|By Allan Warren via Wikimedia Commons|
Born an Austro-Hungarian Baroness at the tail-end of World War II shortly after her father was kicked out of the Nazi SS, Marie Christine von Reibnitz proudly hails from deep aristocratic roots. (On her web site, she shares many of her royal family trees.) Her parents divorced with her mom moving to Australia and her father moving to Mozambique, so she spent her youth split between three continents. As a young woman, she made her way to London where she took a design course at the Victoria & Albert and launched a career in interior design. She married an Old Etonian banker but the marriage soon fizzled and the couple split.
Then, she met HRH Prince Michael of Kent, the youngest grandchild of King George V, who counts American President Franklin D. Roosevelt among his grandparents. The child of The Duke of Kent and Princess Marina of Kent, Michael is also deeply interested in his roots, which touch every royal house in Europe. They both speak multiple languages. They are both incredibly good-looking people. (And tall: she is six foot--2 meters.)
They were married in 1978, and she took on his title as Princess Michael of Kent. (See my post about titles of royal wives, The Royal Mrs.) Their marriage was clearly a love match but Marie Christine brought a lot of controversy in her wake. Firstly, she is Catholic and Michael had to give up his place in the line of succession to marry her, per current succession laws. (Many of the Kent branch of the family are now Catholic.) Secondly, in the alleged words of her husband's cousin, Queen Elizabeth II, she is "too grand for the rest of us." Princess Michael is unashamedly outspoken about her support of the class system. She and Sarah Duchess of York seem to occupy the two ends of a spectrum of outspoken royals. If Sarah is at the common-touch end of the spectrum, Marie Christine is at the hands-off end. Her public comments have sometimes been interpreted as racist and/or classist, and she has been critical of other members of the royal family. (Her greatest sin for some might be that she called Princess Diana a "bore" and "uneducated.") To be fair, The Queen's nephew, Viscount Linley, once remarked that he would wish his worst enemy "dinner with Princess Michael of Kent."
As junior royals, Prince and Princess Michael have never received money from the government although they were given a five-bedroom grace-and-favor apartment at Kensington Palace. When this became a media firestorm, The Queen paid their rent for awhile, but they were eventually forced to sell their country home and begin paying their London rent themselves. To be fair, they are the most employed royals. They do work for a living. Marie Christine writes royal biographies and historical fiction, she lectures, and she still is an interior designer. She is also devoted to many charities, especially those related to animal welfare and conservation. She occasionally represents The Queen at official events. And, she is a keen gardener.
Finally, I give her credit for raising the two most well-educated members of the British royal family. Lord Frederick Windsor (born 1979) went to Eton and Oxford. (His wife, actress Sophie Winkleman, went to Cambridge.) He is an investment analyst with JP Morgan. Journalist daughter Lady Gabriella Windsor graduated from Brown University and has an advanced degree from Oxford.
More about Princess Michael of Kent
In reading more about Princess Michael of Kent, be aware that most bios of her are predisposed to be either pro or anti. It is difficult to find unbiased accounts.
Royal Profile: Princess Michael of Kent on The Mad Monarchist
Princess Michael of Kent: life beneath the tiara from The (London) Telegraph
Princess Pushy: The Fabulous Life of Princess Michael of Kent on Scandalous Women
Behind the Royal Door: Prince and Princess Michael of Kent on Royal Central
Books by Princess Michael of Kent