Michael: She’s haughty, gaudy, naughty and cash hungry
The Duchess of Yuk? A mere Fergie-come-lately. The grande dame of royal embarrassment has long been the stunning, six-foot-tall Princess Michael of Kent, 45, dubbed Princess Pushy by the press and known within the family as Motormouth or Our Val, as in Valkyrie.
Married in 1978 to the Queen’s first cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, the green-eyed Austrian Princess has learned that discretion is the better part of Val-or. But for years she could hardly keep her long, elegant feet out of her beautifully sculptured mouth. “I’ve a better background than anyone who’s married into the royal family since the war, excepting Prince Philip,” she claimed. (Her mother was born a Hungarian countess.) Princess Michael once referred derisively to Princess Caroline of Monaco as “the daughter of a movie star, for God’s sake.” Fergie’s nuptials she dismissed as “common—all that ghastly winking as she came down the aisle.” (Might have a point there, Mikey.) She has acknowledged that charity work “bores me rigid most of the time.” (Little wonder, since her causes include the Victory Trust for Sailing for the Disabled and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.) Arriving 40 minutes late for a dinner with the Queen, Princess Michael breezed in with her husband, instructing the stunned assemblage, “Please don’t get up, anyone.”
Admittedly, the former Marie-Christine von Reibnitz has much to cope with. A divorcée and a Catholic, she needed the Queen’s permission to marry the Prince (who, because of her religion, had to give up his place as 16th in line for the throne). She badgered the Vatican for an annulment from her husband, British banker Tom Troubridge, and for a Catholic ceremony. (Both were eventually granted, the Vatican apparently deciding Troubridge had not wanted children.)
Money is a problem too. The Princess has reportedly kvetched that her husband is not on the Civil List, meaning he does not get an allowance from the state. “We’ll go anywhere for a hot meal,” she once said. She has hustled corporate directorships for the Prince and has advised art galleries, and at one time she ran a decorating business. These days she writes books.
To garnish their life-style, says an acquaintance, “she accepts freebies, like the Euro-trashy jet set she sometimes mixes with—free trips, free hotel rooms and borrowed designer clothes.”
All of which wilts before the distressing 1985 revelation that her father was a major in Hitler’s SS. Princess Michael declared herself surprised and pained, but the flap was hardly over before the press caught her, disguised in a red wig, entering the London flat of Texas oil tycoon John Ward Hunt. She denied an affair and pointedly pawed and ogled her long-suffering good-guy husband at their next public appearance at Wimbledon. They got a standing ovation, and the whole stink blew out to sea.
The next year saw the publication of her first book, Crowned in a Far Country, a history of eight princesses who married foreign rulers. Several authors claimed plagiarism, and a cash settlement was arranged for at least one. By the time a tabloid alleged—falsely, it turned out—that she was related to the 15th-century Transylvanian butcher Vlad the Impaler, the public didn’t have a gasp left in them.
But Princess Michael scarcely concerns herself with what the public thinks. (“The peasants,” she calls them.) She has got her hands full with the royal family, where Princess Michael-bashing is another favored blood sport. When asked by a magazine what present he would give his worst enemy for Christmas, Viscount Linley quipped, “Dinner with Princess Michael.” (She later replied that she’d be happy to accept, provided she didn’t have to eat at a table designed by Viscount Linley.)
Finally, it is said, The Boss put her foot down. Whether she received one of the Queen’s fun-spoiling pull-your-socks-up lectures or simply got busy working on her second book, Princess Michael has been keeping a relatively mousy profile. Her last brouhaha—missing the deadline by several months on her latest book, leading the publisher to demand return of her $144,000 advance—was tiny taters for Princess Pushy. While the royal family is barely tolerant, the “peasants” usually enjoy the hurricanes of fresh air she stirs up. “I may be many things,” Princess Michael once said, “but I am never boring.”
MARINA: Her Preggo blab to the tabs frosted The Boss
The trouble with being born royal is that if you don’t want to be royal, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. But Marina Ogilvy has certainly tried. Marina, 24, the daughter of Princess Alexandra of Kent and the Hon. Sir Angus Ogilvy, and a second cousin to the Queen, finished school at 17 and declared she wouldn’t be “pushed into being an upper-class sort of girl.”
Instead, not advertising who she was, she helped build a school and hospital on a Honduran island, taught rock climbing and canoeing to the urban underprivileged, became the first royal to run a marathon and auditioned for an upper-crust rock group called Sweat-band. So far, you could call it refreshing.
Then it got rather ripe. She moved in with photographer Paul Mowatt, now 27, the son of a jazz trumpeter and a shop assistant. A photographer, but not of the tony Lord Snowdon type, Mowatt has shot “everything from cars to sheep.” Last October, a British tabloid broke the sordid news that the unwed rebel was pregnant and that her parents were urging her to get either a quiet abortion or a quickie wedding; they also cut off her $160,000 trust fund and $450-a-month allowance. The source (reportedly paid as much as $160,000) was Marina herself. “My parents have been horrible to us,” she whined in the course of the story.
By now it was rotten. Marina’s embarrassed parents denied all, made peace and gave away the black-clad bride in a religious ceremony in February. The Queen sent her customary handwritten consent, striking out, for the first time in her reign, the traditional greeting “my trusty and well-beloved cousin.”
In May, all parties ostensibly celebrated the birth of Zenouska (a combination, explains Marina, of Zen, “a belief we both share,” and Eno, after musical avant-gardist Brian Eno, whose work “really means something to both of us”). The baby girl, 27th in line to the throne, is being raised in a simple London house where Paul keeps his motorcycle in the kitchen. “They’re quite alternative,” says a friend. Avows Marina: “Neither of us can stand this class system. We both consider ourselves classless.”