For eight brief years, before he was tragically killed in a mysterious air crash during the Second World War, Prince George, Duke of Kent, son of King George V and Queen Mary, and his beautiful wife, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, were the British monarchy’s, indeed, high society’s, most glamorous royal couple; and as golden royal icons they are still remembered.
As a young man, voraciously addicted to drugs and sex, with men as much as women, marriage and parenthood for the impetuously wayward playboy prince, with his night-clubbing lifestyle and intimate liaisons, was seen as the only stabilizing influence. Enter the stylish and sophisticated Princess Marina, the cultured, artistic and multilingual youngest daughter of Prince Nicholas of Greece and his Russian-born wife, Grand Duchess Yelena Vladimirovna. As Duke and Duchess of Kent, George and Marina were the Crown’s most glittering representatives, not least in the aftermath of the Abdication of George’s adored elder brother, the briefly-reigned King Edward VIII; the man with whom he had not only shared both home and high-flying lifestyles, but who had helped cure him of his addiction to morphine and cocaine.
On and off duty, the Duke and Duchess lived life to the full, and after George’s untimely death, Marina continued to do so during the twenty-six years of her widowhood. Revisiting his 1988 best-selling biography, George and Marina: Duke and Duchess of Kent, Christopher Warwick, in this revised and partly re-written study, tells their story anew.
George and Marina: Duke and Duchess of Kent (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) (Audible) (AbeBooks)
There are some members of the royal family that I wanted to know more about after seeing a couple of documentaries on the House of Windsor, and the Duke and Duchess of Kent are definitely up there.
This book is mostly about Princess Marina, which makes sense because she outlived her husband by a few decades, but Prince George was one of King George V and Queen Mary’s 6 children, so you’d think it would be the other way around. Alas, it is not so.
And you can’t even say that this book is about the couple, since George doesn’t enter the picture until about 1/2 way through the book. The couple’s brief 8-year marriage flies by, until George is killed during World War II when a plane he was in crashed. I didn’t know that there was some speculation about the crash that it may have been shot down; I had only heard the story of it crashing into a mountain in the fog.
Very little attention is given to George’s dalliances with men or his addiction to drugs and alcohol. Surprisingly, it was the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII, who tended to him for months while he broke his addiction. It is said that their father, George V, praised Edward for saving his other son, and it was the only time the king had something positive to say to his heir.
Marina was a very stylish woman who was also committed to charitable works. She came from as distinguished lineage as her husband, as princess to Greece and Denmark. She was a second cousin to the younger Prince Philip, who later became the Duke of Edinburgh when he married Princess Elizabeth, later the queen. The main problem with this book is because of the ancestry of both subjects, when you listen to the book as I did, it seemed like a lot of name dropping. I wish there were an accompanying PDF with a family tree to keep it all straight.
I’ve read or listened or seen better accounts of George and Marina’s life, but this was still worth a listen. Because it was free with my Audible Plus subscription, it was well worth my time. 🙂
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