Sunday Images/ Gentlemen of the World, Unite! -
10 months ago
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."
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."
Support: Russian exile Boris Berezovsky said there was nothing underhand in the money he had given.
So why did a controversial Russian oligarch give Queen's cousin Prince Michael £320,000 through offshore companies?
The 56 payments, worth between £5,000 and £15,000, were made between 2002 and 2008
Money channeled through a private firm run by Prince Michael's Old Etonian private secretary
By SAM GREENHILL
PUBLISHED: 11:10 GMT, 13 May 2012 | UPDATED: 09:07 GMT, 14 May 2012 / http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2143711/Queens-cousin-given-320-000-controversial-Russian-oligarch-pay-grace-favour-flat-upkeep.html
The Queen’s cousin Prince Michael of Kent has been secretly receiving hundreds of thousands of pounds from Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky.
Dozens of payments worth at least £320,000 from the exiled tycoon were channelled through offshore companies.
Prince Michael is already known for accepting charity from the Queen who started paying the rent at Kensington Palace when MPs wanted to evict him and Princess Michael of Kent.
But now the royal, dubbed the ‘pauper prince’, faces questions about whether he has offered anything in return for the billionaire Russian’s money.
His spokesman yesterday said ‘absolutely not’, adding: ‘Mr Berezovsky has known the prince since the early 1990s and has a high regard for the prince’s work. He therefore chose to be supportive over a period which ended some years ago.’
A friend of the oligarch suggested he simply wanted to be a part of high society, and his friendship with Prince Michael gave him coveted access.
Mr Berezovsky was a key figure in the Kremlin before falling out with Vladimir Putin and seeking asylum in Britain 12 years ago. He became friends with Prince Michael – a distant cousin of the last tsar, Nicholas II – and the pair have frequently dined together at Kensington Palace.
High Court papers reveal that a fund controlled by the Russian made 56 payments worth between £5,000 and £15,000 to a company run by Prince Michael’s private secretary.
The money was paid every two to three weeks between 2002 and 2008.
Mr Berezovsky told The Sunday Times: ‘There is nothing underhand or improper about the financial assistance I have given Prince Michael. It is a matter between friends.’
Yesterday sources close to the prince said the money was used to pay for ‘his staff, his office and his private secretary’.
Although a member of the Royal Family, Prince Michael does not receive money from the public purse, and his money worries have been previously well publicised.
His wife – nicknamed ‘Princess Pushy’ by the rest of the Royal Family – once said she would ‘go anywhere for a hot meal’. In 2000, two years before the first payment from Mr Berezovsky, the prince’s consultancy firm Cantium Services was reported to have had debts of £200,000.
The financial support from Mr Berezovsky went to Bulmer Investments, a private firm run by private secretary Nicholas Chance, an Old Etonian. The oligarch made his fortune during the Russian state privatisation programme in the 1990s.
A Moscow court convicted him in
Simon Astaire, the prince’s spokesman, said the royal was ‘absolutely not’ giving anything in return for the money, which he claimed funded ‘cultural and charitable activities’.
He said: ‘The way this arrangement was processed is a private matter, but suffice to say that it was conducted properly and, for example, all appropriate tax was paid.’
The first payment to the prince in 2002 coincided with criticism from an MPs committee about the £69 a week rent the prince paid for his Kensington Palace home. The Queen later stepped in with a personal subsidy of £100,000 a year to pay a market rent.
Prince and Princess Michael had to sell their eight bedroom mansion in Gloucestershire in 2006 for £5.75million to cut their costs. They have faced claims they used their titles to get free trips and boost their income, earning them the nickname ‘Rent-a-Kents’. In 2010 it emerged taxpayers were footing a £250,000-a-year bill for armed police protection for the royal couple, even though they carry out no official duties.
Prince Michael is allowed to take up to three officers with him on his numerous business trips to foreign destinations such as Moscow and China. Princess Michael has long had expensive tastes, and spends a fortune on fine antiques and paintings. She also found herself exposed by a reporter from the now-defunct News of the World as being available at around £25,000 for appearances such as opening a shopping centre in Dubai.
Details of the payments by Mr Berezovsky come ahead of a case in which the Russian is suing the family of a former partner in a £2billion battle. He is pursuing the widow of Badri Patarkatsishvili, a Georgian tycoon who died in 2008.
The case follows Mr Berezovsky’s high profile £3.5billion legal action against fellow Russian Roman Abramovich. Judgment in his case against the Chelsea FC owner has yet to be handed down.
Empty: The bed is still covered by a neatly folded duvet in this abandoned farm house - but it's unlikely anybody would want to sleep in it
Frozen in time: The occupants of this abandoned farm house are long gone, but their belongings remain; from the paintings hanging on the walls to the neatly made bed
Remains of a life: An old-fashioned baby carriage stands before a smeared window in an empty building that once housed a young family
Forlorn: A pair of shoes sit in front of an empty armchair and ornaments remain above the fireplace in this abandoned home
Religious: Layers of blankets remain on the bed in the empty farmhouse, which is still surrounded by crosses and statues of Jesus belonging to its former owner
Faded grandeur: Dutch photographer Niki Feijen specialises in urban exploration; capturing the abandoned and decaying buildings that lie behind 'do not enter' signs
Remnants of family life: A table and chairs discovered inside what was once the dining room of this now dilapidated farmhouse in western Europe
Grand: The photographer captured the soaring glass ceiling and detailed brickwork of this vast abandoned building
Ghostly: This eerie photograph captures the dusty pews and peeling walls inside a boarded up church
Disused: Ignore the dust, dirt and peeling walls, and this room is almost ready for a family to sit down to a cup of tea
Old-fashioned: Many of the buildings captured in the series are dotted with items left behind by their former owners
Mould: Beds feature heavily in the Disciple of Decay series, as do religious pictures and crosses
Ready to move in: Aside from the slightly peeling walls, this still-grand room is in almost perfect condition
Crumbling: Mr Feijen, 35, who has been experimenting with photography since he was a child, said he also has an obsession with taking pictures of staircases
Well-loved: A dusty toy doll sits in a decaying leather armchair in front of a stained glass window
Former splendour: Sunlight beaming through holes in the roof highlights the faded grandeur of this dilapidated building