounds a bit grand to us.' Also known amongst the Royal Family as "Our Val" for Valkryie, Princess Margaret's son was said when asked what he would wish on his worst enemy, 'Dinner with Princess Michael of Kent.' The media have dubbed her the "Rent-a-Kents," for their habit of turning up at the opening of an envelope.

Who is this woman that has provoked such a sharp reaction in both the establishment and the media? How did the wife of a minor royal become such a lighting rod for bad behavior in a family where Prince Charles's youngest son once wore the uniform of a Nazi to a costume party (apparently he had no idea why that was such a no-no. And they say that Americans no nothing about history!), and the Duchess of York was caught getting her toes sucked by her financial advisor?

If you go to Princess Michael of Kent's web-site, you can trace her ancestry all the way back to Diane de Poitiers, along with Catherine the Great, Marie Antoinette and William the Conqueror. Quite a family for the former Marie Christine von Reibnitz or to be accurate Baroness Marie Christine Agnes Hedwig Ida von Reibnitz as she was born on January 15, 1945 in Carlsbad which is now part of the Czech Republic. Her mother was an Austro-Hungarian Countess, and her father Baron Gunther Hubertus von Reibnitz.

Her parents split up and her father moved to Mozambique while her mother decamped to Australia with Marie Christine and her younger brother Friedrich, where she ran a hair salon (makes one wonder where Princess Michael picked up her Eurotrash accent!). While growing up in Sydney, the future Princess Michael attended Catholic schools. After graduation, she headed off to Africa to finally get reacquainted with her long absent father. Marie Christine made her way to London where she did a course at the Victoria and Albert Museum and worked as an interior decorator. "Deep down inside me I always hear my mother's words: 900 years of breeding must be worth something."

She met her first husband, banker and Old Etonian, Thomas Troubridge, the younger brother of baronet Sir Peter Troubridge at a boar hunt of all places in Germany. They were married in 1971 and seperated two years later, although they didn't divorce until 1977. The marriage was later annulled in 1978 for undisclosed reasons but Marie-Christine was not allowed communion until she remarried in a Catholic ceremony which she and Prince Michael eventually did in 1983.

In the meantime, Marie Christine met her future second husband, Prince Michael of Kent while hunting (sense a theme?). "I was struck by this tall Austrian lady. I remember we had a long talk about the history of art while sitting in a hut eating sausages,' he has remarked. Her first impression was a little different. 'I just thought he was the funniest man I'd ever met. ' According to Princess Michael, they were friends first given that she was married, and Prince Michael was in another relationship. The prince would 'accidentally' run into her during early-morning rides in Richmond Park before he went to work at the Ministry of Defence. She would flatter his ego and spoil him which none of his English girlfriends had thought to do.

It was apparently that wily old matchmaker Lord Mountbatten who got them together by telling both Prince Michael and Marie Christine that the other was really keen on them, which then sparked their mutual interest. "One day Lord Mountbatten said to Michael, 'By the way, what are you going to do about that young woman?' He answered, 'Why should I do anything?' 'She's madly in love with you', came the reply. Then I too saw Lord Mountbatten and he said: 'What are you going to do about that young man? He's madly in love with you.' For all we knew, he believed it. I don't know but from then on we began to look at each other a little differently."

They married in June 30, 1978 in a civil ceremony in Vienna. Prince Michael had to give up his place in the succession since due to the Act of Succession of 1701 (at the time he was 15th in line for the throne), as no member of the Royal family can marry a Catholic and keep their place in the line of succession (their children Lord Frederick and Lady Gabriella were raised Anglican, and thus are still in the line of succession, although way down on the list, 31 and 32 respectively). Princess Michael has been quite vocal about how in the dark ages the attitude is, "They can marry a Moonie, A Seven-Day Adventist, a Scientologist, A Muslim. " (Okay, I have to agree with her on this one. If the heir to the throne can marry a divorcee that he had a thirty year affair with, I think they can bend and get rid of that Roman Catholic clause.)

Since then, Princess Michael has put her court shoes in her mouth more often than not. She attributes it to the fact that at 6ft tall in her stocking feet, she's hard to miss. Others put it down to her sense of entitlement. One of the first blows was the revelation that Princess Michael of Kent's father had not only been a member of the Nazi party but had also been in the SS, where he held the rank of Sturmbannfuhrer or "Assault Unit Leader" during the Second World War, although she produced papers that proved that he had actually been expelled from the party in 1944 (one wonders what he did to get the Nazi's to kick him out!)

