Prince George, Duke of Kent

Prince George, Duke of Kent
Prince George, Duke of Kent
British Royalty
House of Windsor

George V
   Edward VIII
   George VI
   Mary, Princess Royal
   Henry, Duke of Gloucester
   George, Duke of Kent
   Prince John
   Elizabeth II
   Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
   William of Gloucester
   Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester
   Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
   Prince Michael of Kent
   Princess Alexandra of Kent
Edward VIII
George VI
   Elizabeth II
   Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
Elizabeth II
   Prince Charles, Prince of Wales
   Princess Anne, Princess Royal
   Prince Andrew, Duke of York
   Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
   Prince William of Wales
   Prince Henry of Wales
   Princess Beatrice of York
   Princess Eugenie of York
   Lady Louise Windsor

The Prince George, Duke of Kent (George Edward Alexander Edmund) (20 December 190225 August 1942) was a member of the British Royal Family, the fourth son of King George V. He held the title of Duke of Kent between 1934 to his death in 1942.

Prince George is remembered for having had a rather more interesting personal life than is the norm in the twentieth century Royal Family, as well as the circumstances of his death at the height of World War II.


Prince George was born at York Cottage, on the Sandringham Estate, in Norfolk, England. His father was The Prince George, Prince of Wales (later King George V), the eldest surviving son of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. His mother was The Princess of Wales (later Queen Mary), the eldest daughter of The Duke and Duchess of Teck. At the time of his birth he was fifth in the line of succession. As a grandchild of the British monarch, he was styled His Royal Highness Prince George of Wales.

He was baptised in the Private Chapel at Windsor Castle on 26 January 1903 by Francis Paget, Bishop of Oxford (with "ordinary" water, as opposed to water from the Jordan River, which is almost always used for royal christenings). His godparents were King Edward, Queen Alexandra, Prince Valdemar of Denmark, Prince Louis of Battenberg, The Dowager Empress of Russia and Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein.

Education and career

Prince George received his early education from a tutor and then followed his elder brother Prince Henry (later the Duke of Gloucester) to St. Peter's Court Preparatory School at Broadstairs in Kent. At age thirteen, like his brothers Prince Edward (later Edward VIII) and Prince Albert (later George VI) before him, he went to naval college, first at Osborne and later at Dartmouth. He remained in the Royal Navy until 1929, serving on the Iron Duke and later the Nelson. After leaving the navy, he briefly held posts at the Foreign Office and later the Home Office, becoming the first member of the British Royal Family to work as a civil servant.

In 1939 he was elected Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, an office he held until his death. [1]

At the start of World War II, he returned to active military service at the rank of Rear Admiral, briefly serving on the Intelligence Division of the Admiralty. In April, 1940, he transferred to the Royal Air Force. He temporarily relinquished his rank as Air Vice-Marshal (the equivalent of Rear Admiral) to assume the post of Staff Officer in the RAF Training Command at the rank of Air Commodore.


On 29 November 1934, the Duke of Kent married Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, the daughter of Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark and a great niece of Queen Alexandra, at Westminster Abbey. [2] It was the last marriage between a son of a British Sovereign and a member of a foreign royal house to date.

Princess Marina became known as HRH The Duchess of Kent following the marriage. Together the couple had three children:

Personal life

Dismissed by one bluff observer as cultivated, effeminate, and smelling too strongly of perfume, the Duke of Kent was unarguably the most interesting, intelligent and — in a non-pejorative sense — cultivated member of his generation of the Royal Family. He took a strong interest in the arts, and in interior decoration, an avocation he shared with Queen Mary but no other member of the family, who are famously philistine. He had a long string of affairs with men and women before and during his marriage. The better known of his partners were black cabaret singer Florence Mills, banking heiress Poppy Baring, Ethel Margaret Whigham (later Duchess of Argyll), musical star Jessie Matthews and actor Noel Coward, with whom he carried on a 19-year affair. [3] (Love letters from the Duke to Coward were stolen from Coward's house in 1942). There is some suggestion that the duke had an affair with Indira Raje, the Maharani of Cooch Behar (18921968), in the late 1920s, according to British historian Lucy Moore.

The Duke of Kent is also said to have been addicted to drugs (notably morphine and cocaine) — a weakness which his brother the Prince of Wales (not an otherwise notably respectable member of the family) was deputed to cure him of during the latter part of the 1920s — and reportedly was blackmailed by a male prostitute to whom he wrote intimate letters. Another of his reported homosexual affairs was with his distant cousin Louis Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia; homosexual spy and art historian Anthony Blunt was reputedly another lover.[4] The Duke was known to have attempted to court the notably prosaic Queen Juliana of the Netherlands (mother of the current Queen Beatrix). She spurned the overture and married Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Bisterfeld instead.

