Brother of The Duke of Kent, Prince Michael, and his wife Princess Michael, are another Royal couple that the media pay little attention to, so ‘Behind the Royal door’ takes a look at their lives and work.
Michael George Charles Franklin was born in 1942, the second son of Prince George, Duke of Kent; his father died in a flying accident when he was just six weeks old. At birth, he was 8th-in-line to the throne, and like his brother, he is cousin of both The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh.
Michael’s christening location was kept secret, as the Second World War continued, but we now know it was at Windsor Castle; his godparents include Franklin D Roosevelt, The King of Norway, Haakon VII, and Queen of Netherlands, Wilhelmina, and his uncle, George VI. Prince Michael was a page-boy at Princess Elizabeth and Philip’s wedding in 1947.
Educated at Sunningdale School and Eton College, The Prince enrolled at Sandhurst in 1961; he has seen active service in Germany, Hong Kong and Cyprus, as well as forming part of the Defence Intelligence Staff, likely because of his qualified status as a Russian interpreter. He was commissioned into the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own) regiment and retired in 1981 with the rank of Major.
Baroness Marie-Christine Anna Agnes Hedwig Ida von Reibnitz was the only daughter of Baron Günther Hubertus von Reibnitz and his Hungarian wife, Countess Maria Anna Carolina Franziska Walpurga Bernadette Szapáry von Muraszombath, Széchysziget und Szapár. Born in 1945, in what is now the Czech Republic, formerly German territory, Marie-Christine has a half-sister, Margarita, from her father’s previous marriage to Margherita, Countess von Seherr-Thoß. Through her mother’s line, she is related to many notable figures in history, like painter Peter Paul Rubens, Henry II of France and his wife, Catherine de Medici, and his mistress, Diane de Poitiers.
Marie-Christiane came to London in 1968 where she met and married a London Banker, Thomas Troubridge. Being a divorced Roman Catholic, his marriage to Marie-Christine, which took place in a civil service in Vienna, eant Prince Michael forfeited his place in the succession. They received John Paul II’s blessing to marry in 1983, at the Archbishop’s House, London, in a Catholic ceremony. Despite no longer being in the succession, The Queen gave the couple a grace and favour apartment at Kensington Palace.
The Prince and Princess have two children; Lord Frederick Windsor and Lady Gabriella Windsor were born in 1979 and 1981 respectively. Freddie, as their son is known, went to Eton too, and then onto Magdalen College Oxford; he graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford in 2002 with a 2:1 in Classics and now works for JPMorgan in Los Angeles. Freddie married actress Sophie Winkleman in 2009 and they welcomed baby Maud in Los Angeles in August 2013.
Gabriella attended Downe House, the school which The Duchess of Cambridge attended for a brief time. She read Comparative Literature and Hispanic Studies at Brown University, Rhode Island, USA and Ella, as the family call her, began writing for British Publications. She obtained her MPhil in Social Anthropology from Oxford University in 2012. They were both brought up in the Church of England, and Freddie is now 42nd-in-line and Ella is 44th, after the birth of Maud Windsor.
As a non-working member of the Royal Family, Prince Michael can earn his own money, and manages his own consultancy business, whose income allows him and his wife to undertake charitable work. The consultancy is in areas of construction, telecommunications, insurance, tourism, medical and aviation to name but a few.
Princess Michael is also an author, interior designer, art consultant and historian; her most recent book is entitled ‘The Queen of Four Kingdoms’, and features the stories of her ancestor, Yolande, daughter of the King of Aragon, and has three other books to her name.
The Prince, recognisable by his beard, the only Royal to have one, holds positions of Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order and Knight of Justice of the Venerable Order of Saint John, as well as the Russian Order of Friendship. His military appointments include Commodore-in-Chief, Maritime Reserves, Royal Honorary Colonel, Honourable Artillery Company, and Honorary Air Marshal of RAF Benson. He holds fellowships from The Royal Aeronautical Society, The Chartered Institute of Linguists and The Society of Genealogists
Princess Michael holds the position of Dame Grand Cross of Justice of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George.
Michael’s charity work includes: Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, the Thames Rowing Club, The Royal Life Saving Society and The London School of Business and Finance.
Michael takes an interest in vintage cars, is a competitive rally driver and qualified pilot of helicopters and fixed-wing aeroplanes; Prince Michael represented Great Britain as a bobsleigh driver for many years and was a reserve for the 1972 Olympics. In 2002 The Prince was awarded the International Man of the Year Award by the Plekhanov Economics Academy, and is a respected figure in Russia. As a descendent of Princess Marina of Greece, and Tsar Alexander II, he has presented some television documentaries on the royal families of Europe. The Prince also knows German and Italian, but not to the same degree as his Russian knowledge.
When she came to London in 1968, The Princess came to be apprenticed as an interior designer since there were no interior designers in Vienna at the time. After a five-year apprenticeship at London’s top interior designers, Princess Michael opened her own design business, SZAPAR DESIGNS. She undertook two courses in Fine and Decorative Arts at the Victoria & Albert Museum in the early 1970s, then spent 13 years on the Board of the V&A; The Princess later became President of Partridge Fine Art in Bond Street.
Princess Michael gives lectures on many historical topics including Elizabeth Stuart, sister of Charles I, Catherine de Medici, Louis XIV, Napoleon and wife Josephine, and The Influence of China in the Arts of mid 18th Century Europe, and publishes many articles in Orient Express magazine, as well as still being involved with interior design and art.
Marie-Christine works with The Blue Cross, The Cardinal Newman Trust, The Prader-Willi Syndrome Association and The Budapest Festival Orchestra; the Prince and Princess, still working at 71 and 69, have slowed down their engagements since 2013, but are less often seen by the public, because they have no obligation to Royal duties, using their status to help.
photo credit: esther1616 , The Alliance of Religions and Conservation and makeroadssafe via photopin cc
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