Then there were the charges of plagiarism on her first two books Crowned in a Far Country, and Cupid and the King, which Princess Michael claims wasn't her fault but the fault of one of her researchers who didn't properly right down where the offending passages came from. In another interview, she allegedly claimed that she had more royal blood in her vieins than any person to marry into the royal family since Prince Philip. She's also a cat lover, in a family that adores dogs, particularly corgis. When she once complained about a cat being mauled by a corgi, she was promptly put in her place.

Her most famous moment stuffing those size 11's in her mouth came in 2004 while dining at Da Silvano, a restaurant much favored by celebrities in Greenwich Village. Objecting to the noise level at a table of black diners near hers, she first slammed her hand down on their table and allegedly told them to "Get back to the colonies," as she and her party were moved to another table. One of the women at the table, Nicole Young confronted the Princess about her remark. Prince Michael is reported to have replied "I did not say 'back to the colonies' - I said 'you should remember the colonies.' Back in the days of the colonies there were rules that were very good. You think about it. Just think about it." The New York Post reported that the diners thought that the remark was racist. She subsequently denied the charge. Her later explanation was that she had merely told one of her fellow dinner companions that she would be glad to go back to the colonies in order to escape the noise. In another article, she complained that she couldn't possibly be racist because she had once darkened her skin and pretended to be half-caste while traveling through Africa after a visit to her father.

In September 2005, she was caught on tape complaining about the Royal Family after a News of the World reporter pretendedto be a sheik, gained her confidence while pretending to be a buyer for her home Nether Lypiatt. In her defense, she wasn't the first royal to be caught out this way, Prince Edward's wife, Sophie Wessex too fell into the trapin 2001, which ended her PR career. While most of Princess Michael of Kent's revelations were pretty harmless (calling Princess Diana a 'nasty' and 'bitter' woman, who had been married merely as a 'womb'), it was her defense of Prince Harry for wearing the Swastika that really raised eyebrows. "But I believe that if he had been wearing the Hammer and Sickle there wouldn't have been so much fuss made." Recently Princess Michael has gone on record talking about how much smarter her children are then the other royals, having better education and a better degree than Prince William (Lord Frederick went to Oxford while Lady Ella graduated from Brown).

Princess Michael has a reputation for being someone who cultivates people who can and are willing to be generous in order to have a royal at their table (hence the nickname 'Rent-A-Kents'). She once convinced British Airways to lay on a special plane to ferry her from Manchester airport to London for a private engagement! She has also accepted gifts like a 150,000 pound building plot in Antigua from tycoon Peter de Savary and a 115,000 racehorse from another admirer. Since she and her husband receive no funds from the civil list, they are forced to actually work for a living. Prince Michael has his own consultancy business, and is fluent in several languages with a particular flair for Russian, which is appropriate for someone related to the Romanov's. He also holds several paid directorships with companies in the City. Princess Michael recently took a job as President of Partridge Fine Art, a gallery in New Bond Street. She has also given lectures around the world on various subjects related to her three books, however after her remarks at Da Silvano, there were fewer invites from the lucrative American market. Although they have no official duties, Princess Michael clearly likes to look and travel in royal style. She admits to having had botox which doesn't come cheap.

"I live in the 18th century in my mind," she once told an interviewer. "I see my whole life as a cultivation of taste. " Ah yes, when Royalty lived in splendid palaces, before a little thing called the French revolution! Unfortunately for the Kents, times are different. They were given a grace and favor apartment in Kensington Palace when they married (at various times royals from Princess Diana to Princess Margaret have lived at the Palace). However, in recent years, the public have complained about the fact that the Kents were paying only 67 pounds a week for the flat. The Queen stepped in and agreed to pay 10,000 pounds a month until 2010 by which time the Kents have to find another place to live. They've also had to sell their Cotswolds country estate Nether Lypiatt because of the upkeep, they received almost $11MM for the house.

Rumors about Princess Michael of Kent's marriage to Prince Michael started almost as soon as they were married. In 1985, she was seen leaving the apartment of Texas oil millionaire J. Ward Hunt wearing a rather tragic red wig, and there were rumors of her canoodling in a New York movie theater with Senator John Warner, ex-husband of Elizabeth Taylor. In 2006, she was seen holding hands, kissing, and taking romantic gondola rides with a Russian millionaire Mikhail Kravchenko, who the media were happy to report was 21 years younger, while on a trip to Venice, where they stayed in adjoining $4,000 a night rooms at the 5-star Hotel Cipriani. Princess Michael's explanation was that she holds hands and kisses all her friends, and that they were discussing business.

