Elizabeth O'Brien
May 21, 2001 12:00 PM

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess who was married to a handsome prince. Life seemed perfect, but the princess felt, well, unfulfilled. Then one day, while searching the land for high-fashion clothing for her children, she had an idea.

Thus it happened that Marie-Chantal, wife of exiled Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece, came to design a line of children’s fashions. They’re not cheap—she is, after all, a princess. Ranging from an infant’s linen romper ($150) to a toddler’s silk organza party dress ($195), her wares made their debut in March at such high-end stores as Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. “Her fabric choices were beautiful,” says Jill Sorkin, a buyer for Bergdorf Goodman. “Terrific florals, bold without being striking.”

“I wanted something pretty and sweet and innocent,” says Marie-Chantal, 32. “And I wanted [to do] children’s retail because the children are so often with me.” In fact, her three young ones—Marie-Olympia (known as Olympia), 4, Constantine Alexios (Tino), 2, and 10-month-old Achilleas Andreas—are lunch-time regulars at Marie-Chantal’s Manhattan office.

The daughter of multimillionaire Robert W. Miller, founder of a chain of airport duty-free shops, and his wife, also Marie-Chantal, the princess-to-be was born in London and raised in Hong Kong until age 9, when she was sent along with sisters Pia and Alexandra to a Swiss boarding school. In 1992, after a globetrotting adolescence (Switzerland to Paris to New York to Italy and back to Paris), she met Pavlos, oldest son of King Constantine, whose family was exiled in 1967. It was, they say of the night they crossed paths at a party in New Orleans, love at first sight. “I never thought I’d say that,” says Pavlos, 34, “but it was.”

In January 1993 Marie-Chantal moved to New York City to be near Pavlos, who was finishing a master’s degree at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. After their 1995 London wedding, which drew many royals, including Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip—a cousin of King Constantine’s—and Jordan’s King Hussein and Queen Noor, the couple settled in Manhattan.

While the prince managed an investment fund, Marie-Chantal began having children. But soon after Constantine’s birth, she started thinking of designing her own clothing line. “I was desperate to work,” she says. “I wanted to prove that I could do something on my own. I didn’t want to go to my father and work for him.”

As she cautiously dips a toe into the workaday world, Marie-Chantal can count on the support and advice of her sisters, both of whom live in Manhattan—and both of whom also made spectacular matches (not that they were exactly living in poverty before). Pia, 34, a spokeswoman for the Sephora chain, is married to investment banker Christopher Getty, grandson of J. Paul Getty; Alexandra, 28, creative director for designer Diane Von Furstenberg, is married to the boss’s son, investment-fund manager Prince Alexandre Von Furstenberg. Asked about the remarkable marital fortunes of the Miller sisters—”two princes and a Getty,” as Alexandra jokingly puts it—Marie-Chantal says, “It just so happened that we married very nice men.” Alexandra’s explanation: “I think you look for love and you marry for love. We were all very lucky.” Indeed.

While the sisters are close now, they weren’t always, says Marie-Chantal. “We fought terribly growing up. I, of course, won.” Adds Pavlos: “They still fight, all the time, about absolutely nothing, and by lunch they’ve made up.”

The princess has limited time for sibling rivalry these days, as she runs her three-person business after just having moved her family to an Upper East Side townhouse. (She and the prince split their time between New York City and their rural Connecticut estate.) She’s also working on illustrations for a fairy-tale book and serves on the boards of the School of American Ballet and Manhattan’s Animal Medical Center. It’s all in a day’s work for the princess. “People have certain ideas about our lives,” she says. “I’m much more normal than a rock star or a celebrity. At the end of the day we’re just a family.” Well, not just any family.

Elizabeth O’Brien

Lucia Greene in Connecticut

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