Princess Michael of Kent was ‘naive and arrogant’ to insist she had absolutely no knowledge that her late farther was a Nazi, royal experts claim in a new documentary.
Princess Michael: The Controversial Royal, airing at 8:55pm on Channel 5 tomorrow, recalls how the 76-year-old Princess, who married the Queen’s cousin in 1978, found herself at the heart of a scandal in 1985 when it emerged her father was a member of the Nazi party.
She gave a TV interview denying all knowledge and describing her ‘deep shame’ over the revelation that Austrian and German aristocrat Günther von Reibnitz, was in the SS for 11 years, from 1933 until he was kicked out of the Nazi party in 1944.
But speaking in tomorrow’s documentary, Dr Chandrika Kaul, historian at St Andrew’s University, said her remarks showed ‘arrogance’ and ‘cultural insensitivity’, while royal editor of the Evening Standard, Robert Jobson, said it was ‘naïve’ to believe she knew nothing of her father’s past.
The documentary also deals with the royal’s fraught relationship with Princess Margaret, who reportedly resented her as a Roman Catholic divorcee, and rumours of mutual infidelity in her marriage to Prince Michael.
Princess Michael: The Controversial Royal airing Saturday on Channel 5, looks back at the 1985 scandal surrounding her father’s Nazi ties, with experts claiming she must have known about it. Pictured with Prince Michael on the day of their civil wedding in Vienna in 1978
News that Princess Michael’s father had a Nazi past emerged in April 1985.
Princess Michael, who was born Baroness Marie-Christine von Reibnitz, has said she didn’t now about her father’s SS past and she was absolutely heartbroken about the publicity it received.
‘She actually developed an ulcer and lost 2st in weight and really worried about the shame it had brought on the royal family,’ royal expert Phil Dampier recalled.
The documentary showed an interview where Princess Michael distanced herself from her father’s past.
‘It came as a really great blow to me, because I always rather hero-worshipped him,’ the royal said in the interview.
In 1985, it emerged Princess Michael of Kent’s father, Günther von Reibnitz, pictured in1918, had served in the SS for 11 years, from 1933 to 1944
At the time the scandal exploded, Marie-Chrstine said she was shocked to learn about her father’s ‘unpleasant’ past (pictured at the Chelsea Flower Show on September 20)
Revealed: Royal links with the Third Reich – from Edward VIII’s claim Hitler ‘wasn’t a bad chap’ to Prince Philip’s four sisters who ALL married Nazis
Prince Michael of Kent is not the only member of the British Royal Family to have links to the Nazi Party.
Here, FEMAIL reveals the royals and their connections to the Third Reich…
Edward VIII visited a concentration camp and called Hitler ‘not a bad chap’
Edward VIII admired Adolph Hitler, posing for photographs with him during an unofficial visit to Germany in the 1930s, and once claimed the establishment of the Third Reich was ‘the only thing to do’.
The monarch, who abdicated in 1936 to become Duke of Windsor, even visited a concentration camp whose guard towers were apparently explained away as meat stores.
Hitler himself reportedly claimed ‘friendly relations with England could have been achieved’ if Edward had not abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor meeting with German leader Adolf Hitler in Munich
A film uncovered in 2015 showed Edward teaching the Queen and Queen Mother how to do a Nazi salute in 1933, six years before the outbreak of World War Two.
Edward faced numerous accusations of being a Nazi sympathiser and is known to have performed the salute at other times.
He was once said to have given a Nazi salute to Hitler – which he later claimed was a ‘soldier’s salute’ – and claimed the Fuhrer was ‘not a bad chap’.
The former Duke of Windsor’s memory has long been tainted by his connection to the Third Reich, which he visited with Wallis Simpson in 1937, a year after he had abdicated as king.
Prince Philip and his sisters’ connections to the Nazi party
The Duke of Edinburgh’s four sisters all married Germans. The eldest, Margarita, wed Prince Gottfried of Hohenlohe-Langenburg in 1930. The next, Theodora, married the Margrave of Baden.
