Prince Michael of Kent, GCVO CD (Michael George Charles Franklin; born 4 July 1942) is a paternal first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, being a grandson of King George V and Queen Mary. Prince Michael occasionally represents the Queen at some functions in Commonwealth realms outside the United Kingdom. Otherwise, he manages his own consultancy business and undertakes various commercial work around the world. He has also presented some television documentaries on the royal families of Europe. He is named after Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia, the younger brother of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and a first cousin of three of Michael’s grandparents.
Since his mother was a cousin of Prince Philip, he is also a second cousin to Prince Charles and his siblings.
Prince Michael was born on 4 July 1942, at Coppins, Iver, Buckinghamshire. His father was the Duke of Kent, fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary, and was killed in a plane crash near Caithness, Scotland, on 25 August 1942, just seven weeks and three days after his third child was born. At the time of his birth Prince Michael was seventh in the line of succession to his uncle, King George VI.
His mother was Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, Duchess of Kent, a daughter of Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark and of Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia. (The Duchess of Kent’s parents were second cousins to one another, being that Nicholas’ mother Olga Constantinovna of Russia and Elena’s father Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia were first cousins through the line of Nicholas I of Russia.)
At his christening on 4 August 1942 in the Private Chapel of Windsor Castle, his godparents were: his paternal uncle the King; the Queen of the Netherlands (for whom her son-in-law Prince Bernhard stood proxy); the King of Norway (his great-uncle); US President Franklin D. Roosevelt (for whom the Duke of Kent stood proxy) the Hereditary Princess of Greece (who was not present), the wife of Paul of Greece, his first cousin-once-removed; the Duke of Gloucester (his paternal uncle, who was absent); the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven (his grandfather King George V’s paternal first cousin); and Lady Patricia Ramsay (his grandfather King George V’s paternal first cousin). Because of the war, newspaper reports did not identify the location of the christening and said instead that it took place at “a private chapel in the country.”
At the age of five, Prince Michael was a page boy at the wedding of his cousins, Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten.
Educated at Sunningdale School and Eton College, Prince Michael entered the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in January 1961, from where he was commissioned into the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own), in 1963. He saw service in Germany, Hong Kong, and Cyprus, where his squadron formed part of a United Nations peacekeeping force in 1971. Subsequent tours of duty, during a military career that spanned twenty years, included a number of appointments on the Defence Intelligence Staff. He retired from the Army with the rank of Major in 1981.
In 1994, Prince Michael was made Honorary Commodore (later Honorary Rear Admiral) of the Royal Naval Reserve, and in 2002 he was made Honorary Air Commodore of RAF Benson (promoted to Honorary Air Marshal in 2012). From 2009 to 2012 he was Regimental Colonel of the Honourable Artillery Company and has been, since 31 January 2012, Royal Honorary Colonel of that regiment. He is also Colonel-in-Chief of the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment in Canada.
As the third child of George V’s fourth son, it was not expected that Prince Michael, as the only second son in the extended royal family, would undertake many engagements on behalf of the royal family. He has performed official duties in the Commonwealth realms other than the United Kingdom and has represented the Queen abroad.
He has, however, never received a parliamentary annuity or an allowance from the British Privy Purse, unlike both his elder brother, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and his sister, Princess Alexandra, who both carry out official royal duties in the United Kingdom and receive British parliamentary annuities. The Prince was given a grace and favour apartment at Kensington Palace upon his marriage in 1978.
Prince Michael has represented the Queen at state funerals in India, Cyprus and Swaziland and, with his wife, Princess Michael of Kent, represented the Queen at the independence celebrations in Belize, and at the Coronation of King Mswati III of Swaziland.
Prince Michael supports a large number of charities and organisations.
Prince Michael manages his own consultancy business, and undertakes business throughout the world. He is also a qualified interpreter of Russian.
On 30 June 1978, Prince Michael was married, at a civil ceremony, at the Rathaus, Vienna, Austria, to Baroness Marie Christine von Reibnitz, the only child of the Silesian nobleman Baron Gunther Hubertus von Reibnitz and of his Austro-Hungarian wife, Maria Anna Carolina Franziska Walpurga Bernadette, Countess Szapáry de Muraszombath, Széchysziget et Szapár.
At the time of the marriage, Marie Christine von Reibnitz was not only a Roman Catholic, but also a divorcée. She had previously been married to the banker Thomas Troubridge; they separated in 1973, divorced in 1977, and had their marriage annulled by the Roman Catholic Church a year later, two months before her marriage to Prince Michael. Under the terms of the Act of Settlement 1701, Prince Michael forfeited his place in the line of succession to the throne through his marriage to a Roman Catholic. He was reinstated to the line of succession on 26 March 2015 with the coming into force of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, and is now 45th in line to the throne.
Prince and Princess Michael of Kent have two children, both of whom remain in the line of succession to the throne because they are not Roman Catholics, having been brought up as members of the Church of England:
Lord Frederick Windsor, born 6 April 1979; married, 12 September 2009, Sophie Winkleman, and is 46th in the line of succession as of early 2015. Educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford. Now with JP Morgan in Los Angeles. Нis daughters Maud and Isabella are 47th and 48th in line as of early 2016.
Lady Gabriella Windsor, born 23 April 1981; and 49th in the line of succession. Educated at Downe House, Brown University in the US, and Linacre College, Oxford.
Prince Michael has a strong interest in Russia, where he is a well-known figure (he is a recipient of the Order of Friendship). Tsar Nicholas II was a first cousin of three of his grandparents. When the bodies of the Tsar and some of his family were discovered in 1979, the remains were later identified by DNA using, among others, Prince Michael’s blood sample for recognition. He attended the 1998 burial of the Tsar and his family in St Petersburg. He is an Honorary Member of the Romanov Family Association. He is also the second cousin of Maria Vladimirovna, Grand Duchess of Russia, who is a claimant to the headship of the Imperial Family of Russia. They share the same great-grandfather, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich.
Prince Michael competed for Great Britain in the 1971 FIBT World Bobsleigh Championships but crashed and failed to finish the event. He was official non-travelling reserve for the 1972 Winter Olympic Games. He took part in the 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally in an Austin Maxi, but he and his crew failed to finish the event.