Until recently, it was assumed that Princess Michael of Kent wore the pants in the family and Prince Michael was just her mild-mannered hen-pecked hubby (shades of Sunny and Tsar Nicholas II who Prince Michael resembles). "She doesn't henpeck him, she lion-claws him," said a close friend. But it appears that still waters run deep. Recently, in the press, he was seen around town with an attractive blonde named Marianne Krex who is 30 years his junior. They even attended the ballet together with Marianne hiding her face from the cameras with her jacket. This isn't the first time that Prince Michael has been seen with a female friend. The ballet dancer Bryony Brind and historian Leonie Frieda are just two of the women he's been seen with without Princess Michael of Kent. Apparently Prince Michael is a regular at Julie's restaurant and bar where he takes many female 'friends. Lucy Weber, an American artist, is shopping around her memoirs, alleging that she and Prince Michael had an affair for 8 years. The artist kept a diary about her lover with such entries as "He loves sex pure, unadulterated. He thinks about it quite a bit during his working hours - loves white suspenders, beige or tan. His sexual senses are keen and he has a vivid imagination." Princess Michael went on the offense immediately, stating that her husband was not having an affair and that it was her idea for him to take Marianne Krex to the ballet. She also labels Lucy Weber as a fantasist.

If it is true, then the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Prince Michael's father, the Duke of Kent, cut a wide swathe through society in the 1920's before his marraige to Princess Marina of Greece. He was alleged to have had affairs with everyone from the black singer Florence Mills to a 19 year affair with Noel Coward, there were even rumors of an illegitimate child, possibly Michael Canfield, Lee Radizwill's first husband. There were also rumors that he was addicted to drugs, cocaine and heroine, and that his cousin, the Prince of Wales used tough love to get him off. Prince Michael's mother, Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, was no slouch in the lover department either, having had affairs (allegedly) with the conductor Sir Malcolm Sargent and the black society pianist Leslie Hutchinson. Prince Michael's niece Lady Helen Taylor was once known by the horrible nickname 'Melons' due to her ample cleavage, and was considered a bit of a party girl during the 1980's. Even Prince Michael's son, Lord Frederick has admitted dabbling in drugs at college.

Of course, it is possible that Prince and Princess Michael are innocent of any infidelity, that the friendships are simply what they say they are. After 30 years of marriage this past June, it is clear that they have come to some kind of understanding and contentment. Whatever the truth, it is clear that Princess Michael likes the perks and privileges that come from being a member of the Royal family, no matter how minor.

Perhaps Princess Michael herself says it best. "They will always have to have a bad girl in the family..but I'm not going to have sleepless nights worrying about what the good citizens of Newcastle are thinking about me."

Sources include:

New York Social Diary
The Independent
The Daily Mail
The New York Post
The Royal Family web-site
Who's Really Who - Compton Miller


Eliza Knight said…
Awesome post! I really enjoyed reading about this bad-girl Princess, and now I kinda want to read her books. I can't believe she plagarized! Crazy... Guess she thinks she could get away with it, huh?
Lidian said…
Fantastic post, as always! I love reading about the English royal family and all their relatives too!
Thanks Eliza (and Lidian)! I have read two of her books, Crowned and Cupid and the King. They are well researched (apart from the whole plagiarism thing) but they are kind of annoying. She clearly has an 18th century mentality towards royalty. What I love about her is that she has an explanation for everything! Now that Fergie is out to pasture, and Diana and Princess Margaret are gone, thank heaven for Princess Michael for keeping up the craziness in the Royal Family. Although I'm waiting to see what Prince Harry's girlfriend Chelsy Davy might get up to in the future.
Michele said…
I read her book, The Serpent and the Moon. It was really good! She is just crazy though!
The Serpent and the Moon is on my TBR pile. I started reading it but I got so turned off by her reiterating how she was related to Diane de Poitiers. I need to pick it up to see what she says about Catherine de Medici.
Bearded Lady said…
I didn't even realize she was an author too. And affair with Leonie Frieda??? She is one of my favorite new authors. Amazing how people are connected. great post!
Yes, Princess Michael is the author of three books, which I've read, while well reviewed, weren't exactly flying off the shelves. Not like Eleanor Herman's books. I didn't know Leonie Frieda was an author. Clearly Prince Michael likes a woman who knows how to wield a pen!
Bill Peschel said…
Good thing someone in the Royal Family still knows how to still keep down the standards. Apart from wee Prince Harry dressing up like a Nazi, that is.
If it weren't for Princess Michael and occasionally Prince Philip (or Phil the Greek as I like to call him) putting their foot in their mouths, the Royal Family might verge on boring. Seriously has anyone seen Prince Andrew in years? Whatever happened to Randy Andy?
Marilyn Braun said…
Wonderful post! It's nice to read about a member of the royal family who isn't concerned with being PC all the time. A very interesting woman. Has she written an autobiography yet?
Tamara said…
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J said…
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