December 20, 1902– Prince George, Duke of Kent
The good-looking, brash younger brother of King Edward VIII and King George VI, and uncle of Queen Elizabeth II, was known in his day as the ”party prince”. George, Duke of Kent enjoyed scads of sizzling affairs with both women and men and was often the creamy center in countless three-ways and sex scandals.
Fifth in line to the throne, behind his father King George V and three older brothers Edward, Albert and Henry, this George never felt the pressure of having to adhere to those pesky strict royal protocols. His public image was never up for public scrutiny, and he wasn’t required to behave in a royal fashion, leaving him free to live life as he chose.
In the 1920s, George served in the Royal Navy, making him the first royal to be a civil servant.
In 1934, shortly before his marriage to his second cousin, Princess Marina of Greece, he was given the title Duke of Kent. The couple had three children: Edward, Alexandra and Michael. It was a union that produced the current Duke and Prince of Kent.
The Duke lived a life in dramatic contrast to most of the royals. He was free to follow his many passions, including aviation. A skilled pilot, he was the first member of the British royal family to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air.
It is said that the real good dirt about the Duke is kept under lock and key at Windsor Castle, with no royal biographers ever given access to his papers.
The Duke was notoriously bisexual, and the royal family, which Princess Diana of Wales referred to as “The Firm”, remains serious about guarding its secrets.
George had a lot in common with our era’s Prince Harry; he knew he would never be king, which gave him the flexibility to indulge in whatever he liked. Apparently, he liked to indulge in sex and drugs.
Before, during and after his marriage, George indulged in many affairs with high-profile men and women, from socialites to movie stars including the heiress Poppy Baring, one of the Bright Young Things of the 1920s; African-American cabaret artiste Florence Mills, and actor/singer Jessie Matthews, known in England as ”The Dancing Divinity”; writer Cecil Roberts; playwrights/actors/songwriters Noël Coward and Ivor Novello; novelist Somerset Maugham; actor Laurence Olivier; art historian and Soviet spy Anthony Blunt; plus Prince of Prussia (and his cousin) Louis Ferdinand.
George was charming, could speak five languages, was a talented mimic and a great dancer, and blatant about his sexual appetite. At the time it was said that he was not safe in taxis with either sex.
He had a fling with Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, and made headlines as the “headless man” photographs that appeared during her divorce case, as well as Jorge Ferrara, the son of the Argentine ambassador. Ferrara and the Duke enjoyed a threesome with American socialite Kiki Preston (née Alice Gwenn) a drug addict known as “the girl with the silver syringe”. The Duke especially liked morphine and cocaine.
In his attempt to rescue his drug-addicted brother from the influence of Preston, Edward, Prince of Wales, attempted to persuade both to break off their contact, to no avail, even putting the Duke under house arrest to try and cure his addictions. The intervention only stopped his drug abuse for a short time. Eventually, Edward forced Preston to leave England, while she was visiting George in the summer of 1929. For years afterwards, Edward feared that his brother might relapse, and indeed, in 1932, George ran into Preston unexpectedly at Cannes and she had to be removed by force.
It is widely believed that American publishing executive Michael Temple Canfield was the illegitimate son of the Duke of Kent and Preston. Canfield was the adopted son of Cass Canfield, publisher of Harper and Row. In 1953, Canfield married Caroline Lee Bouvier (Lee Radziwill) the younger sister of Jacqueline Bouvier who married future President John F. Kennedy the same year. Canfield and Bouvier divorced in 1958, and the marriage was annulled by the Roman Catholic Church in November 1962, after it was discovered that he also liked the boys.
George’s bisexuality was common knowledge in high society, but back in the 1920s, the press knew not to report on anything that might portray the royal family in a negative, scandalous light. When George was arrested for soliciting sex in a public loo, police released him once his royal identity was confirmed. The news never made headlines.
A prolific and indiscreet letter writer, the Duke apparently wrote lots of love letters to his many male and female lovers. He was once blackmailed by a male prostitute over his love letters. It’s no surprise that Buckingham Palace still has George’s personal information locked away. You have to remember that at that time, homosexuality was illegal, you could go to prison for it.
George’s colorful life came to an end when he died in a plane crash in August 1942, gone at just 39 years old. His death in RAF service marked the first time in more than 450 years that a member of the royal family died while on active service.
There are two versions of the event; the official version is that the pilot miscalculated the flight path and crashed into a mountain. The other version of the story is that George had been flying under the influence. There are even rumors that the crash was not an accident at all, and that George’s death was ordered by the British government.
The airplane he was flying in was officially heading to Iceland where the Duke was to meet senior members of the U.S. military. Some people think that he was on his way to Sweden for secret peace talks with the Germans. There are claims that the Duke was travelling with Rudolf Hess, the deputy to Adolf Hitler; a reported additional, unexplained body at the scene of the crash has been attributed as Hess, and the man later tried at Nuremberg was an impostor.
An alternative theory is that the Duke was involved in the events surrounding the capture of Hess and that the Duke was working with British Intelligence as part of a plot to fool the Nazis into thinking that the Duke was plotting with other senior figures to get rid of Winston Churchill.
Following the Duke’s death, rumors persisted that he had fathered even more illegitimate children, including a daughter, Raine McCorquodale, born in 1929 to romance writer Barbara Cartland, who was married to Alexander McCorquodale, an Army officer who was heir to an old printing fortune, at the time. Raine later became Raine Spencer, Countess Spencer, the stepmother of Princess Diana.
The BBC series Dancing On The Edge (2013) focuses on the partying ways of the Duke, who spent much of the 1920s socializing with the famous jazz musicians of the pre-war era. He is played by John Hopkins (Midsomer Murders and Poldark). It also stars Matthew Goode, John Goodman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Jacqueline Bisset, plus Angel Coulby as Jessie Taylor. Dancing On The Edge was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and an Emmy Award.
He is also a recurring character in the revival of Upstairs, Downstairs (2010-2012), portrayed by Blake Ritson.
You can visit Prince George, Duke of Kent at Frogmore, the Royal Burial cemetery, part of Windsor Park. He is right behind Queen Victoria‘s mausoleum.
Preston died on the night of December 23, 1946, after jumping out of a window of her fifth-floor apartment in the Stanhope Hotel of New York City and landing in a courtyard of the hotel.