Marie Christine von Reibnitz has been a member of the British Royal Family for almost 40 years, and even though she doesn’t carry out official royal engagements, she is a well-known figure, not least because of some of her highly publicised controversial actions in the past.
Marie Christine is better known as Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent. She is married to Prince Michael of Kent, the younger son of Prince George, Duke of Kent and Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark. As a grandson of King George V and cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, he is a Prince of the United Kingdom with the style of Royal Highness. Due to being a more distant relative of the sovereign, Prince Michael would hardly be created a Duke upon marriage, and as such, he retained the same title he already had before marrying Marie Christine. The tradition of elevating Princes to the rank of Duke is usually reserved for children of either the Monarch or the Prince of Wales.
However, many people wonder why Michael’s wife isn’t styled as Princess Marie Christine.
The Anglo-Saxon tradition dictates that a woman on marrying will take her husband’s name. For example, if Jane Doe marries John Smith, she will become Mrs John Smith upon marriage. The same principle happens with women who marry into The Royal Family – they adopt the female variation of their husband’s title.
For instance, when the Duke of York married Sarah Ferguson in 1986, she became the Duchess of York.
However what makes Princess Michael’s title unique in The Royal Family is that she is currently the only woman married to a Prince who is not a peer of the realm. Had Prince Andrew not been conferred as the Duke of York upon marriage, Sarah Ferguson would have formally been styled as HRH The Princess Andrew upon marriage.
Marie Christine is not the only royal wife to have been titled in this manner. In 1972 when Birgitte van Deurs married Prince Richard, he was not yet the Duke of Gloucester, and he wouldn’t succeed his father as such for another two years. Therefore, upon their marriage in 1972, Birgitte became HRH Princess Richard of Gloucester, and only after the death of her father-in-law did she become HRH The Duchess of Gloucester.