Friday, August 26, 2005

Royal Profile: Prince Michael of Kent

Prince Michael George Charles Franklin was born on July 4, 1942 at the family home, Coppins, near Iver in Buckinghamshire. The last name was in honour of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was a close friend and one of the baby's godfathers. His father was Prince George, Duke of Kent, fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary, and his mother was Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark.

One of the guests living with the family at the time noted that 'the Duke seems to love this tiny infant. Every evening, he leaves the table shortly after ten o'clock and carries his youngest son to the nursery and lays him in his cot and stands watching and watching. Nannie told me that each night she discreetly leaves the room, but she can hear the Duke talking softly to him. Perhaps he is unconsciously preparing him for the future.'

Seven weeks after his birth, his father was killed in a plane crash while on active service. After his father's death, his mother raised him, his brother - Edward, the current Duke of Kent and sister, Princess Alexandra, quietly at Coppins.

Like his father, cars and anything mechanical fascinated him. He showed an interest in geography and he was musical, playing the tambourine in the school percussion band. His childhood ambition, however, was to join the fire brigade. In 1951 he was sent to Sunningdale preparatory school, and in 1955 he entered Eton. From there he entered the Army and went to Sandhurst, the Royal Military Academy in 1961.

During his time in the Army he proved himself to be an able linguist. In 1966 he became the first member of the Royal Family to learn Russian and he qualified as a Russian Military interpreter. He joined the Ministry of Defence in 1968, looking after Foreign Defence Attaches in London. He was part of the United Nations Force in Cyprus in 1971, and from 1974-1981 worked in the Ministry of Defence, in the Defence Intelligence Service. Eventually he attained the rank of Major in the Royal Hussars. He has most recently been promoted to Honorary Rear Admiral in the Royal Naval Reserve.

When he retired from the Army in 1981, he began to work full time and he has served on the boards of various companies. In his day-to-day business, he is chairman of his own private consultancy company. Due to his work, the Prince travels extensively on business and has led delegations of British businessmen to China as well as Russia.

Although he acted as a page at the wedding of his cousins, Princess Elizabeth (now the Queen) to Prince Philip in 1947, he does not take part in royal events very often. Unlike his siblings, he does not receive a parliamentary allowance and it was clear from the beginning, and as the second son of a Duke, that he was one royal who would have to earn his own living. However, he has represented The Queen on a number of occasions, including at the State funerals of the Presidents of India and Cyprus in 1977, the signing of the Treaty of Friendship with Brunei in 1979, the Independence Day celebrations in Belize in 1981, and most recently in 2004, for the 150th Anniversary of the Crimean War in the Ukraine. He also regularly attends charity functions.

Prince Michael attracted a lot of publicity when in June 1978 he married Baroness Marie-Christine von Reibnitz, a Catholic and a divorcee. The marriage, although finally approved by the Queen, required him to relinquish his place in the line of succession to the throne, and at first the Catholic Church, because of Princess Michael’s divorce, did not recognize it. As such they could not marry in the church and they had a civil ceremony instead. The Princess was granted an annulment of her first marriage and in 1983 the Pope gave them permission to marry in the Roman Catholic rite; the ceremony took place in the Cardinal's private chapel, Westminister Cathedral. The couple have two children, Lord Frederick Windsor, born in 1979 and Lady Gabriella Windsor, born 1981. Both have been raised in the Church of England and are therefore still eligible to succeed.

A keen sportsman, he enjoys rowing, hunting and squash. He has also represented Great Britain as a bobsleigh driver and was a reserve for the 1972 Olympics. He is a vintage car enthusiast, a competitive rally driver, and he is also a qualified pilot of both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.

At present Prince Michael and his family live in Kensington Palace.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

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