Before there was Pippa Middleton, there was Princess Michael of Kent. HRH has a new book out, The Queen of Four Kingdoms, and has launched into a perhaps unwise promotional campaign, part of which has taken the shape of an interview in today’s Times. Of the book itself, writer Janice Turner reports that “in the Princess’s mechanical prose it reads like a scion of the Almanach de Gotha and a Baedeker guide had a bastard child with Mills & Boon”.
Princess Michael of Kent is married to Prince Michael, who is King George V’s grandson. They don’t receive money from the state but they do live in an apartment at Kensington Palace. They paid only a peppercorn rent of £70 a month (including utilities), until a 2002 review of grace-and-favour homes. For the next seven years, the Queen paid their annual £120,000 market rent, but after that the couple had to sell their country home, Nether Lypiatt Manor in Gloucestershire, to pay it themselves.
The interview, unlike the book, apparently, is unputdownable, but if you don’t get a chance to read it, here are the best quotes from HRH herself.
On being German: “I have never considered myself English…Both my husband and my son say I don’t understand English humour, and they don’t always understand what I think is funny, or when I’m being ironic.”
On why her novel contains no sex scenes: “Don’t forget I write history and there are no records of what happened beyond the boudoir door…I am not going to write Fifty Shades of Royal Purple. Well I could, but I would be put in a beautifully decorated — that having been my profession before — room in the Tower.”
On why the era she’d most liked to have lived in is pre-Revolutionary France: “The greatest possible time, the only time you would understand la douceur de vivre, the sweetness of life…Well, if you were privileged, because if you were tilling the fields .....”
On blood and breeding: “Well, actually I think it’s very important with breeding thoroughbreds — which I did for a period — and my husband is head of the Kennel Club, and it’s very important with dogs and horses, because otherwise things go wrong in the competitions.” (Turner adds, “The Prince’s black labrador, Shadow, who is shooed from the room so as not to offend her two exotic cats, is ill-behaved, she says, because he was a Battersea rescue puppy.”)
On childcare and changing nappies: “I wasn’t very keen on that side of life. Oh, I had two nannies. God, yes.”
On her work ethic: “I’m a workaholic. I’m a Capricorn. It’s my nature. And I’m convent-educated: I sew better than any nanny we ever had. And my father had a farm in Africa. Have you ever taken the insides out of a stag?”
On cutting back: “I am in very austere economic times too. We’ve cut back dramatically. I mean we never go out to dinner unless we go to somebody’s house. We never go to restaurants. That’s too extravagant. We invite people here. I cook. Well, if I’m giving a dinner party I get in help.”
On walking the dog: “I have a pooper-scooper, a long-handled thing with a little shovel.”
On flying: “I love easyJet. It’s the only direct route to Biarritz. We always fly tourist-class anyway in Europe. For long-haul we go club.”
On using a separate lavatory to the hoi polloi: “It’s all changed now at Wimbledon. There’s just one big loo for the whole Royal Box. I don’t think we’re treated differently.”