Princess Michael of Kent, nee Baroness Marie Christine von Reibnitz, is Queen Elizabeth II’s first cousin through marriage. She married her husband, Prince Michael, in 1978, joining the British royal family.
On Wednesday, December 20, Princess Michael, 72, was photographed on her way to Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s annual Christmas lunch. In the photo, several people noticed that she was wearing some jewelry that caused quite the stir.
Here is what you need to know:
1. She Wore a “Blackamoor” Pin to Lunch at Buckingham Palace
Princess Michael of Kent’s pin is known as “blackamoor” jewelry. According to People Magazine, this style often depicts “exoticized images of servants and slaves of African descent.”
Below is a description of “blackamoor” jewelry.
“According to An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry by Newman, a Blackamoor is a figure of a young male or female black African depicted in jewelry in a head or bust. Morcic Croatian jewelry and figures have been a speciality of the artisans of Venice and Croatia for hundreds of years. Inspired by styles of the East, this type of jewelry was believed to have protective powers and was sometimes worn as an amulet to guard against evil. Sailors often wore a Morcic earring in their left ear. In the 19th century it became the expensive and sought-after jewelry to the rich. Still produced today in Venice by the iconic Nardi firm and conjuring up images of Carnivale and the exotic mysterious East.”
Although the jewelry, which was created in Italy, is well-known as art, many felt that wearing such a brooch was disrespectful — some even calling it racist — as Prince Harry’s fiancee, Meghan Markle, was at the lunch as well. Markle was born to a white father and a black mother. Her father, Thomas Markle, met her mother, Doria Ragland, while working together. Thomas Markle was working on a soap opera as a lighting director while Ragland had taken up a temp job at the production studio. The two ended up getting married, but later divorced.
Markle has faced issues of racism for much of her life. In 2016, Markle opened up about her life as a bi-racial woman in an op-ed for Elle Magazine. You can read an excerpt from her article below.
“To describe something as being black and white means it is clearly defined. Yet when your ethnicity is black and white, the dichotomy is not that clear. In fact, it creates a grey area. Being biracial paints a blurred line that is equal parts staggering and illuminating.”
People Magazine contacted a representative for Princess Michael, but he or she refused to comment.
2. She Has Been Accused of Being Racist Before
This is not the first time that Princess Michael of Kent has found herself embroiled in controversy. While there have been various things that have been quoted as coming out of Princess Michael’s mouth, she has also been accused of being racist.
Back in 2004, Princess Michael had been visiting New York when she allegedly made some unsightly comments. According to The Telegraph, she had been dining at the now-closed Da Silvano restaurant in Greenwich Village when she allegedly became annoyed at a group of black diners who had been a bit too noisy for her liking. Princess Michael was offered another table by the eateries owner, Silvano Marchetto, but before she moved her seat, she allegedly told the group to “get back to the colonies.”
As one could probably imagine, the tabloids had a field day with this story. While Princess Michael is said to have denied saying such a thing, she is said to have spoke with a PR consultant named Nicole Young.
“I did not say ‘back to the colonies,’ I said you ‘should remember the colonies.’ Back in the days of the colonies there were rules that were very good. You think about it. Just think about it,” Princess Michael said, according to Young.
Perhaps proving the stories right, Marchetto apologized to the group of diners after Princess Michael’s alleged comments.
“The phrase was trying to be funny but it wasn’t so funny, maybe. If someone told me to go back to Italy, I would be offended, too,” he said.
3. She Has Been Married Twice & Has 2 Children
Before she became Princess Michael, Baroness Marie Christine von Reibnitz married Thomas Troubridge, She and Troubridge, who worked as a banker, met at a boar hunt in Germany. The two married in 1971 at Chelsea Old Church in London, but ended up getting divorced two years later. Their marriage was annulled by the Pope in 1978.
In June of that year, Marie Christine von Reibnitz became a princess. She married Prince Michael of Kent (his parents were Prince George, Duke of Kent, who died in 1942, and Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, who passed away in 1968) in Vienna, Austria. The couple had their marriage recognized by the catholic church in 1983.
Princess Michael was given the title of “Princess Michael of Kent” rather than “Princess Marie Christine” because she wasn’t born into the royal family.
Prince and Princess Michael of Kent have two children together. Lord Frederick Windsor was born on April 6, 1979. He married Sophie Winkleman in 2009, but controversy surrounded the couple’s nuptials. According to Express UK, Princess Michael tried to take over the wedding, earning her the title “Princess Pushy.” Several members of the royal family were invited to the wedding, but didn’t attend due to “prior engagements.” Many believe that this was in direct response to their dislike for the groom’s mother.
Lord Frederick and his wife have two daughters together. Maud Elizabeth Daphne Marina was born in 2013 and Isabella Alexandra May Windsor was born in 2016.
Prince and Princess Michael also have a daughter, Lady Gabriella Windsor, who is 36 years old and unmarried. She attended Brown University and currently works as a freelance writer.
4. She Lives at Kensington Palace, but Only Recently Started Paying Rent
Princess Michael and her husband live in an apartment in Kensington Palace (yes, that makes them neighbors to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge). Over the past few decades, they have lived in a 5-bedroom, 5-reception apartment at the palace, but they’ve only paid to live there since 2008. Prior to then, Queen Elizabeth footed the annual bill, paying over $150,000 per year for the apartment from 2002-2008, while the prince and princess paid about $100 a week, basically enough to cover their utility bills.
“In 2002 it was agreed that rent should be paid on the apartment occupied by Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, and the Queen agreed to pay this rent from her own funds for up to seven years.
“The rent is paid to the Grant-in-aid, provided by the Government for the maintenance of the Occupied Royal Palaces. It has now been agreed that, from 2010, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent will remain at their apartment but pay the rent from their own funds,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement, according to the Telegraph.
The couple sold their Gloucestershire country mansion of Nether Lypiatt in 2006.
5. She Has Written 7 Books & Has Experience in Interior Decorating
Princess Michael has penned three non-fiction books: Crowned in a Far Country: Eight Royal Brides (Weidenfeld), Cupid and the King – Five Royal Paramours, and The Serpent and The Moon. She has also published two novels: The Queen Of Four Kingdoms and Agnès Sorel: Mistress of Beauty.
She also has written A Cheetah’s Tale and Quicksilver.
Before becoming a princess, she apprenticed as an interior decorator.
“Following two courses in Fine and Decorative Arts at the Victoria & Albert Museum in the early 70s, she spent five years as an apprentice for London’s top interior designers and eventually opened her own successful business, SZAPAR DESIGNS. Princess Michael was offered to re-decorate a suite in the Baltschug Kempinski hotel, Moscow, which led to other commissions in Russia and Europe. Princess Michael spent 13 years on the Board of the V&A, before being appointed President of Partridge Fine Art in Bond Street,” reads her website.
Her website also states that she joined Galerie Gmurzynska in Zurich and St.Moritz back in 2013.