By now, you’re more than familiar with Meghan and Harry, Kate and William, and of course, the Queen and Prince Philip, but even the most dedicated royals fans don’t know every branch of the sprawling royal family tree. With more than two-dozen members in the closest relation (not to mention dozens of cousins and extended family members) it’s a lot to keep track of. Particularly for U.S. fans, the royals who spend less time in the international spotlight—royals like Princess Michael of Kent—can get lost in the shuffle.
But on the verge of the latest royal wedding, this one for Princess Michael of Kent’s daughter Lady Gabriella Windsor, now is the perfect time to brush up on your royal facts.
She is the wife of the Queen’s first cousin
Born Baroness Marie Christine von Reibnitz, the Princess grew up living in multiple countries, including Austria, Australia, and Mozambique. She studied the History of Fine and Decorative Art at the V&A and later opened her own interior design company, Szapar Designs.
In 1971 she married banker Thomas Troubridge, though the couple would separate after only two years. Their marriage was ultimately annulled but the Pope, according to People, shortly before she married Prince Michael of Kent in Vienna in 1978. Due to the laws of British succession, the prince was forced to give up his place in the line of succession in order to marry the Catholic princess.
Together, she and the Prince have two children: Lord Frederick Windsor, whose daughters Maud Elizabeth Daphne Marina (who was a bridesmaid at Princess Eugenie’s wedding) and Isabella Alexandra May Windsor sometimes appear at royal events, and Gabriella, who is engaged to marry Thomas Kingston.
Why is she called Princess Michael of Kent?
The issue of titles in the royal family is a slightly complex one, which leads to Prince and Princess Michael of Kent seemingly sharing a name.
By marrying a Prince she has the right to style herself as a Princess, but because she wasn’t born into the royal family, she’s not allowed to simply add the title to her birth name, Marie Christine. Instead, she simply inherits the feminine version of her husband’s title and name (think of it as a somewhat more elaborate version of the tradition of women taking their husband’s last names.)
Technically this holds true for the wives of any of the other princes, including Prince William and Prince Harry as well. But as it is common for princes hold additional titles (Duke of Cambridge for William and Duke of Sussex for Harry) which do communicate to their wives’ given names, often their wives are known by those alternate titles, as is the case with both Kate and Meghan.
She and Prince Michael aren’t working royals, but they are active with charitable works
As the Princess and her husband do not perform official state duties, they don’t receive public funding; however, because of their close relationship with the Queen and the royal family, they commonly appear alongside the royals at public occasions like Trooping the Colour. Like Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, when called upon, they also take on some public duties to represent the Queen.
Princess Michael is also active in philanthropic circles, serving as patron of several animal conservation organizations in Africa as well as undertaking “over 200 public and charitable engagements annually … for more than 100 charities and other not-for-profit organizations,” along with her husband, according to her official website.
She is an author
Beyond her charity work, Princess Michael has also published three non-fiction histories, an autobiography, and a trio of historical fiction novels base in 18th and 19th century France, The Anjou Trilogy.
Why is she controversial?
Nicknamed “Princess Pushy” in some royal circles, Princess Michael has been called “the most controversial royal family member” for her family history and number of personal faux pas.
In the 1980s word began to circulate in the press that the Princess’s father, Baron Gunther von Reibnitz, was a member of the Nazi party and an SS officer during WWII, creating a scandal for the newly-minted royal.
More personally, the Princess has received negative press for several alleged racial issues, including the 2004 incident in which she was accused of telling patrons of color at a New York City restaurant to “go back to the colonies,” though the Princess’s Kensington Palace spokesman at the time stated that the story was “simply untrue.”
At Christmas in 2017, she wore a racist “blackamoor” brooch to lunch at Buckingham Palace, for which she later apologized. The following year, a Vanity Fair essay by Lady Gabriella’s ex-boyfriend Aatish Taseer shared an anecdote about the Princess naming two black sheep Venus and Serena. A spokesperson for the family declined to comment on that story.
The Kents also caused an unrelated stir in 2002 when it was revealed that the Queen had provided them with rent-free living space in Kensington Palace, despite their lack of official duties. The Queen subsequently began paying the rent for the space out of her personal funds, but by 2010 they had reportedly agreed to handle the payments themselves.