Princess Michael of Kent (born Baroness Marie Christine von Reibnitz on 15 January 1945) is a member of the British Royal Family of German and Hungarian descent. She is married to Prince Michael of Kent, a grandson of King George V. Princess Michael was an interior designer before becoming an authoress; she has written several books on European royalty (mostly her cousins). She also undertakes lecture tours as well as supporting her husband in his public duties.
Princess Michael of Kent was born on 15 January 1945, in Karlsbad, a town then in German-populated Sudetenland and now known as Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. She was born just prior to the defeat and the end of Nazi Germany and World War II in Europe, near the family estates of her Austrian maternal grandmother, Princess Hedwig von Windisch-Graetz; the expulsion of Germans resident in Czechoslovakia followed later that year.
Princess Michael is the younger daughter of Baron Günther Hubertus von Reibnitz (Freiherr) by his wife Countess Maria-Anna-Carolina-Franziska-Walpurga-Bernadette, daughter of Count Friedrich Szapáry von Muraszombath, Széchysziget und Szapár, the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to Saint Petersburg at the outbreak of World War I. Princess Michael’s elder sister was Margarita (born 18 January 1924) by her father’s first marriage to Margherita, Countess von Seherr-Thoß.
Through her mother, Princess Michael is descended from Diane de Poitiers, Henry II of France’s mistress, and Catherine (de’ Medici), Queen of France, as well as from the celebrated painter Peter Paul Rubens. Her father was a Nazi party member serving as a Sturmbannführer (Major) in the SS during the Second World War; he settled at Maforga, Mozambique after his divorce. Her mother and brother, Baron Friedrich (Fred) von Reibnitz moved to Australia; the Freiin Marie-Christine established a beauty salon, while Fred von Reibnitz (now living in Canberra) joined the Australian Public Service.
Her first husband was the English banker Thomas Troubridge, younger brother of Sir Peter Troubridge, 6th Baronet. They met at a boar hunt in Germany and were married on 14 September 1971 at Chelsea Old Church, London. The couple separated in 1973 and were divorced in 1977 (the marriage was formally annulled by the Pope in May 1978).
One month after the annulment, on 30 June 1978, at a civil ceremony in Vienna, Austria, she married Prince Michael of Kent, the son of Prince George, Duke of Kent (1902–1942) and Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark (1906–1968). Prince Michael is a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. Upon their marriage, she was accorded the style and title of Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent, the female equivalent to her husband’s title: not being of royal birth, she is therefore not titled Princess Marie Christine. After receiving Pope John Paul II’s permission, the couple later received a blessing of their marriage in a Roman Catholic ceremony on 29 June 1983 at Archbishop’s House, London.
Since the Act of Settlement 1701 prohibited anyone who married a Roman Catholic from succeeding to the throne, Prince Michael of Kent (at that time, 15th in the line of succession) forfeited his succession rights upon marrying Marie Christine. Prince Michael was reinstated to the line of succession on 26 March 2015 with the successful passing of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 and is now 45th in line. Their children are members of the Church of England and have retained their rights of succession since birth.
Prince and Princess Michael of Kent have two children:
Lord Frederick Windsor, born 6 April 1979 who, on 12 September 2009, married Sophie Winkleman; Lord and Lady Frederick Windsor have two daughters: Maud Elizabeth Daphne Marina (born 15 August 2013) and Isabella Alexandra May Windsor (born 16 January 2016).
Lady Gabriella Windsor, born 23 April 1981 at St Mary’s Hospital, London.
Prince Michael has never received a parliamentary annuity or an allowance from the Privy Purse. Nevertheless, Prince and Princess Michael represented The Queen at the Belize independence celebrations and at the coronation of King Mswati III of Swaziland. Prince Michael also supports a large number of different charities and organisations, and Princess Michael supports him in his work.
The couple have had the use of a five-bedroom, five-reception grace and favour apartment at Kensington Palace. The Queen had paid the rent for the apartment at a market rate of £120,000 annually from her own private funds with the couple paying the nominal amount of £70 per week. The rent goes to the Grant-in-aid, provided by the Government for the maintenance of the Occupied Royal Palaces. The rent is based on the current rate for commercially rented properties at Kensington Palace, and is recorded in the overall figures for commercial rents in the Grant-in-aid annual report. This rent payment by the Queen is “in recognition of the Royal engagements and work for various charities which Prince and Princess Michael of Kent have undertaken at their own expense, and without any public funding,” according to a statement released by the British Monarchy Media Centre.
In 2008, it was announced Prince and Princess Michael would be required to begin paying rent of £120,000 a year. Members of Parliament on the palace’s committee had demanded the change after the Kents’ rent had come to light. The Kents have lived in the apartment since 1979, paying only their utility bills prior to 2002
The Princess is author of three non-fiction books, Crowned in a Far Country: Eight Royal Brides (Weidenfeld), and Cupid and the King – Five Royal Paramours (Harper Collins) and in 2004 released The Serpent and The Moon, a true story of love and betrayal in a royal family, and two novels, The Queen Of Four Kingdoms and Agnès Sorel: Mistress of Beauty.
Michael of Kent, Princess (1986). Crowned in a Far Country: Portraits of eight royal brides. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-79010-2.
Michael of Kent, Princess (1991). Cupid and the King. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-00-223911-6.
Michael of Kent, Princess (2004). The Serpent and The Moon: two rivals for the love of a Renaissance king. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-5104-0.
Michael of Kent, Princess (2013). The Queen Of Four Kingdoms. Constable. ISBN 978-1472108456.
Michael of Kent, Princess (2014). Agnès Sorel: Mistress of Beauty. Constable. ISBN 978-1472119131.
Before her marriage to Prince Michael, she worked as an interior decorator. According to a report in The Observer’s Pendennis column in September 2007, the Princess resumed decorating under her original company, Szapar Designs. From 2007 to 2011 the Princess served as President of Partridge Fine Art, a gallery in London’s New Bond Street until it went into administration having suffered substantial multi-year losses. In 2008 the Princess was engaged as a consultant by Galerie Gmurzynska in Switzerland