Cecile married the Grand Duke of Hesse, and Sophie married first Prince Christoph of Hesse, then Prince George of Hanover. They were all Nazis.
Margarita’s husband was a corps commander during the Nazi invasion of Austria in 1938 and had considerable contact with Nazi party leaders in the run-up to the outbreak of war.
Andrew and Alice of Battenberg produced four daughters – Margarita (right), Theodora (left, pictured with Lady Louise Mountbatten), Cecile and Sophie — before finally, in 1921, an heir, Prince Philip, was born
Theodora’s husband had provided the buildings for Kurt Hahn’s fledgling school, Salem, but allowed the school, which remained after its founder’s flight, to become pro-Nazi in its teachings.
Cecile’s husband joined the Nazi party in 1937, while Sophie’s husband Christoph von Hesse was a member of the SS.
A photograph exists of a family funeral in Darmstadt in 1937, when Philip was 16, with members of his extended family parading in their military uniforms. Hermann Goering, one of the most leading figures in the Nazi Party, is a guest of honour.
His siblings were even barred from attending his 1947 wedding to Princess Elizabeth — the fear of anti-German sentiment was too great.
‘What the public perception of me will be – I don’t know, I wasn’t alive when all this happened. So I hope they will judge me on my own performance but my shoulders are broad and I shall carry it. But yes, it’s a deep shame for me,’ she added.
Rumours of infidelity have swirled for years around the Kents, including intimate detail that ‘probably made the Queen splutter over her breakfast’
‘Both Prince and Princess Michael a have been romantically linked with other people,’ royal expert Phil Dampier told the documentary. ‘Some other people have been married, some others not married.
‘She was linked to the Texan oil tycoon John Ward Hunt. It was suggested he wanted to marry her at one point. They met in Dallas at a trade conference, and they were seen together, and she denied there was an affair, but she was once photographed coming out of his house in a red wig with dark glasses obviously trying to disguise herself in the 1980s
‘Very significantly in 2006 she was seen in Venice, very much happy in the company of a Russian furniture tycoon Mickhail Kravchenko. They were photographed together joking, laughing, holding hands, even kissing, and floating around Venice on a gondola.
‘Prince Michael, similarly, has been linked to quite a few female friends. Bryony Brind, who was a ballet dancer, had quite a long standing relationship with him and eventually gave it up saying she didn’t want to put his marriage in jeopardy.
‘He was also linked with an American, Lucy Weather, and she gave interviews later on about their eight year relationship. He was very much into their sex life and liked her to dress up in white lingerie and went into great intimate detail that probably had the Queen ‘spluterring over her breakfast’.
Broadcaster and political commentator Bidisha said that there wasn’t anything unusual in an aristocratic couple pursuing their own love affairs.
‘Going right back to the medieval period, right through until the Victorian period, it was completely accepted there’s the public couple the aristocratic or royal family and they ware each other’s royal consorts and they bear the royal children. They’re titled, but certainly on the man’s side and often on the woman’s side aswell, there’s other interests and other lovers
‘If Prince and Princess Michael have an open relationship, I don’t think it’s quite the same thing as one half of a couple deceitfully betraying and deceiving the other.
Phil Dampier added: ‘Princess Michael once said her marriage to Prince Michael was virtually an arranged marriage. I think in that sense, probably there was a bit of a throwback and this is how royals were in the past. It was acceptable for the upper classes and the royals to have affairs and it was alright as long as you didn’t frighten the horses.’
However, Dr Chandrika Kaul said she finds those claims ‘hard to believe,’
‘She is on record, as saying that “Here I am, discovering this very unpleasant story.”
‘I find it hard to believe that Princess Michael, with a deep interest in European history, would be totally unware of her fathers role as a Nazi party member,’ she added.
The interview from 1985 continued with Marie-Christine saying: ‘Here I am, 40 years old and I discover something that is really quite unpleasant it’s like suddenly discovering you were adopted.’
Dr Chandrika Kaul said it was ‘an interesting choice of phrase and an understatement, is ever there was one.’