In addition to his legitimate children, the Duke is said to have had a son by Kiki Preston (née Alice Gwynne) (18981946), an American socialite whom he reportedly shared in a ménage à trois with Jorge Ferrara, the bisexual son of the Argentine ambassador to the Court of St. James's. Known as "the girl with the silver syringe", drug addict Preston, a cousin of railroad heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, was married first to Horace R.B. Allen and then, in 1925, to banker Jerome Preston.[5] She died after jumping out of a window of the Stanhope Hotel in New York City. According to the memoirs of a friend, Loelia Westminster, Prince George's brother the Duke of Windsor believed that the son was Michael Canfield (19261969), the adopted son of American publisher Cass Canfield and the first husband of Lee Radziwill (sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis).

Much of this history was outlined in the documentary film The Queen's Lost Uncle mentioned above. The Duke's bisexuality and drug addictions were explored in "African Nights", a 2004 play written by American playwright Jeffrey Corrick.

Political role

When the Duke's elder brother, Edward VIII abdicated, he was reportedly considered to succeed him as monarch. Although it is often presumed that the Duke of York, the future George VI would have acceded to the throne, as no monarch had abdicated before, there was no set convention for succession. Constitutionally, any member of the royal family could have become monarch and in any event past successions to the throne had frequently been ordained by Parliament rather than by strict conventions of primogeniture; other options, such as allowing the future Elizabeth II to succeed instead of her father, were also considered: doubts existed regarding the Duke of York's suitability for the position of monarch due to his nervous personality, his lack of preparation, his severe speech impediment, his uncultivated intellect and his lack of preparation. Given George V's famously dull brain and inertia but highly successful reign, the doubts cannot have been very serious.

It has been argued that the Duke was rejected because of his similarity to Edward VIII in political temperament; both may have been prone to acting independently of the government, and the Duke of Kent was manifestly a vastly more intelligent man than Edward VIII: if he were indeed of independent views it could have been considerably more troublesome to statesmen. [6] In any event, the doubts were transitory — George V had made plain his preference for the Duke of York as his heir; the "little princesses" were much in the public eye; the Duchess of York had established a favourable public profile despite the Yorks' essential idleness prior to their accession, and the Duke of York's stolidity was clearly a desirable antidote to Edward VIII's flamboyance.

Around the same time, it was also proposed that the Duke be made King of Poland, in a move to restore the Polish monarchy much as the Greek monarchy had been restored using imported royals. In August 1937, the Duke and his wife visited Poland and were well-received. However, due to the invasion of Poland in World War II, the plan was called off. [7]


Conspiracy theories

The Duke was killed in a plane crash on active service in World War II at Eagles Rock near Dunbeath, Caithness, Scotland on August 25, 1942. The Short Sunderland he was flying in was officially heading to Iceland where the Duke was to meet senior members of the US military. However the Duke's death at the height of World War II has led to various conspiracy theories surrounding the plane crash. Some theories state that the Duke was actually heading to Sweden for secret peace talks with the Germans. Related to this are claims that the Duke was travelling with Rudolf Hess, the deputy to Adolf Hitler; a reported additional, unexplained body at the scene of the crash has been attributed as Hess', with the man later tried at Nuremberg allegedly an impostor. [8] Other claims state the Duke was at the controls of the plane, and his inexperience may have caused the plane to crash.

In 2003, Channel 4 broadcast an alternative theory. This stated that the Duke was involved in the events surrounding the capture of Rudolf Hess. This theory however, states that the Duke was working with British Intelligence as part of a plot to fool the Nazis into thinking that the Duke was plotting with other senior figures to overthrow Winston Churchill.


His wife had given birth to their third child, Prince Michael of Kent, only six weeks earlier. He was initially buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor: his remains were later moved to the royal burial ground, adjacent to Queen Victoria's mausoleum, at Frogmore, Windsor. He was succeeded as Duke of Kent by his elder son, Edward.

Prince George, British Columbia is named after him.

Titles from birth to death

Here is a list of the titles the Duke of Kent held from birth to death in chronological order:

  • HRH Prince George of Wales (1902–1910)
  • HRH The Prince George (1910–1934)
  • HRH The Duke of Kent (1934–1942)

Notes and references

  1. ^ Picknett, Lynn, Prince, Clive, Prior, Stephen & Brydon, Robert (2002). War of the Windsors: A Century of Unconstitutional Monarchy, p. 153. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84018-631-3.
  2. ^ Picknett, Prince, Prior & Brydon, p. 82.
  3. ^ Picknett, Prince, Prior & Brydon, p. 56.
  4. ^ Picknett, Prince, Prior & Brydon, p. 57.
  5. ^ Picknett, Prince, Prior & Brydon, p. 58.
  6. ^ Picknett, Prince, Prior & Brydon, pp. 126–127.
  7. ^ Picknett, Prince, Prior & Brydon, pp. 142–143.
  8. ^ Picknett, Prince, Prior & Brydon, p. 186.


Preceded by:
New Creation
Duke of Kent
Succeeded by:
HRH Prince Edward
Preceded by:
Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn
Grand Master of the
United Grand Lodge
of England

Succeeded by:
Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood

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