Princess Margaret didn't speak to Michael of Kent's wife, some claim

Princess Margaret didn't speak to Michael of Kent's wife, some claim

Princess Margaret refused to speak to Princess Michael of Kent because she was a Catholic and a divorcee who had been allowed to marry into the royal family, documentary claims

  • Princess Margaret refused to speak to Princess Michael of Kent, expert claims 
  • She didn’t like the fact Marie-Christine  von Reibnitz was a Roman Catholic
  • Expert also claims she was ‘furious’ with the fact she was a foreign divorcee
  • Margaret, who died in 2002, couldn’t marry divorced RAF ace Peter Townsend

Princess Margaret refused to speak to Princess Michael of Kent after she joined the royal family, a new documentary has claimed. 

Speaking on Channel 5’s documentary The Controversial Princess airing Saturday, royal commentator Viscountess Hitchingbrooke claimed Margaret, who died in 2002, didn’t speak to her first cousin’s wife because she was a Roman Catholic. 

Born Baroness Marie-Christine von Reibnitz, Princess Michael of Kent, now 76, tied the knot with Prince Michael in 1978 with the Queen’s blessing following the annulment of her first marriage to Thomas Troubridge. 

Margaret, was also reportedly ‘furious’ that a foreign-born divorcee had been allowed to marry into the royal family, particularly after she had been prevented from marrying divorced RAF officer Peter Townsend in 1953.

The documentary also claims the Queen’s daughter Princess Anne, now 71, deemed Princess Michael of Kent difficult and coined her nickname ‘Princess Pushy.’ 

Princess Margaret, who died in 2002, refused to speak to Princess Michael of Kent because she was a Roman Catholic and a divorcee, a royal commentator claimed in a new royal documentary (pictured: Princess Margaret in 1990 in London)

Speaking of Prince Michael’s marriage to Marie-Christine, Viscountess Hitchingbrooke said: ‘You can imagine this did not go down well with Princess Margaret, who was told by her own sister, Queen Elizabeth, that she couldn’t marry a divorcee. 

‘In fact she was said to be furious,’ she added. 

Meanwhile, royal expert Bidisha Mamata claimed Princess Anne, who was 28 when her mother’s cousin married Princess Michael, was the first one to call her ‘Princess Pushy.’

Prince Michael of Kent was allowed to marry his choice of wife in 1978, in a civil ceremony in Vienna just a month after the annulment of the bride’s first marriage. 

Prince Michael of Kent, left, was allowed by the Queen to marry his wife, born Marie-Christine von Reibnitz, right, in a civil ceremony in 1978, in Vienna, and later in a Roman Catholic ceremony in London in 1983 

They received Pope John Paul II’s permission to marry and had a  Roman Catholic ceremony on 29 June 1983 at Archbishop House. 

To marry Marie Christine, Prince Michael, who was 15th in line for the throne at the time, renounced his succession right, in accordance with The Act of Settlement 1701, which prevents members of the royal family marrying Roman Catholics. 

He retrieved his rights of succession in 2013 thanks to the Succession to the Crown Act 2013. 

Both their children, Lord Frederick Windsor and  Lady Gabriella Kingston are members of the Church of England. 

A quarter of a century earlier, Princess Margaret’s wish to marry a divorced man herself caused a constitutional crisis, the biggest upset in the royal family since the abdication crisis involving her uncle Edward VIII and American divorcee Wallis Simpson.  

Marie Christine, pictured in 1983, had already been married once, to English banker Thomas Troubridge, before she tied the knot with Prince Michael of Kent

Margaret and Peter Townsend became romantically involved following the death of King George VI in 1952.  

Their wish to marry sparked tumult involving the Palace, the Church of England, public opinion and Sir Anthony Eden’s Government, which threatened to strip the Princess of royal privileges if she insisted on the union.

However, a series of letters revealed that it was not the Queen who blocked the marriage but Margaret herself, who simply got cold feet.

The letters, part of a dossier of recently declassified Government documents, were written to and from Prime Minister Eden, and feature in a Channel 4 documentary which aired in March. 

In the first, dated August 15, 1955, Margaret admitted her doubts about the relationship to Eden himself.

‘I have no doubt that during this time – especially on my birthday – the press will encourage every sort of speculation about the possibility of my marrying Group Captain Peter Townsend,’ she wrote. ‘But it is only by seeing him that I feel I can properly decide whether I can marry him or not.’

In a second letter, dated two months later, Eden told Commonwealth leaders that ‘Her Majesty would not wish to stand in the way of her sister’s happiness’.

Royal author Penny Junor said: ‘I think this throws a whole new light on the affair. We’ve always believed that she didn’t marry Townsend because she was prevented by the Government, by the Church of England and by her sister. But this very much suggests that she didn’t love him enough.’

25 years before Michel of Kent was allowed to marry Marie-Christine, Princess Margaret’s wish to marry RAF officer and King’s equerry Peter Townsend created a constitutional crisis (pictured during a royal tour in South Africa in 1947)

In 1953, Princess Margaret, pictured, announced she would not be marrying Captain Peter Townsend 

In fact, the documents also show ‘how hard the Queen tries for Margaret,’ according to historian Kate Williams. ‘It gives us a different view of the Queen as someone who did try to put her sister’s happiness as a top priority,’ she said.

It was at the Queen’s Coronation, on June 2, 1953, that Margaret, then 22, inadvertently confirmed her relationship with the former Battle of Britain RAF pilot, who had been an equerry to her late father.

At a party after the ceremony, she was seen to casually brush a bit of fluff from Townsend’s jacket – an intimate gesture which raised eyebrows.

In tackling the potential ramifications of the relationship, the Queen faced an unenviable decision: compromise her position as head of the Church of England, which did not sanctify divorce, or deny her sister’s future happiness.

‘She was still very new in the job and she was being asked to make a choice between duty and family,’ Junor said.

Unable to sanction the marriage, the Queen stalled. ‘She could see there was a loophole,’ she added. ‘When Margaret reached the age of 25, she no longer needed the Queen’s permission to marry. So I think she urged her sister to wait.’

Townsend, in the meantime, was posted to Brussels. Two years later, as Margaret’s 25th birthday approached, it was decision time and the couple needed permission from the Government if the marriage was to go ahead.

According to the documents, the Prime Minister struck a deal in which Margaret could keep her title and civil list allowance but lose her position in the line of succession.

Some have queried whether that compromise was enough for Margaret. It certainly did not persuade her that she wanted to marry him.

On October 31, 1955, after reuniting with her fiancé amid a press frenzy, Margaret announced: ‘I have decided not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend.

‘Mindful of the Church’s teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before any others.’

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