‘I think it reveals, not just a certain arrogance, but a cultural insensitivity that is very striking,’ she added.
Robert Jobson was of the mind Princess Michael of Kent’s declaration was ‘naïve.’
‘To be fair, you have to remember she was quite a young child when she went to Australia with her mother and her brother, at the end of the war,’ he said.
‘She would have been limited in knowledge of what her father would have done during the war,’ he added.
‘But it’d be rather naïve to suggest that she didn’t know that he had been a member of the Nazi party.’
‘You can imagine the public scorn, the anger. Let’s remember there was another member of the royal family who was in pictures with Adolf Hitler, King Edward VIII,’ said historian Julie Montagu.
Historia Claudia Joseph said: ‘Lots of Queen Victoria’s children married European aristocrats, and a lot of them were prominent Nazis.
‘A lot of aristocrats were lured by Hitler and believed the things he told them,’ she added.
‘That is an uncomfortable part of their history. And I think they were hoping that if they kept it quite the story would just go away in time. But it was deeply embarrassing for the family nevertheless,’ Dr Chandrika said.
Princess Michael of Kent’s biographer, Anna Sebba, said the scandal only increased the unpopularity of the royal.
However, she could count on the support of the Queen, who knew just how to stand up for her cousin’s wife.
‘Although the Queen doesn’t like her family to be involved in scandals, the Queen and other members of the royal family hate the fact that sometimes the media get the upper hand,’ Phil Dampier said.
He went on to explain the Queen Queen had Princess Michael in the second carriage of Ascot shortly afterwards that year, to send a message she supported her.
The documentary went on to reveal Princess Michael was found not to be a person of interest by the Allies when they investigated his case.
Robert Jobson explained he might have needed up being a member of the SS because of his aristocratic status and would have been used by the high–ranking Nazi Hermann Göring as a pawn to spy on Heinrich Himmler.
Princess Michael, in the same resurfaced interview segment shared her relief to find her father never wore the SS uniform.
Jobson said she didn’t think the reality was ‘as bad as it had been portrayed.’
Royal commentator Philip Dampier said the Princess Michael of Kent was deeply worried about how the scandal would affect the Royal family (pictured on her wedding day)
Experts said believing Marie-Christine didn’t know anything about her father’s Nazi past would be ‘naïve’
Prince Michael of Kent was allowed to marry his choice of wife in 1978, in a civil ceremony in Vienna just a month after the annulment of the bride’s first marriage.
They received Pope John Paul II’s permission to marry and had a Roman Catholic ceremony on 29 June 1983 at Archbishop House.
To marry Marie Christine, Prince Michael, who was 15th in line for the throne at the time, renounced his succession right, in accordance with The Act of Settlement 1701, which prevents members of the royal family marrying Roman Catholics.
He retrieved his rights of succession in 2013 thanks to the Succession to the Crown Act 2013.
The documentary also claims that Princess Margaret refused to speak to Princess Michael because she resented the fact that she was a Roman Catholic.
Margaret, was also reportedly ‘furious’ that a foreign-born divorcee had been allowed to marry into the royal family, particularly after she had been prevented from marrying divorced RAF officer Peter Townsend in 1953.
The documentary also claims the Queen’s daughter Princess Anne, now 71, deemed Princess Michael of Kent difficult and coined her nickname ‘Princess Pushy.’
Ironically, Margaret herself flirted with Catholicism later in life having struck up a close friendship with a Catholic priest named Derek ‘Dazzle’ Jennings in 1981 – although she never publicly converted.
Dazzle was a civil servant in the government’s Department of the Environment, who shocked his friends by quitting his job to take Holy Orders, aged 38, after first converting to Roman Catholicism when he was still a student.
Speaking of Prince Michael’s marriage to Marie-Christine, royal commentator Viscountess Hitchingbrooke said: ‘You can imagine this did not go down well with Princess Margaret, who was told by her own sister, Queen Elizabeth, that she couldn’t marry a divorcee.
‘In fact she was said to be furious,’ she added.
Princess Michael: The Controversial Royal airs Saturday at 8:55pm on Channel 5.